Emirati education levels and life expectancy have risen, while the region deals with strife and suffering caused by increasing inequality, this year’s UN’s Human Development Report says.
The report was released by the United Nations Development Programme in Tokyo on Thursday.
The UAE’s Human Development Index, the main measure for the report, has improved to 0.827 from last year’s 0.825, placing the Emirates 40th among 187 countries measured.
“These are significant improvements putting the UAE among the category of countries with Very High Human Development,” said Sayed Aqa, the UN’s resident coordinator and UNDP resident representative in the UAE.
The report, Sustaining Human Progress – Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience, measures human development through three main components: development in human health, education and gross national income.
The biggest change has been the expected time in school for a UAE citizen. It is now 13.3 years, compared with 12 last year.
Life expectancy increased to 76.8 from 76.7 years.
The country ranked highest in the region in average period of schooling for women, at almost 11 years.
Mr Aqa said that key areas such as women’s empowerment, youth engagement, employment, developing human capital and resilience to climate-related and human disasters were among the top priorities for UAE policymakers.
Since the 1980s, the country has made a 30 per cent gain in the HDI.
Regionally, the report points to major challenges including conflict, youth unemployment and inequality largely caused by the continuing struggles in Syria and Iraq.
“By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” said Helen Clark, a UNDP administrator.
The report urges governments to enhance youth employment policies and provide universal access to basic social services.
It suggests this is the main solution to increasing inequity and a positive step in development.
“Youth is opportunity, history has proven this,” said Sima Bahous, UNDP regional director for Arab states.
“Indeed, it is precisely at this point in the demographic arc, when the proportion of young people reaches a peak, that regions and countries around the world have achieved positive transformational change.”
The report says these policy goals are achievable by countries at all stages of development, and calls for “an international consensus on universal social protection” to be included in the post-2015 agenda.
The report comes at a crucial time for global development, as attention turns to the creation of a new set of targets after next year’s deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.