Photo: WFP/Mahmoud Fadel

9 out of 10 countries: UN assumes global decline in living conditions

More than just economic growth: with the “Human Development Index,” the UN has wanted to initiate a broader discussion on the quality of life worldwide since 1990. But the results of the latest edition give statisticians cause for concern.

New York (dpa) – The living conditions of people have deteriorated in nine out of ten countries in 2021. This is according to the Human Development Index of the UN development agency UNDP. For the second year in a row, the global index score has declined, UNDP lamented at the presentation of the report. “We can rewrite our circumstances in statistics forever,” UNDP head Achim Steiner said. “The hard question we have to face is: what is the reason we are not taking action?”

According to the new ranking, Switzerland is the most developed country in the world with an index score of 0.962, almost equal to Norway and Iceland. Germany comes in at 0.942, ranking ninth and thus losing five places compared to 2015. In the first edition in 1990, the United States was still in the lead, but now only ranks 21st. Niger, Chad and South Sudan are at the bottom of the 191 countries surveyed.

“We are living in very painful times, whether it is a world under water, without water, in flames or in the midst of a pandemic,“ said UNDP head Achim Steiner. “The world lurches from crisis to crisis, caught in the cycle of putting out fires without touching the roots of our problems,” the UNDP warned. Moreover, the statisticians observed growing pessimism worldwide: six out of seven people said they felt insecure, a third said they did not trust others.

Progress is possible, however, thanks to new computer technologies, science or new types of grain, for example, Steiner continued. In Kenya, thanks to extensive start-up investments, 90 percent of the electricity demand can now be covered by renewable energies. Societies that finance fossil fuels are making a mistake, he said.

Criteria such as life expectancy, income and length of schooling are included in the calculation of the index on the member countries of the United Nations, which has been published since 1990. According to Steiner, such an across-the-board decline as in 2021 has never happened before – even at the height of the financial crisis about ten years ago, the index only declined in about one out of ten countries.

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