Nepal is ranked 136th out of 177 nations with a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.526, slight increase than the previous year

13 Sep 2005

Kathmandu, Sept 13 - Nepal is ranked 136th out of 177 nations with a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.526, slight increase than the previous year

Behind Asia's Successes are Hidden Development Failures
Kathmandu, Nepal, 13 September -- Asia's emerging giants lag in health and child survival, as other smaller neighbors show impressive gains, according to UNDP's 2005 Human Development Report. Nepal is ranked 136th out of 177 nations with a Human Development Index (HDI) value of 0.526, slight increase than the previous year. Sri Lanka ranks first in the region, with a value of 0.751. Viet Nam has now overtaken China in improvement in child mortality, and Bangladesh continues to overtake India.

The Report reveals that South Asia's child malnutrition rate is 20% higher than Sub Saharan Africa?s, and is home to half of the world's underweight children. Countries like Viet Nam and Bangladesh are cutting child mortality rates at a faster pace than India and China. Had India matched Bangladesh's rate of reduction in child mortality over the past decade, more than 730,000 fewer children would die this year, says the Report. Had China matched Viet Nam's, 276,000 lives could be saved. The Report is a wake-up call to world leaders to fulfill the commitments they made to the world's poor when they gathered at the UN five years ago during the Millennium Summit.

"I would like to once again reiterate that it is essential to maintain peace and stability in the country for any kind of development to take place. Violent conflict is one of the surest and fastest routes to the bottom of the Human Development Index," said Ghulam Isaczai, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative in Nepal.

Changing the picture will require public policies that address deep-rooted inequality between rich and poor, between men and women, and between more prosperous and less prosperous regions, assert the Report. Eliminating gender inequality could reduce the underweight rate among children less than three years old by 13 percentage point in South Asia, equal to more than 13 million fewer malnourished children. Poor women have less control over household resources, less access to health information and services.

The Report shows surprising comparisons between and within countries. Malaysia, a country with an average income one-quarter that of the United States, has achieved the same infant mortality rate as the United States. And the Indian state of Kerala has an urban infant death rate lower than that for African Americans in Washington, D.C. The Report says that unequal access to healthcare has a powerful effect on health inequalities. Malaysia and Sri Lanka have achieved steep declines in neonatal deaths through simple, home-based, district-level health care.The Report points to the scale of inequality within countries. In China for example, if Guizhou were a country, it would rank just above Namibia, while Shanghai would rank alongside Portugal on the Human Development Index.

A Call to End Perverse Taxation from world trade policies

The Report examines the links between global aid, trade and security policies to lift the poorest out of extreme poverty. The world's highest trade barriers are erected against some of its poorest countries, says the publication. It asserts that donor countries have failed to act on their commitment to a development agenda at the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The authors say the Doha Round so far delivered little of substance and that failure to reform trade rules at the ministerial meeting in December in Hong Kong would have grave consequences for the multilateral trading system. For the authors, the problem at the heart of the Doha round negotiations can be summarized in three words: rich country subsidies.

The effective US import duty for countries like Vietnam and Bangladesh is roughly 10 times higher than for most countries in the European Union. Price distortions from export subsidies also have a direct impact on smaller producers. Between 2002 and 2003, rice grown in the United States at a cost of $415 a tonne was exported at $275 a tonne. Suffering from this perverse taxation, rival rice exporters such as Thailand and Vietnam have to adjust to this unfair competition.

In addition to facing high barriers in developed countries, developing countries impose high trade barriers with each other. In fact, they impose even higher tariffs on each others imports than those imposed by industrial countries. Average tariffs on low-and middle-income countries exporting to South Asia are more than 20%, says the Report.

A call to break the cycle of poverty and violent conflict

The Report concludes that international cooperation must be reshaped in three areas: aid, trade and security. Increased aid without fairer trade rules will not be enough. More effective rules in international trade will count little in countries where violent conflict blocks opportunities to participate. And peace with prospects for improved human welfare and poverty reduction through aid and trade will remain fragile.

Of the 32 countries at the bottom of the HDI rankings, 22 have experienced conflict since 1990, says the Report. Since 1990, developing countries have accounted for more than half of all armed conflicts.

A full copy of the Human Development Report 2005, press kit and country profiles will be available: http://hdr.undp.org