By Ahmad Faraj (with photos)

KUWAIT, Aug 25 (KUNA) -- Kuwait ranks the top among Arab countries and 33 worldwide in the Human Development Index (HDI) of the "Arab Human Development Report 2009: Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries," issued by the UN Development Program's (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Arab States.
Representative of Kuwait and the Arab States at the World Bank, Dr. Merza Hasan, told KUNA on Tuesday that Kuwait's attainment of this rank reflected the efforts exerted in the field of human development, despite the challenges faced in recent years.
He explained that there were a number of factors in the report, prepared by the UNDP every two years, that were positive in the case of Kuwait and helped boost its ranking.
He explained that in the adult literacy rate (aged 15 and older), Kuwait registered 93.3 percent, while the number of children enrolled in all three schooling levels was at 74.9 percent.
"Kuwait is also in the lead in terms of life expectancy at birth, which is at 77.3 percent," he said, explaining that it was up from the 67.6 percent in 1970 "thanks to the improved health services and the increase in awareness among citizens." As for infant mortality rate (per 1,000 live births), Hasan said that it was at nine per 1,000 in Kuwait, which was one of the best rates worldwide and in the region.
In terms of basic services, he said that Kuwait had the highest rate in terms of electricity and water services, standing at 100 percent - a percentage that no other country in the world has recorded.
Kuwait also recorded high rates in use of technology and its availability to citizens, as well as one of the highest rates of public liberties, including the freedom of expression.
Hasan noted that Kuwait also recorded the lowest level of unemployment in the Arab world, at two percent, but noted that there were many challenges in this area, as there was a large segment of Kuwaitis at the youth stage and these would need the creation of jobs, which in turn would burden the public and private sectors.
On the health sector, Hasan said the report indicated a high level of obesity among women (aged 15 and above), but noted that 98 percent of all births were carried out by specialists, while vaccination against measles was at 99 percent - one of the highest rates worldwide.
As for the educational index, Hasan said that Kuwait was one of the best Arab states when it came to education, noting that this was reaffirmed by the World Bank in its reports.
He explained that besides the aforementioned high rate of adult literacy, Kuwait and Jordan together ranked first among Arab states in terms of standards of educational method in its different forms, including the access to education, general equality, quality of education, and other aspects.
This, he said, reflected the positive investment in education and learning over the past decades since Kuwait's independence, noting that education was a continuous process that was handed down from one generation to the next.
As for the environment, Hasan said that when asked, Kuwaitis considered environmental pollutants the most serious threat to human security, showing the high level of awareness among Kuwaitis of environmental issues.
He said that the report noted that although there was no single Arab institution concerned with the effect of climate change on the region, there was a collective effort by Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to earmark USD 750 million for a new fund, established at the conclusion of the OPEC meeting on November 18, 2007, to counter the effects of climate change on those countries.
Moreover, Hasan said that since the issuance of the first Arab Human Development Report in 2002, a deep discussion was launched over the ability of boosting human development in the Arab region and the challenges faced in this area.
The report considers reform a must in the Arab region, and sustainable change must come from within, he said.
As for the other five member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Hasan said that Qatar ranked second among Arab states (35th worldwide), the UAE ranked third (39th worldwide), Bahrain fourth (41st worldwide), Oman sixth (58th worldwide), and Saudi Arabia seventh (61st worldwide).
On the 2009 report in general, the Kuwaiti official said that it focused on a very important issue, that of human security, which was a great challenge for humans.
He noted that a "human security survey" was conducted in four Arab states, including Kuwait, which was chosen for "the distinguished knowledge of its people, and having one of the highest income rates worldwide." Hasan said that the report also noted the different aspects that influenced people's lives: environmental security, economic security, nutrition and food security, health, dental security, government performance, and state guarantee of human security. (end) amf.ema KUNA 251904 Aug 09NNNN