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