TEHRAN, 15 Jul 2004 (IRIN) - Iran has improved its ranking in the Human Development Index (HDI) but lags behind in areas like gender equality, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced on Thursday, at the launch of the Human Development Report 2004.
Iran ranks 101st out of 177 countries, climbing 6 places since last year, in the HDI report which has been issued every year since 1990 with information gathered by an independent team of experts to explore issues of global concern.
The HDI measures the average progress of a country in human development, focusing on three measurable aspects: living a long and healthy life, being educated and having a decent standard of living. Combining these measures - life expectancy, school enrolment, literacy and income - gives a broader view of a country's development than income alone and is drawn from international, national and governmental sources. It is updated every year, reflecting changes in the HDI values and ranking of a particular country.
The Islamic Republic falls into the 'medium' human development category, sandwiched between Ecuador and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Most European and Western countries fall in the 'high' development index, while African countries, plus Pakistan, fall within the 'low' human development index. The Maldives is the best performer in the South Asian country category, that includes Iran, ranking 84th, and Pakistan is the worst, with a ranking of 142.
With the theme of this year's report being 'cultural liberty in today's diverse world', Iran has cause to be pleased with its rising position. Tehran came under fire in recent months following a number of damning human rights reports, notably from Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW).
"Human rights is one cultural element in the promotion of human development. The message of the human development report is that human rights is an inseparable part of moving towards sustainable human development and cannot be achieved without it," Yuxue Xue, UNDP deputy resident representative in Tehran, told IRIN.
"This report argues that countries must evolve and adapt to changing realities and changing roles and that the notion of human rights is central to human development and must be fully recognised," he added.
But the theme of the report should not be taken as an indicator of cultural freedom, said Xue, and as UNDP points out, "the HDI is not a comprehensive measure. It does not include important aspects of human development, notably the ability to participate in the decisions that affect one's life and to enjoy the respect of others in the community".
"Most countries are concerned about their ranking and change in ranking on these indexes. I believe the message this report tries to convey is a good source of information and an incentive to think about the issues more carefully and deeply," he said.
The HDI 2004 report shows that life expectancy at birth in Iran is 70.1 years with it ranking 87th, one place behind Turkey. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita is US $6,690 US dollars, and has Iran ranked at 70 - one place behind Tunisia.
The HDI does not incorporate the degree of gender imbalance in the countries surveyed. The gender-related development index (GDI) measures achievements in the same dimensions using the same indicators as the HDI but highlights inequalities in achievement between women and men. The GDI value for Iran ranks 82. Only 4.1 percent of seats in parliament are held by women, ranking it at 151, but they make up 33 percent of professional technical workers and 13 per cent of administrators and managers are women.
The 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, made a special contribution to this year's report writing that all cultures embrace certain common principles. "Cultural relativity should never be used as a pretext to violate human rights .. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is needed universally, applicable to both East and West. It is compatible with every faith and religion," she said.
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