Five CARICOM states in high human development ratings By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
July 24, 2002

Related Links: Articles on economic concerns
Letters Menu Archival Menu

BARBADOS leads five Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states and four Latin American countries of 53 nations of the world with the highest rating in human development that covers life expectancy, educational attainment, civil liberties, political rights and real income.

While Barbados tops the list at 31 of United Nations member countries in the "high human development" (HDI) rating, the other CARICOM partners in that category are: The Bahamas (at 41); St. Kitts and Nevis (44); Trinidad and Tobago (50) and Antigua and Barbuda (52).

Jamaica and Guyana are included among seven CARICOM countries placed in the second or "medium" category ranking, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) "Human Development Report 2002".

The report, which will be officially released today at UN House in Barbados, coincides with the international launch at UN headquarters in New York.

Why Barbados was chosen as the venue for launching the Report for the Caribbean-Latin American region was explained at a news pre-launch media briefing yesterday by Rosina Wiltshire, the Trinidad and Tobago-born UNDP Resident Representative and Regional Coordinator for the Eastern Caribbean:

It is in recognition of its "consistently encouraging high ratings and performances...Barbados", she said, "makes for a good launch of the 2002 Report".

In addition to Jamaica and Guyana, the other CARICOM states listed among 83 that achieved "medium" ranking in the scale of human development objectives are: St. Lucia, Suriname, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cuba tops this category of the wider Caribbean region with a 55 position rating among the overall 173 countries ranked in the UNDP Report.

The ratings, as in previous years, were done on the basis of the UNDP's established criteria in determining human development in the context of the "Eight Millennium Development Goals", as outlined by world leaders two years ago at the UN Millennium Summit, for measuring objectives for development and the eradication of poverty by 2015.

The data provided tells the stories of "tragic reversals" in social and economic gains, and in the areas of democracy and good governance, as well as the "rapid progress" that is possible, according to the UNDP Administrator, Mark Malloch Brown.

In contrast to the Caribbean Community states, other than Haiti, many of the countries of Africa and Asia, 36 of them, are in the low human development category, with some numbered among the poorest of the poor.

The 277-page report, illustrated with graphs and specific data on indicators of progress, stagnation or decline in areas of economic and social development and quality of governance, has been released with a sharp warning from the UNDP.

It said that the "war" against international terrorism must not put democracy and support for human rights on the "back-burner". And it challenges the notion that "authoritarian regimes are better for political stability and economic growth".

In pointing to the challenges of "deepening democracy in a fragmented world", the 2002 Report cites 1990 as its reference point to measure "economic justice" and explained the world's people living in "extreme poverty" declined by some 23 per cent by 1999 or to 23 from 29 per cent in 1990.

But for that same period, the richest five per cent of the world's people -- a global community of more than six billion souls -- had incomes that were 114 times those of the poorest five per cent.

In terms of the human development balance sheet in the areas of health and education, 51 countries with 41 per cent of the world's people, among them the member states of the Caribbean Community, have either achieved or are on track to achieve universal primary education by 2015

By the end of 2000 the under-five mortality rate worldwide fell from 96 per cent in 1970 to 56 per 1,000 at the close of the 20th century.

But every day more than 30,000 children die around the world from preventable diseases and some 500,000 women die every year as a result of pregnancy and childbirth.

Some 90 countries, with more than 60 per cent of the world's people, have achieved, or are on track to achieve gender equality in primary education by 2015 and more than 80 per cent in secondary education.

The CARICOM countries, with the exception of Haiti, and Cuba, are among the listed "achievers" or as being "on track" to achieve progress in the health and education sectors, although states like Jamaica and Guyana have showed some slippage in some areas.

United Nations Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in a "special contribution" to this year's UNDP Report, said that in the 21st century the mission of the UN "will be defined by a new, more profound awareness of the sanctity and dignity of every human life, regardless of race or religion".

Obstacles to democracy, said the world's number one public servant, "have little to do with culture or religion, and much more to do with the desire of those in power to maintain their position at any cost..."

In addition to focusing on initiatives to have new forms of participation in governance through civil society at the local, national and global levels, the report also addresses the current challenge "of democratic control of the security sector" and the dangers that this could pose in compromising human rights and democracy unless carefully pursued.

To date, according to the UNDP, more than 420 "National Human Development Reports" have been published in 135 countries, as the work of national experts and intellectuals who draw on the UNDP's global network for advice and inspiration.