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Thursday, 29 June, 2000, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
South Asia's poor record
Sri Lankan children
Sri Lanka has performed better than its South Asian neighbours
By Mike Wooldrige in Delhi

Sri Lanka has the best human development record among the South Asian nations, according to the United Nation.

The latest UN human development report places Sri Lanka at the 84th position in the world human development index.

India is placed at 128, Pakistan at 135, Nepal 144 and Bangladesh 146.

For the seventh successive year, Canada heads the list.

Human rights

The Human Development Report 2000 seeks to link progress in development with observance of human rights more explicitly than has been the case in the past.

The UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown says in the report that human rights are not, as has sometimes been argued, a reward of development.

Polic checkpost in Colombo
UN says Sri Lanka failed to integrate minorities
He says they are critical to achieving it.

In Delhi, the report was given a national launch attended by the deputy chairperson of the upper house of parliament, Najma Heptullah.

She said it was vital to recognise the part democracy played in protecting human rights.

But the demoracy had to be inclusive, embracing all minorities, Ms Heptullah added.

Her call was supported by Justice M N Venkatachalaiah, former Chief Justice of India.

Integrating minorities

The report itself cites Sri Lanka and former Yugoslavia as examples of where failure to integrate minorities has led to civil war.

In Sri Lanka, it says, two large communities - the Sinhalese and Tamil - started out as citizens in a liberal democratic framework with guaranteed rights.

But in 1956 the Sinhalese majority started imposing a single language national identity.

The reports says that after decades of troubles the majority has recognised that some form of recognition of the parity of the two communities is a prerequisite for reconstructing the Sri Lankan nation.

But the assassination of a well known human rights activist and lawyer and the attempt on the life of the president last year were , the report says, a gruesome reminder of the continuing obstacles.

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See also:

29 Jun 00 | Americas
UN highlights world wealth divide
28 Apr 00 | South Asia
S Asia 'could do better' on education
26 Apr 00 | South Asia
Sri Lanka's school success
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