United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

UN: Iran Improves in Human Development

Iran has seen major improvements in human development during the past three decades, according to the U.N. Development Program’s 2015 Human Development Report. The Islamic Republic rose six places on the U.N. index in a single year, placing it in the “high human development category.” Gary Lewis, a U.N. Development Program Resident Representative, praised Iran’s achievements during the launch of the report on March 2. But he also highlighted the need for Iran to reduce income inequality and improve women’s rights. The following are excerpts from his remarks, along with selected data from the report.

Our event this morning will not only launch the report in Iran, it will also allow us to shine a light on some of the accomplishments which have taken place in this country during the past three decades. The key point, however, to which our report draws attention – is that Iran has jumped 6 places from 75th to 69th among 188 countries in this last one year alone.

Since UNDP’s first global Human Development Report (HDR) was published in 1990, most countries have registered significant human development. The Human Development Index – or HDI – is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic areas of human development. These are: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.
In classifying countries according to their human development attainment, UNDP uses four categories: very high, high, medium, and low.
Iran’s HDI value – for the year 2014 – is 0.766.
This puts Iran in the “high human development” category.
  • It also positions the country at 69th out of 188 countries and territories. 
  • Iran’s HDI value for 2013 – one year earlier – was 0.749.
  • This positioned the country at 75th out of 187 countries and territories.
  • Thus Iran has moved up 6 ranks in HDI in a single year. This represents one of the highest increases for any country in the past 8 years.
  • Now let’s look at the situation historically.
  • Here, we can see that between 1990 and 2014 Iran’s HDI value increased from 0.567 to 0.766 – a significant increase of 35%.
This is a great achievement and one for which the Islamic Republic of Iran is to be congratulated.
Let us look more closely at the driving factors placing Iran in this high position on the HDI.
First: “A long and healthy life – This category measures life expectancy at birth. During the period from 1980 to 2014, Iran increased this measurement from 54.1 years to 75.4 years.
The second component is “access to knowledge” – One element of this is expected years of schooling. Starting in 1980, Iran recorded an increase in this number from 8.7 to 15.1 years.
The third component is “a decent standard of living – This is measured in the form of Gross National Income per capita using 2011 purchasing power parity. Iran’s GNI per capita increased from the equivalent of $10,100 in 1980 to $15,440 in 2014.
I am sure you will agree with me that these are sound and solid development achievements.
However, as with most things in life, there is always room for improvement. And the 2015 Human Development Report does point to two areas which require more attention. These are, firstly, the need to reduce overall income inequality and, secondly, the need to promote women’s empowerment.
Nonetheless, on the whole, and – again from a human development standpoint – the Report sends a clear signal.
For the period, 1980-2014, Iran’s policy interventions – and actions including directing adequate resources – have produced significant improvements in its human development. And this, at a time during which the impact of sanctions has been severe, is no small achievement.
Looking to the future, we in the United Nations are looking to see Iran break into the “very-high development” category.
Iran itself actively played an important role in preparing the post-2015 development agenda. Our new Sustainable Development Goals are much more ambitious and broader than the Millennium Development Goals which they replace. In seeking to attain them, Iran may consider lessons from its own past – and in addition some from the world’s development experience over the last three decades.
These lessons – related in a concise manner – would look as follows. Focus on:
  • Reducing poverty.
  • Promoting social inclusion.
  • Protecting the environment.
  • And promoting accountability.
These four approaches – in UNDP’s view – can support the Government’s efforts to promote both economic growth and human development.
And UNDP Iran stands as a ready partner to support the Government of Iran in achieving the Goals at national level by the year 2030.
Click here to read Gary Lewis's complete remarks
Click here to read the 2015 U.N. Human Development Report
Tags: Reports

Rouhani on Elections, Turnout

President Hassan Rouhani welcomed the results of February 26 elections for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. “The time for cooperation has started,” he said at a conference. In a letter, during a cabinet meeting and in a speech, he also highlighted the high turnout and briefly commented on the pre-election vetting by the Guardian Council. 
Rouhani was elected to the Assembly of Experts, coming in third place after former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and interim Friday prayers leader Mohammad Aqa Emami Kashani. The 88-member clerical body will eventually select the successor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The following are excerpts from Rouhani’s remarks and letter. 
Rouhani made references to the recent election and at the 3rd Iran Automotive Industry International Conference.
“A country which does not enjoy election and its people cannot determine its future through such an election is doomed to be a dead and unhappy state and nation,”
“Government feels obliged to respect and protect the wise and prudent nation's votes and committed to cooperate with the consultative assembly, as well,”
"As it is only people who set the goals and the very ways to rule the country toward development, therefore they may have different viewpoints in domestic and foreign policy, as well,”
“…the nation has also specified in the election the way to progress and development and spell out which taste and approach(s) it favours and which of them is close to its own and preferred one from among all the existing different approaches."
“Although government and nation respect all different tastes and views from all factions, after the election we should all bear in mind that the socio-political campaign is over and from now on, the time for cooperation has started.”
—March 1, 2016, via the President’s official website
President Rouhani congratulated Interior Minister Dr. Rahmani Fadhli on holding a successful election.
“You did a great job with your own valuable efforts along with the efforts of the governors and governor generals across the country and also along with those of the Executive Committees of the homeland electoral body done during the past months with the comprehensive plan.”
“Despite some limitations in the qualification process of the candidates, the noble Iranian people came up epically and showed the world their massive turned out in the elections with full trust and hope to the ballot boxes.”
“We should study the records of holding such a successful elections and review their strengths and weakness in order to improve the related programs for future elections, because experiences of the two elections can be a suitable capital and resource for the modification and completion of the national rules and regulations for elections.”
—March 2, 2016, via the President’s official website
During a cabinet session, the President made remarks about the election, calling it a “golden page” in the history of religious democracy.
“This election was the first election held during this government’s term of office and we were determined to hold it with utmost glory and honor, respecting the laws and in peace,”
“The government is responsible to try hard to serve this decent and patient nation.”

—Feb. 29, 2016, via the President’s official website 


Election Results 3: In Tweets

The following tweets are snapshots illustrating results of and reaction to the February 26 elections for Parliament and the Assembly of Experts. 

Top Leaders



Etemad’s front page on February 29 read:

Reformist electoral list wins landslide victory in Tehran; all 30 candidates on the list elected






Current parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani ran as an independent and won his seat. 









Reaction and Commentary


Election Results 4: Newspaper Headlines

Iran’s diverse newspapers portrayed the results of Iran’s elections differently depending on their political affiliations. Reformist paper Shargh Daily called the elections a "decisive victory" for centrist and reformist allies of President Hassan Rouhani and former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, both of whom won seats in the Assembly of Experts. Hardline paper Kayhan, however, ran the headline "Principlists Hold National Majority," emphasizing instead the large share of parliamentary seats secured by conservatives. The elections took place on February 26, or the seventh of Esfand in the Iranian calendar. The following is a rundown of front pages in Iran after election day.

Reformist papers 

Translation: "Epic of hope: The people of Iran turned the 7th of Esfand [Election day] into an unforgettable day with their attendance"
Aftab-e Yazd 

Translation: "Breeze of Victory: Early statistics from counting the votes across the country tells the story of people’s widespread support of the List of Hope, which is related to the reformists"


Arman-e Emrooz
Translation: "The people finished their work: A day of value for Iranians"


Translation: "The final results of the Assembly of Experts election in Tehran: Hashemi sitting on top"


Shargh Daily 

Translation: "Decisive victory of the list of hope in Tehran: Hashemi and Rouhani at the top of Assembly of Experts"


Translation: "All 30 individuals" 


Translation: "Moderate principlists separated their way; Everybody came with hope"



Hardline and Conservative Papers 


Translation: "Reflection of the elections in the foreign media: The world watches Iranian patriotism"
Translation: "Grandeur of national power"
Translation: "The 7th of Esfand [Election day] became immortal: Viva the nation"
Translation: "Day of nation’s judgement"




Translation: "Iranians’ enemies dumb-struck: With maximum attendance at the ballot box, the people accepted the Supreme Leader’s call"



Translation: "A nation’s show of strength: The filling of the ballot boxes emptied the heart of the enemy"


Translation: "President: We respect any Majles composition"
Vatan Emrooz
Translation: "Iran’s vote to Principlists"

Translation: "Principlists Hold National Majority"


Translation: "The big lie: 111 is greater than 153!"



Centrist papers 

Translation: "Hopeful presence"




Translation: "Nation's acceptance of leader, elites"


Photo credits: Iran Front Page 


Election Results 1: Parliament

Garrett Nada and Katayoun Kishi 

The resounding message from voters on February 26 was a rejection of hardliners and an endorsement of President Hassan Rouhani. The largest faction in Iran’s new Parliament will be an array of moderates, conservatives and independents, who won more than half of the seats decided in the first round. Several dozen seats, which did not meet the threshold of 25 percent, will be contested at a run-off in April. So far, some 68 percent of lawmakers in the new Parliament will be newcomers, according to Shargh DailyThe vote may help Rouhani push forward long-stalled promises of reform opposed by hardliners, who have dominated the last three parliaments, since 2004. 
The election turnout was 62 percent, according to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. The election was the first since the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers concluded in July 2015. In the meantime, diverse Iranian media outlets have reported the story as if their preferred political groups did well in the election. Media and monitoring groups differed over the distribution of seats. The following is a rundown of key winners and losers. 
The Winners
The Universal Coalition of Reformists, dubbed the “List of Hope” by former President Mohammad Khatami, won the second largest number of seats nation-wide. In Tehran, the group won all 30 seats. The list was headed by Mohammad Reza Aref, a former presidential candidate and a vice president under Khatami. It blended in centrist supporters of President Hassan Rouhani from the “Alliance of Reformists and Government Supporters.” The list associated itself with the success of the nuclear deal, the lifting of international sanctions, and increasing normalization of Iranian political and economic relations with the outside world. It also supported greater personal and political freedoms. Its logo and slogan was “the second step,” or the sequel to Rouhani election in 2013. For this coalition, the election was also a referendum on the direction the country has taken under Rouhani. 
Many reformist candidates were disqualified by the 12-man Guardian Council, so the coalition was dependent on lesser known candidates. Endorsements from former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani as well as Khatami gave the List of Hope a key boost.Khatami, whose image is banned from the media, issued a handwritten message about the elections. The following are excerpts:
  • “The impressive attendance of people during the Assembly of Experts and Parliament elections has this message that people want to preserve security, advance the country, and strengthen the system.”
  • “People want action on the slogans and plans that our honorable president has offered, and the people have voted for this.”
  • “…it is the administration and other branches of government, and in particular the honorable representatives of the people’s, turn to serve these people and meet their demands, in particular to attempt to develop the economic boom, open up people’s lives, and create an open space and healthy politics.”  
The group also tapped a few high-profile conservatives, such as Ali Motahari and Kazem Jalali—who ran with other slates as well. Motahari is a moderate conservative lawmaker who has criticized the government for putting the two Green Movement leaders and former presidential candidates under house arrest. Motahari actually fielded his own independent list called “Voice of the Nation.” In an interview before the elections, he said that hardliners do not place enough emphasis on freedoms while reformists do not pay enough attention to cultural issues.
In one of the quirks of the campaigns, Motahari also appeared on the reformist List of Hope, but he said the group added his name at their request. At a campaign rally, on February 23, he called for the removal of the “artificial wall” between reformists and principlists. Motahari has taken hardline stances on social issues. For example, he has opposed allowing women to enter sports stadiums. But he has also challenged policies of Iran’s security services and hardliners. In 2015, he spoke out against the widespread arrests of journalists by the Revolutionary Guards. In January 2016, he opposed the presence of Basij militia units in residential areas.
Parliamentary Speaker Ali Larijani, a conservative who ran as an independent, won his seat from the holy city of Qom. On February 29, as election results were announced, he praised the rotation of political power from one group to another as an auspicious development. Larijani has referred to himself as a principlist, but he was largely supportive of the nuclear deal between Iran and the world’s six major powers. Larijani chose not to join the main list of hardliners. “I feel our friends in the [conservative coalition] have not provided the necessary mechanisms for the creation of unity…Therefore we seek to act independently,” he said. Yet he won the backing of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, who cited Larijani’s long support of “revolutionary movements.”
Women won 14 seats in the first round of the election—a record high--and are in the running to win as many as six more in the runoff. Nine women are in the outgoing Parliament. Of the 14 who have secured seats, eight ran on the “List of Hope.” 
Parvaneh Salahshori, who won as a reformist on the “List of Hope,” said women should be allowed to choose whether or not to wear the hijab, a sensitive subject in the Islamic Republic. She criticized conservative female lawmakers who have supported legislation restricting women’s rights.  She also “We want to empower our women, we want to empower our young people,” she told Italian journalist Viviana Mazza on February 29. “We are here to fight against [gender] discrimination.”
The main conservative list, the Grand Coalition of Principlists (which refers to support for a rigid interpretation of revolutionary principles) won more seats than any other group outright. Conservatives, however, will not have nearly as much sway over the next Parliament as compared to the last 12 years. The hardliners were largely opposed to Rouhani’s policies. Principlists campaigned on Rouhani’s failure to deliver on promises of economic benefits from a nuclear deal and the lifting of international sanctions.
The list’s slogan was “Livelihood, Security, and Progress.” It appeared on yellow banners at rallies and posters across the country. Unlike reformist candidates, the Guardian Council approved a large number of conservative and hardliners. As a result, candidates from the conservative list contested seats in provinces across Iran. One campaign poster in Isfahan asked voters which political faction they would rather have protecting them if ISIS fighters entered Iran.
The Losers
In Tehran, the Grand Coalition of Principlists failed to win any seats. It was headed by Gholam Ali Haddad-Adel, a member of parliament since 2000 and the first non-cleric to become speaker, in 2004. He has close ties to the supreme leader, as his daughter is married to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba. In a tweet, Haddad-Adel said that he was happy about the joy of fellow citizens who voted for his rivals. 
In the picture below, Haddad-Adel leaves Parliament through a door marked “exit.”
Esmail Kowsari, a prominent lawmaker and member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, was also on the list. During the nuclear negotiations, he criticized the approach of Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. In 2014, he attended a conference entitled “We’re Worried” – advertised as “the great gathering of critics of a weak deal”— held at the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Kowsari later accused the negotiating team of wasting the country’s time. Now that he has lost his seat, he has suggested that the results are “suspicious.”
Other candidates on the list included former advisors to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and outspoken critics of President Rouhani. They emphasized their economic backgrounds, with ten candidates who held senior economic positions in previous governments. They were hardline on foreign policy. Adel once warned against allowing American influence to permeate Iran’s economy and society. "Unfortunately, some [moderates] are embracing America and opening their arms to American companies,” he said. Six women were on the list of 30 candidates. 
Garrett Nada is the assistant editor of The Iran Primer, and Katayoun Kishi is a research assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace.


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