According to the latest Global Development Index conducted annually by the United Nations, the majority of the world’s countries are more developed than they were 25 years ago, with higher incomes, increased life expectancy, and greater education and literacy.
As The Economist highlighted, Rwanda has seen the most impressive growth, with people living 32 years longer than they did in 1990, and spending twice as much time in school. This is all the more remarkable considering the horrific social and economic loss reaped by the 1994 genocide.
Other countries that have witnessed rapid improvement include China (which came in second place for most progress), Singapore (now one of the world’s wealthiest nations), Iran, and Mozambique.
Norway remained at the top of the index for the 12th consecutive time, followed by Australia and Switzerland. At the bottom were Niger, Central African Republic, Eritrea and Chad, each of which nonetheless made some degree of progress, however small.
Of the countries for which there is complete date, only the small African nation of Swaziland has regressed, due mostly to the devastating impact of AIDS; over a quarter of adults are infected with HIV, with thousands dying of AIDS every year.
Such grim exceptions aside, most of the world is broadly doing better than ever before, albeit at widely different rates and with much more work to be done. All told, around 2 billion people — roughly a quarter of the world’s population — have been lifted from extreme poverty, though some 830 million remain left behind.
Hopefully, it will not be long until that number drastically declines as well. Some major challenges aside, the track record looks encouraging. Given how much has changed in just the past 25 years, who knows where much of the planet will be another 25 years from now (provided we address looming global threats like climate change).