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Friday, July 25, 2014, 09:42

UN urges effort to boost flagging development

By Agencies in Tokyo

Governments must act together to lift more people out of poverty and reduce inequality, a United Nations agency said on Thursday, warning that global improvement in life expectancy, education and other measures of development is flagging.

"Capabilities can be enhanced and choices protected at the national level, but national measures are more easily enacted when global commitments are in place and global support is available," the UN Development Programme said in its annual Human Development Report.

UN Administrator Helen Clark, a former New Zealand prime minister, said governments must focus on eradicating poverty even as they grapple with natural disasters.

"It's not acceptable that so many people are still living in extreme poverty or are very, very vulnerable to it," Clark said in Tokyo, where this year's report was released.

"It's not a time to give up on development, it's a time for all the traditional friends of development, like Japan, to be saying, 'What more can I do?', 'What better could we do?'"

More than 2.2 billion people, or 15 percent of the world's population, live on the edge or in poverty, the report says.

Nearly 1.5 billion people in 91 developing states live in poverty, while another 800 million are teetering on the edge, it found.

Although Japan ranks high on overall development, it fares much worse on gender equality, underscoring Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's drive for greater participation by women in the world's third-biggest economy.

Japan ranks 17th of 187 countries on the UNDP's human development index, down a notch from last year, but ranks only 79th for gender equality.

Abe vowed at the Davos World Economic Forum in January that women would occupy 30 percent of leading jobs in Japan by 2020, helping replenish a dwindling workforce as the population ages rapidly. But with women now filling just 1 percent of corporate executive committee jobs, the target is ambitious.

Nissan Motor Co Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said last week that rushing to meet such a target could set the carmaker and its staff members up for failure.

Japanese Economy Minister Akira Amari told Reuters this month he was not keen to force numerical quotas, even in government positions. "If there aren't the right people but you force it, the means become the target," he said.

Reuters - AFP

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