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DEVELOPMENT REPORT - Human

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This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

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The United Nations Human Development Program has released its yearly study on the quality of life for people around the world. The U-N report was started in nineteen-ninety to measure the progress of nations based on the lives of their citizens.

This year's report lists one-hundred-seventy-three countries. It is based on the length of time citizens are expected to live, their education level and the amount of money they earn. Norway was listed as the country providing the best quality of life for the second year. It was followed by Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Australia and the United States. The twenty-four countries at the bottom of the list are all in Africa.

The report says many countries in East Asia have made progress since nineteen-ninety. They include China, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Malaysia.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, as many as nine countries improved since nineteen-ninety. They include Chile, Costa Rica and Panama. At the same time, many countries in Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union lost progress in the quality of life for their citizens. This was because of problems with economic reforms. They include Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Tajikistan.

This year's human development report centered on the issue of democracy. Researchers found that a majority of people live in countries claiming to be democratic. However, civil rights and political freedoms were limited in one-hundred-six nations. Also, the number of voters taking part in elections is decreasing. In addition, cheating, wrongdoing and unfair politics have weakened the democratic process. In some countries, elected governments have not carried out democratic reforms. This has led to public opposition to the government and a return to military rule.

U-N officials say that democratic changes are slow in some countries. However, the report shows that international development goals set at the start of the twenty-first century can be met. For this to happen, they say developing countries need to move quicker toward economic, social and political reforms. And they say rich countries must become more open to trade while increasing aid and other resources.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.

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