BEIRUT: Just under 10 percent of Lebanese women believe a man is justified in beating his wife, according to a U.N.-sponsored report released Thursday, which painted a mixed picture for Lebanon’s progress in key development factors.
The United Nations Development Program’s annual Human Development Report, entitled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience,” also concluded that Arab states were improving overall.
“By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share in development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable,” UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said in a statement.
Aside from the news that 9.7 percent of Lebanese women aged 18-49 believe that a man should be able to physically discipline his wife, the report also showed that Lebanon’s citizens now enjoy an average life expectancy of 80 years, a figure that has improved by 12 years since 1980. Women tend to live to around the age of 82 and men to 78.
Overall, Lebanon’s Human Development Index score is 0.765, ranking it 65th alongside central-American nation Panama out of 187 countries and territories studied.
HDI is a measure of long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and a decent standard of living.
“Lebanon’s 2013 HDI of 0.765 is above the average of 0.735 for countries in the high human development group and above the average of 0.682 for countries in the Arab States. From the Arab States, countries which are close to Lebanon 2013 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Jordan and Kuwait, which have HDIs ranked 77 and 46 respectively,” the report read.
But the news is not all positive, with Lebanon falling majorly behind in at least one key field: income inequality.
At 30 percent, income inequality in Lebanon is the highest observed in the Middle East. When adjusted to take into account this factor, Lebanon’s HDI score drops to 0.606.
Lebanon is also ranked 80th out of 149 countries in the Gender Inequality index. Lebanon does not grant women the right to pass on citizenship, only 20.8 percent of women in Lebanon participate in the workforce. Despite this, there is only a 0.1 percent difference between the number of men and women who have achieved a secondary level of education.
Regionally, development is impressive, said the report, especially considering recent tumultuous developments that have spread throughout the Middle East and fomented unrest in a number of states.
Syria is plagued by a bloody civil war, Iraq is struggling to deal with an Islamist insurgency, Egypt has had long periods of civil unrest marked by violent clashes, and Lebanon has been hit by a spate of suicide bombings.
The region is also home to a number of refugees, – particularly from Palestine, Iraq and Syria – people that “often live in poverty without access to public services such as basic health care and education. Such deprivations can cause lasting health problems, including mental health complications and contribute to lost livelihoods, undermining long-term capabilities.”
Lebanon has been the country most significantly burdened by refugee populations, specifically from the Syrian crisis, with over 1 million registered refugees currently residing here.
The Social Affairs Ministry and other ministries have had to spend large amounts of money on the refugee crisis, sometimes causing other developmental projects to be placed lower down the totem pole of priorities.
Sudan, a country that has been beset by war among a myriad of other problems, is at the farthest end of the human development spectrum, and ranks lowest in the region.
Some countries in the Middle East, however, are enjoying peaceful and prosperous times that are causing their HDI score to shoot skyward. Qatar leads the region in terms of human development, likely due to its decision to invest its oil wealth in institutions and educational programs that benefit its citizens.
The Middle East was also found to have a per capita income that is 15 percent higher than the world average, though that is likely increased by countries like Kuwait.
Regional education inequality on the other hand falls well below the global average, and domestic violence approval was high, with some 90 percent of women in Jordan saying it was OK for a husband to beat his wife to discipline her.
“Youth is opportunity, history has proven this,” Sima Bahous, UNDP Director for the Regional Bureau for Arab States, said in the press release for the report.
“Indeed, it is precisely at this point in the demographic arc, when the proportion of young people reaches a peak that regions and countries around the world have achieved positive transformational change,” she added.