UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan is ranked at 146, the same spot as last year, among the 187 countries in UN's 2013 Human Development Index (HDI)'s annual rankings, a position even below its former eastern wing - Bangladesh, which is placed at 142 and Nepal at 145.

The HDI rankings is worked out by combining indicators of life expectancy, educational attainment and income.

Bangladesh was tied with Pakistan at the 146 spot last year.

In other South Asian nations, India ranked 135, one step up from last year, while Sri Lanka rose to 73, a big rise from last year's 92, Maldives, 103, up one step, and Nepal rose to 145 from 157. Bhutan finished at 140, up four steps.

The HDI forms part of the Human Development Report (HDR) 2014, a flagship study produced annually by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It was released in Tokyo on Thursday.

The report, entitled: “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing vulnerabilities and Building Resilience" is 23rd in a series which began in 1990. The first UNDP Human Development Report (HDR) was prepared and launched under the leadership of the late Dr Mahbubul Haq, a former Pakistani finance minister.

The HDR especially notes that over 200 million people are affected by natural disasters and 45 million, the largest number in 18 years, were displaced by conflicts at the end of 2012. These factors contributed to denting the improvement in human development.

Oil-rich Norway was the country with the best quality of life and is ranked number 1 on the 2013 HDI, as it did last year. Australia and Switzerland followed at the top of the standings. Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Chad and Mozambique are at the bottom of the annual ranking.

Netherlands, United States, Germany, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore and Denmark are placed among the top 10 countries in the 2013 HDI.

With nearly a third of humanity poor or vulnerable to poverty, governments need to put a higher priority on creating jobs and providing basic social services, the United Nations Development Program said in the report.

It warned that improvements in longevity, education and income, which are the three main components of the UNDP's influential index of human development, are slowing due to worsening inequality and economic disruptions, to droughts and other natural disasters and to poor government policies. But the agency also said the solutions are not complicated.

According to income-based measures of poverty, 1.2 billion people live with $1.25 or less a day. However, the latest estimates of the UNDP Multidimensional Poverty Index reveal that almost 1.5 billion people in 91 developing countries are living in poverty with overlapping deprivations in health, education and living standards. And although poverty is declining overall, almost 800 million people are at risk of falling back into poverty if setbacks occur.

"By addressing vulnerabilities, all people may share development progress, and human development will become increasingly equitable and sustainable," stated UNDP Administrator Helen Clark on Thursday.

The 2014 Human Development Report comes at a critical time, as attention turns to the creation of a new development agenda following the 2015 deadline for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

The Report holds that as crises spread ever faster and further, it is critical to understand vulnerability in order to secure gains and sustain progress.

It points to a slowdown in human development growth across all regions, as measured by the Human Development Index (HDI). It notes that threats such as financial crises, fluctuations in food prices, natural disasters and violent conflict significantly impede progress.

"Reducing both poverty and people's vulnerability to falling into poverty must be a central objective of the post-2015 agenda," the report states. "Eliminating extreme poverty is not just about 'getting to zero'; it is also about staying there."

"Reducing vulnerability is a key ingredient in any agenda for improving human development," writes Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, in a contribution to the report. "[We] need to approach it from a broad systemic perspective."

The 2014 report takes such an approach, using a human development lens to take a fresh look at vulnerability as an overlapping and mutually reinforcing set of risks.

It explores structural vulnerabilities - those that have persisted and compounded over time as a result of discrimination and institutional failings, hurting groups such as the poor, women, migrants, people living with disabilities, indigenous groups and older people. For instance, 80 percent of the world's elderly lack social protection, with large numbers of older people also poor and disabled.

The report also introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, the sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact. They include the first 1,000 days of life, and the transitions from school to work, and from work to retirement.

"Capabilities accumulate over an individual's lifetime and have to be nurtured and maintained; otherwise they can stagnate and even decline," it warns. "Life capabilities are affected by investments made in preceding stages of life, and there can be long-term consequences of exposure to short-term shocks."

For example, in one study cited by the report, poor children in Ecuador were shown to be already at a vocabulary disadvantage by the age of six.

Timely interventions-such as investments in early childhood development-are therefore critical, the report states.