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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 14:17 GMT 15:17 UK
UN highlights world wealth divide

One hundred million children are living on the streets and 1.2 billion people are subsisting on less than a dollar a day.

At the same time, the world's 200 richest citizens are enjoying a combined wealth of more than $1,000bn.

These fact are highlighted in the United Nations' latest world development report.

Canada tops the UN table for the seventh successive year, followed by Norway and the United States.

Sierra Leone, Niger and Burkina Faso occupy the bottom positions.
The Top 10
1 Canada
2 Norway
3 United States
4 Australia
5 Iceland
6 Sweden
7 Belgium
8 Netherlands
9 Japan
10 United Kingdom

The United Kingdom retains its position as the 10th most developed nation, while Ireland moves up two places and is identified as the fastest developing country over the past 25 years.

The report, which forms part of the UN's Human Development Index, is not a simple measure of a country's financial standing - if it was, Luxembourg would be top of the table, rather than languishing in 17th place.

It also looks at life expectancy, education and adult literacy to try to give a broader sense of the quality of life.

The report highlights pockets of poverty among the world's richest nations.

While the United States has the world's highest gross national product, a relatively high level of illiteracy means it also has the highest poverty rates among the 18 richest countries.

The survey blames the impact of Aids in Africa, and economic stagnation in Russia and eastern Europe for the low development ratings of many countries from these regions.

Progress

During the 1980s and 90s, the UN says the world has made significant progress.

The proportion of underweight children in poor countries fell from 37% to 27%, while the proportion with access to clean water increased from 13% to more than 70%.

The bottom 10
164 Rwanda
165 Mali
166 Central African Republic
167 Chad
168 Mozambique
169 Guinea-Bissau
170 Burundi
171 Ethiopia
172 Burkina Faso
173 Niger
174 Sierra Leone

The report has called on the World Trade Organisation and global corporations to ensure that their policies reinforce human rights and environmental agreements.

It says the dwindling power of nation states puts a responsibility on international bodies to do this.

The report argues forcefully that human rights and economic development must go hand in hand.

And it criticises the secrecy of international trade negotiations, which it says have excluded those citizens who frequently have to shoulder the burden of economic agreements.

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29 Jun 00 | South Asia
South Asia's poor record
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