Saudi Arabia ranked 36th in world on human development

Adam Bouloukos, Saudi Arabia’s resident representative at UNDP. (Supplied photo)
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Updated 13 December 2019

Saudi Arabia ranked 36th in world on human development

  • UNDP produces report on an annual basis to measure countries’ progress beyond economic growth
  • Saudi envoy to UNDP sees Kingdom's ranking improving as the transformations taking place get noticed

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has been ranked 36th in the world in a UN Development Program (UNDP) study highlighting the growth of global inequality.

The 2019 Human Development Report has warned that business as usual would not solve a new generation of inequalities.

While great strides had been made in fighting poverty, hunger and disease, many societies were still not working as they should, the report’s findings showed.

As a result, a new generation of inequalities was opening up around education, technology and climate change which if left unchecked could trigger a “new great divergence” in society of the kind not seen since the industrial revolution nearly two centuries ago, its authors concluded.

The UN produces the report on an annual basis to measure countries’ progress beyond economic growth and this year’s document was titled “Beyond income, beyond averages, beyond today: Inequalities in human development in the 21st century.”

As well as analyzing inequalities the report proposed a range of policy options to tackle them.

The UN listed Saudi Arabia 36th out of 189 countries and territories in its human development index (HDI), considered to be a high category placing. 

With Saudi Arabia gearing up to host the 2020 G20 summit of world leaders, Adam Bouloukos, the Kingdom’s resident representative at the UNDP, said: “We are in a moment of time which is unique.”

Having taken over the presidency of the G20, he said the Kingdom had already “come out shining” from the meetings it had hosted in preparation for the November gathering in Riyadh.

Bouloukos said that the UN report tried to look at inequities in different ways. 

He pointed out that conflicts, wars, and terrorist incidents had enormous growth impact on economies and countries in continual turmoil were experiencing long-term development issues.

Saudi Arabia had an important role in helping the world to tackle these problems which were being discussed during the G20 meetings, he added.

One of the reasons Saudi Arabia had not been placed higher in the index was because of the challenges that still lay ahead. However, Bouloukos pointed out that while the transformations taking place in the Kingdom had been noted, there was a time lag in the report and next year the full extent of the changes would be recognized.

While the report was global in scope, its data and findings can be unpacked at regional level to identify contours of inequality across world regions.

The Arab states region had experienced significant growth in human development over the past two decades, as measured through the report’s index. But according to the HDI and its sister list, the 2019 inequality-adjusted human development index (IHDI), the unequal distribution of education, health and living standards had stymied progress in the region, with up to 24 percent of its human development value lost when adjusted for inequality.

Gender inequality and vulnerability to conflict persisted in the region, figures showed.

Describing the “next-generation” inequalities likely to impact development progress, the report noted, for example, that in countries with very high levels of human development, subscriptions to fixed broadband were growing 15 times faster, and the proportion of adults with tertiary education was growing more than six times faster than in countries with low human development.

The HDI recorded a 14 percent gap in human development between men and women in the Arab states’ region. Whereas worldwide the share of non-farming employment for women was 39 percent, that figure fell to just 16 percent for the region. It also had one of the widest gaps in the world for women’s labor force participation, as well as one of the lowest percentages of women with access to banking services.

Vulnerability to conflict or crisis had also rolled back the region’s human development progress, with new data showing that Syria had lost 15 percent of its value on the HDI since 2010, and Libya has shed 10 percent in the same period. Since 2014, Yemen had lost 8 percent of progress by this measure, rounding out research commissioned by UNDP Yemen which showed that the country’s human development had been pushed back by 21 years due to the ongoing conflict.

The UN report recommended policies that looked at, but also went beyond, income, anchored in lifespan interventions starting even before birth, including through pre-labor market investments in young children’s learning, health, and nutrition. Such investments must continue through a person’s life, over the course of working years and into retirement and old age, it said.

The report further argued that taxation could not be examined in isolation, but must be part of a system of policies, including those for public spending on health, education, and alternatives to a carbon-intensive lifestyle.

Averages concealed the dynamics in society which really mattered to people, the study stated, and while they could be helpful in telling the bigger story, much more detailed information was needed to create policies to tackle inequality effectively.

Looking beyond today, the report asked how inequality could change in the future, particularly through the lens of climate change and technological transformation — two forces that seemed set to shape human development outcomes into the next century.

Environmental sustainability remained a challenge for the region, which registered the world’s lowest rate of renewable energy consumption.


Riyadh ‘Peace Declaration’ seen as game-changer for stability in Sudan

Updated 14 August 2020

Riyadh ‘Peace Declaration’ seen as game-changer for stability in Sudan

JEDDAH: As chair of the Friends of Sudan group, Saudi Arabia has called for an inclusive sustainable peace process for the country, the Kingdom’s envoy to Khartoum told Arab News.
Participants at the 8th Friends of Sudan meeting, convened via video conference on Wednesday, seized the opportunity to reaffirm their full commitment to Sudan’s Transitional Government in developing an inclusive and sustainable peace plan and economic reform program.
The group, chaired by Saudi Arabia, was represented by the Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan. Along with their international partners, through the Riyadh Friends of Sudan meeting, expressing their full confidence in the civilian-led transition under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr. Abdullah Hamdok as they continue to prioritize a comprehensive and inclusive peace plan despite unforeseen challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Kingdom’s Ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar, told Arab News that the meeting comes at a crucial time for the group and is the first to discuss the peace process at length.
In recognition of its mediation role, Saudi Arabia invited representatives of the government of South Sudan as honorary guests to attend the meeting for the first time following their constructive role in the Juba peace talks.
The high-level representation, led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of South Sudan, Ambassador Beatrice Khamisa Wani, and Chairman of South Sudan Government Committee for Peace Mediation in Sudan Tut Galuak, are a recognition for their role in advancing the Juba Peace Talks negotiations in good faith.
The Friends of Sudan welcomed the participation of the Sudan Revolutionary Front and the Sudan Liberation Movement in the meeting, recognized by the group as a sign of their goodwill and commitment and constructive engagement with the international community to work with Sudan’s Transitional Government to achieve sustainability and peace in their country.
“Great efforts have been made by Saudi Arabia with the help of its international partners at the Friends of Sudan meeting to call on all parties involved to come back to the negotiating table, appealing to them to realize the historic opportunity to reach consensus for sustainable peace talks that will ensure unity, stability and prosperity of Sudan,” said the ambassador.
The Friends of Sudan was established in 2018 as an informal group, and includes countries and organizations committed to joint action to provide support to the transitional government in the country.
Representatives attended the meetings and discussed the best means to coordinate support and work with Sudan’s transitional government to reach economic stability, prosperity and sustainable peace in the country’s critical time.
“The meeting served as a first achievement in the Friends of Sudan group, reaffirming their commitment to helping Sudan sustainable peace. Under Saudi Arabia’s initiative, the group issued the Riyadh declaration ‘Partners for Sustainable Peace in Sudan,” added the ambassador.
The declaration commended the resolution and resolve of most of the outstanding issues during the Juba Peace Talks, said the ambassador.
The road ahead will be challenging, the envoy added.
The Partners for Sustainable Peace in Sudan Declaration (Peace Declaration) expressed their concern that a number of parties remain outside the peace process. The ‘Peace Deceleration’ called on all parties to the conflict to engage in good faith in the peace process and refrain from counterproductive demands, cautioning that all spoilers to the peace process or the implementation of the Political Agreement and Constitutional Charter of Aug. 17, 2019, may have consequences imposed on them.
The inclusion of women and youth in the peace process and the transitional government was also stressed in the meeting.
The declaration reaffirms the group’s commitment and will to remain engaged and assist Sudan’s Transitional Government. Any obstruction to the peace process will prolong the suffering of the Sudanese people, the partners said.
As the world is a financial crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Friends of Sudan group urged in the meeting that parties to the peace talks be aware of Sudan’s economic challenges, prioritize demands that reflect the understanding and appreciation to these challenges and collaborate to find mutual and agreeable solutions.