The East African - - OUT­LOOK -

GEN­DER IN­EQUAL­ITY is one of the great­est bar­ri­ers to hu­man devel­op­ment, UN of­fi­cials said as they launched an in­dex on Septem­ber 14 show­ing the coun­tries that are mak­ing the big­gest strides and those fall­ing be­hind.

Niger came bot­tom of the an­nual Hu­man Devel­op­ment In­dex fol­lowed by the Cen­tral African Repub­lic, South Su­dan, Chad and Bu­rundi — broadly the same as last year.

Nor­way, Switzer­land, Aus­tralia, Ireland and Ger­many topped the in­dex, which ranks coun­tries ac­cord­ing to their progress in health, ed­u­ca­tion and in­come.

“We can­not talk of hu­man devel­op­ment with­out tak­ing into ac­count 50 per cent of the pop­u­la­tion,” said Selim Ja­han, lead au­thor of the Hu­man Devel­op­ment Re­port.

“Gen­der equal­ity and women's em­pow­er­ment is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal. It is not a side is­sue.”

Stud­ies show that when girls stay in ed­u­ca­tion they have more op­por­tu­ni­ties and health­ier, bet­ter ed­u­cated children, which in turn boosts na­tional devel­op­ment.

Mr Ja­han said coun­tries needed to ad­dress is­sues in­clud­ing child mar­riage, the lack of women in pol­i­tics, the bur­den of do­mes­tic work and low lev­els of fe­male land own­er­ship.

The re­port by the United Nations Devel­op­ment Pro­gramme, which com­piled the first in­dex in 1990, said the world had made sig­nif­i­cant progress on many fronts, but was “in­creas­ingly un­equal, un­sta­ble and un­sus­tain­able.”

It warned that in­equal­ity in devel­op­ment pre­sented a “grave chal­lenge to progress” and could fuel ex­trem­ism.

Coun­tries rocked by con­flict were the big­gest slid­ers on the list. Syria plunged 27 places be­tween 2012 and 2017, mainly due to lower life ex­pectancy, Libya fell 26 places and Ye­men 20.

Ex­perts said Syria could fall far­ther next year as the im­pact of shrink­ing in­comes, fall­ing school at­ten­dance and mass mi­gra­tion takes its toll.

The high­est ris­ers were Ireland, Botswana, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic and Turkey.

Over­all, life ex­pectancy has in­creased by al­most seven years since 1990 and more than 130 coun­tries now have universal pri­mary school.

“Im­pres­sive progress has been made,” Mr Ja­han told a me­dia brief­ing. “But the achieve­ments have been un­equal ... We are liv­ing in an un­equal and di­vided world.” Year UNDP com­piled first Hu­man Devel­op­ment Re­port; ever since, growth has been un­equal

Life ex­pectancy ranges from 52 years in Sierra Leone to 84 in Hong Kong, the in­dex showed.

Gross na­tional in­come per capita is $663 in Cen­tral African Repub­lic and $116,818 in Qatar.

An adult in Ger­many has 14 years of ed­u­ca­tion on av­er­age com­pared with un­der two years in Burk­ina Faso.

Mr Ja­han also warned that progress would stall with­out ad­dress­ing cli­mate change and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion.

“This pro­foundly se­ri­ous cri­sis threat­ens the hu­man devel­op­ment of cur­rent and fu­ture gen­er­a­tions,” the re­port says. “Busi­ness-as-usual ap­proaches must change.”

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