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Tue 14 Dec 2010 07:49 AM

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UAE leads Arab World in UN development report

UN resident coordinator says that economically and socially, country is ‘on solid ground’

UAE leads Arab World in UN development report
Flags of the UN: the UAE leads the Arab world in terms of development, the UN said

The UAE’s United Nations resident coordinator said Monday that the country is on solid footing and will continue to develop its economy and infrastructure in the next 30-40 years.

“The UAE is looking on solid ground and it’s going to get better,” Dr Elissar Sarrouh, the UN’s resident coordinator in the UAE, said in an interview with Arabian Business.

She was speaking at an Abu Dhabi event held to mark the release of the UN Development Programme’s 2010 Human Development Report, which ranked the UAE first among Arab countries and 32 out of 169 in the world.

“These achievements did not come without visionary leadership. There’s not always a correlation between economic growth and [societal] development – it’s not automatic," she said.

“We’re doing very well and we can do better.”

The annual report measures  achievements and opportunities within societies, with an inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (HDI) assessing progress among national groups in health, education and income.

“Today the UAE ranks with regions like Norway, Australia, and the United States,” Fahad Al Raqabani, director general of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development, said.

“School years have increased, life expectancy at birth increased. More than 95 percent of the UAE population is literate today. A lot of effort is being put into the development of infrastructure, health care, leadership, providing basic services for the people, developing rural areas – if you look at the northern Emirates [in particular], you notice.”

The report highlighted that between 1980 and 2010, the UAE’s  life expectancy at birth increased by 10 years, that average years of schooling increased by about six years and expected years of schooling increased by three years. 

“[It’s taken a lot of effort in order to advance] economic development in the UAE, and to advance and enhance and to keep all the gains that we have achieved during the past decades,” Mohammed Omar Abdulla, the undersecretary general of Abu Dhabi’s Department of Economic Development, said in his own speech.

The Arab countries have traditionally struggled with class inequality, this year sustaining a combined HDI decline of 27 percent.

According to the UN, the Arab region is also home to 39 million multidimensional poor, with the UAE home to the lowest number in the region versus 81 percent in Somalia.

“Arab states have posted major achievements in human development aspects,” Sarrouh said in a speech. “Countries that made the list did not make it primarily due to oil and gas income, which might be assumed. Only Lebanon and Djibouti performed at lower rates than would be expected, in Lebanon because of prolonged armed conflict and political instability.”

The 2010 HDR, first announced on 4 November at the UN General Assemby in New York, placed special emphasis on monitoring the extent and impact of inequality, gender gaps, and extreme poverty.

Of the Arab states, the highest growth in HDI was posted by Oman, which ranked first for improvement, followed by Saudi Arabia at number five, Tunisia in seventh, Algeria in ninth and Morocco at 10.

The event also saw Abu Dhabi announce plans to launch its own human development report, in coordination with the UNDP.

In comments quoted by state news agency WAM, Abdullah said the report would be internationally accredited and would fall under the emirate's Economic Vision 2030.