Guyana drops ten places on UN human development index By Oscar P. Clarke in Barbados
Stabroek News
July 24, 2002

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The United Nations 2002 Human Development Report (HDR) being launched today sees Guyana dropping ten places to 103 on the human development index, although it remains within the medium human development bracket.

The yearly country analysis by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which rates nations around the world based on certain trends and statistics, sees several English-speaking Caribbean countries being classified within the high and medium human development category.

For the second successive year, Norway has topped the index. Sweden, Canada, Belgium and Australia, in that order, continue to hold the top five places although there have been some shifts with Sweden moving up to second from fourth, Belgium moving up a place from fifth, and Australia moving down several notches from second to fifth.

Barbados continues to top the Latin America and Caribbean region, coming in at number 31 on the index, with Haiti slipping further down the chain to 146. Other countries grouped in the same region as Guyana who are also in the medium range but have a lower place on the index include El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala.

Coming into this year’s index, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) St Kitts-Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda are ranked in the high development category along with Trinidad and Tobago which has advanced to that bracket.

Speaking at a press briefing at the UN House in Christ Church, Barbados yesterday, Resident Representative of the UNDP, Rosina Wiltshire, stated that this year’s report titled ‘Deepening Democracy in a Fragmented World’ focuses much of its attention on consolidating the democratic principles advanced in the 1980s and 90s.

According to Wiltshire, the UN recognises the need for the development of a vibrant civil society. The report mentions the roles played by major multilateral financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, which it says are not wholly democratic since they are controlled by a mere seven of the world’s nations who have more than half of its voting rights.

Wiltshire also cited the case of the veto on the UN Security Council as one area, which could do with more democracy instead of allowing a few countries to benefit from the use of the veto.

Other areas covered in the report include the movement towards the millennium summit development goals, which shows that only 55 countries around the world with less than a quarter of the world’s population are on target. It further emphasises that 33 states with 26% of the world’s population are failing on more than half of their targets.

There is also mention of terrorism and the fact that the fight against global terror sees governments running the risk of compromising democracy in a trade-off between national stability and personal freedom.

The report posits that a deepening of democratic practices will in itself provide a bulwark against terrorism as opposed to authoritarian regimes, which are less likely to cope effectively with political unrest and dissent.

Comparing this year’s report with that of 2001, Wiltshire noted major advances with several countries previously off the list meeting the qualifying standards.

She said this is a reflection on the availability of data on which they could have been judged.

The regional launch of the report is expected to take place today at UN House where Wiltshire is expected to present the report to Barbadian Prime Minister Owen Arthur in the presence of representatives of diplomatic missions and other key officials from government and civil society.

The international launch is expected to take place simultaneously in the Philippines.

According to Wiltshire, choosing Barbados for the site of the regional launch was as a result of it occupying the top slot for the Latin America and the Caribbean region.