UNITED NATIONS, March 14 (UPI) -- Norway, Australia and the United States led 187 countries in the latest Human Development Index measure of national achievement in health, education and income.
Conflict-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo and drought-stricken Niger scored the lowest, the index, published Thursday in the U.N Development Program's 2013 Human Development Report, indicated.
Despite their challenges, Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo also are among the countries that made strides in Human Development Index improvement since 2000, the report said.
The new index indicated consistent human development improvement in most countries, the U.N. Development Program.
"Over the past decades, countries across the world have been converging towards higher levels of human development, as shown by the Human Development Index," the 2013 Report said. "All groups and regions have seen notable improvement in all HDI components, with faster progress in low and medium HDI countries. On this basis, the world is becoming less unequal."
The 14 countries that recorded at least 2 percentage-point gains in the index annually since 2000 are Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Angola, Timor-Leste, Myanmar, Tanzania, Liberia, Burundi, Mali, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger.
The report said most of the countries that showed such dramatic improvement were low-HDI African countries, many emerging from long periods of armed conflict. Yet, the report said, all made significant recent progress in school attendance, life expectancy and per-capita income growth.
Hong Kong, Latvia, South Korea, Singapore and Lithuania showed the greatest 12-year improvement in the Very High Human Development statistical division of countries in the HDI, data showed.