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UN report highlights progress

UN report highlights progress

C ambodia has moved up by one place since last year in the latest United Nations Development Program (UNDP) annual Human Development Report. It is also seventeen places higher on the country-wise human development list than it would be on a country-wise listing based just on Gross National Product (GNP).

In human development terms, Cambodia is ranked 147 out of a total of 173 countries, whereas in GNP terms it would be much further down the list at 164. It is 74th on a list of 93 developing countries.

"This suggests that the government's efforts to address human development concerns are relatively more successful than in other countries with a similar GNP profile" says UNDP resident director Eduard Wattez. For example Sierra Leone, which like Cambodia has a per capital GNP of $200, is ranked 170 on the human development list.

The Human Development Index (HDI) has been used since 1990 to rate the relative performance of countries, which earlier were measured only in terms of purely economic indicators, especially per capita GNP.

The system was changed because it was felt that development did not mean just economics. "Because national progress tends otherwise to be measured by GNP alone, many people have looked for a more complex, socio-economic measure," the report says.

The HDI measures longevity (life expectancy), knowledge (adult literacy and the average number of years of schooling) and standard of living based on the cost of living of each country. All these measures are graded on a scale of zero to 1. Cambodia is given an overall rating of 0.307, against 0.894 for Barbados, the highest-ranked developing country.

Vietnam and Laos are ranked higher at 116 and 133, and have each moved up the list by more than 20 places as a result of the HDI method of calculation. Malaysia and Thailand are rated among the top ten performers in human development in the last 30 years.

The report contains comprehensive statistics for all countries in areas ranging from GNP to per capita calorie intake to the number of radios per thousand citizens. The lack of statistics in the country on many crucial areas like education, health and population is obvious in the many blank spaces in the tables, but some interesting social statistics do emerge.

For example, the country spent $54 million on arms imports from 1988 to 1992. It has 13.2 soldiers per 1,000 people, compared to the world average of 4.7 soldiers per thousand. In fact, Vietnam and Laos with 15.9 and 13.3 soldiers, also have high soldier-to-population ratios.

Figures also show the country has two soldiers for every teacher and 187 soldiers for every doctor.

The country also has the highest participation of women in the labor force in the world. There are roughly 127 women for every 100 men in the workforce, against a world average of 62. The other country which comes closest is Rwanda, with 117 women per 100 men.

Cambodian women's literacy rate is, however, just 24 per cent (against 52 per cent for men), and a woman is likely to get just 1.7 years of schooling in her lifetime. Only four percent of educated women are scientists and technicians. And eight in every 1000 women who give birth to live children die themselves in childbirth-more than double the world average.

Health is one of the country's most urgent problems, with up to 7.5 million people living without access to basic sanitation. The country has 25,000 people per doctor and the third highest rate of incidence of malaria in the world. The present population, meanwhile is expected to double by 2019.

Cambodia is also mentioned under a special section on the worldwide legacy of land mines. "More than 105 million unexploded land mines are believed to remain buried in at least 62 countries," the report says and lists Cambodia among the worst affected countries along with Afghanistan, El Salvador, Angola, Iraq, Kuwait, Nicaragua and Somalia.

"In Cambodia, one mine remains in the ground for every two people in the country, killing or maiming 300 people each month," adds the report, which estimates that ridding the world of mines would cost between $200 and $300 billion and take many generations.

Wattez hopes the report will help the government prepare for the World Summit for Social Development to be held in Copenhagen in March 1995. "Cambodia's voice, as a country which has emerged from a long period of civil crisis, should be a powerful one," he says. "We hope the report will help the debate within the government in the lead up to Copenhagen."


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