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The UN Human Development Index (HDI) is a comparative measure of poverty, literacy, education, life expectancy, childbirth, and other factors for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. The index was developed in 1990 by the Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq, and has been used since 1993 by the United Nations Development Programme in its annual report.
The report for 2005 shows that, in general, the HDI for countries around the world is improving, with two major exceptions: Sub-Saharan Africa and Post-Soviet states, both of which showed steady decline. HIV/AIDS is seen as the principal cause of the decline in the first group, while worsening education, economies, and mortality rates caused declines in the HDIs amongst the latter group.
Most of the data used for the 2005 report, indicating country HDIs for 2003, are derived largely from 2003 or earlier. The top ten countries are in Europe, North America, and Oceania. Conversely, all but two of the 32 countries exhibiting low human development are in Africa. However, not all UN member states choose to or are able to provide the necessary statistics. Notable absences from the list include Afghanistan, Iraq, Liberia, North Korea, Serbia and Montenegro, and Somalia. While these countries are either unwilling or unable to provide data, they are generally considered countries of medium to low human development.