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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 01:19 GMT 02:19 UK
UN says democracy is at risk
A child carries water in New Delhi
The report calls global inequality "grotesque"
Rising inequality and corruption around the world are putting the recent spread of democracy in many countries at risk, the UN says in a new report.


Around the world, there is a growing sense that democracy has not delivered development

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr
UN report author

Of 81 countries that have moved toward democracy in the past 20 years, the report says, only 47 are still considered full democracies with the necessary checks and balances on power.

The warning comes with the UN's 12th annual Human Development Report, which ranks 173 countries for their quality of life, using indicators such as life expectancy and income per person.

Norway again ranks first, followed by Sweden, Canada, Belgium, Australia and the United States - but the bottom of the chart is dominated by African countries.

Sierra Leone is last, and the bottom 24 countries are all in Africa.

The poor performance went hand-in-hand with a relapse in many places to authoritarian rule or conflict, especially in sub-Saharan African, where the report says that one in four countries saw the military intervene in politics.

"Around the world, there is a growing sense that democracy has not delivered development such as more jobs, schools, health care for ordinary people," said Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, the UN report's chief author.

Stability

But the report argues that moving toward democracy actually makes for more stable societies - rebutting an argument made by China, Pakistan and other countries that a slower shift to democracy is necessary to maintain order.

"The desire for stability often leads to the notion that non-democratic regimes hold out the prospect of greater public order and faster economic development," the report's author said.

"History and academic research provide no evidence that authoritarian regimes are better at promoting economic and social progress."

In addition, democratic countries are far less likely to go to war against each other, the report says.


Top 15 countries:

HDI rank 2002
Life expectancy (years) Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births) GDP per capita ($) Adult literacy (%)
1 Norway 78.5 4 29,918 99%*
2 Sweden 79.7 3 24,277 99%*
3 Canada 78.8 6 27,840 99%*
4 Belgium 78.4 6 27,178 99%*
5 Australia 78.9 6 25,693 99%*
6 United States 77 7 34,142 99%*
7 Iceland 79.2 4 29,581 99%*
8 Netherlands 78.1 5 25,657 99%*
9 Japan 81 4 26,755 99%*
10 Finland 77.6 4 24,996 99%*
11 Switzerland 78.9 3 28,789 99%*
12 France 78.6 4 24,223 99%*
13 UK 77.7 4 23,509 99%*
14 Denmark 76.2 6 27,627 99%*
15 Austria 78.1 4 26,765 99%*

* For Human Development Index a value of 99% was applied

Bottom 15 countries:

HDI rank 2002 Life expectancy (years) Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births) GDP per capita ($) Adult literacy (%)
159 Guinea 47.5 112 1,982 41
160 Gambia 46.2 92 1,649 36.6
161 Angola 45.2 172 2,187 42
162 Rwanda 40.2 100 943 66.8
163 Malawi 40 117 615 60.1
164 Mali 51.5 142 797 41.5
165 Central African Republic 44.3 115 1,172 46.7
166 Chad 45.7 118 871 42.6
167 Guinea Bissau 44.8 132 755 38.5
168 Ethiopia 43.9 117 668 39.1
169 Burkina Faso 46.7 105 976 23.9
170 Mozambique 39.3 126 854 44
171 Burundi 46.7 114 591 48
172 Niger 45.2 159 746 15.9
173 Sierra Leone 38.9 180 490 36


 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Peter Biles
"The report says that many countries in East Asia have made striking progress"
Omar Norman, report co-author
"The challenge for democracy is to address social justice"

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Quality of life
Where is the best and worst place to live?
See also:

02 Jul 02 | Middle East
28 Jun 02 | Business
04 Sep 00 | Business
19 Mar 02 | Business
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