The Best Countries in the World

While there is no shortage of surveys and indexes ranking countries on all sorts of performance metrics — from economic competitiveness to healthcare to global image — the Best Countries report is the first of its kind to determine which of the world’s nations are the most successful overall. The results of its inaugural ranking are as follows:

Best Countries in the World

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Global Inequality Widens Further Still

In an inauspicious start to the new year, one of the world’s most prominent charities issued a new report finding that, as of 2015, a little over sixty individuals own more wealth than 3.5 billion people — half the world’s population. According to The Guardian:

Oxfam said that the wealth of the poorest 50% dropped by 41% between 2010 and 2015, despite an increase in the global population of 400m. In the same period, the wealth of the richest 62 people increased by $500bn (£350bn) to $1.76tn.

The charity said that, in 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%. This dropped to 80 in 2014 before falling again in 2015.

Mark Goldring, the Oxfam GB chief executive, said: “It is simply unacceptable that the poorest half of the world population owns no more than a small group of the global super-rich – so few, you could fit them all on a single coach”.

I concur. In a world where millions still die annually from easily treatable and preventable causes, and where hundreds of millions struggle just to get by each day, it is unfathomable that a mere busload of people could control so much wealth (and with it, power). Continue reading

African Century

According to the U.N., Africa’s population is projected to quadruple to over 4.4. billion people by 2100. By then, the total number of people in the world is estimated to be around 11 billion, meaning that Africa alone will account for over a third of the global population and almost all of the new population growth over the next century.

As The Economist points out, this staggeringly high growth rate — contrasted with stagnating, if not declining, populations almost everywhere else  — will have tremendous implications for both the continent and the world at large. Continue reading

How Africa Can Unlock Its Potential In 2016

As the world’s fastest growing continent both demographically and economically, Africa harbors tremendous promise to its multitude of peoples. The Africa Growth Initiative, a project of The Brookings Institution, one of the world’s foremost think tanks, offers an in-depth and comprehensive report on Africa’s future and the key areas and strategies that its governments can implement to ensure continued prosperity.

The report, Foresight Africa, is divided into six parts, from economic policy to urban development, and comprises the perspectives of academics, policymakers, consultants, and other specialists deeply involved in and familiar with the continent. In addition to being dense with data, its got lots of visuals to help illustrate the potential of this dynamic region — and how best to unleash it. Continue reading

Kicking Off 2016 With A Big Milestone

It is not everyday that a nasty parasitic disease is wiped off the face of the Earth…in fact, this has yet to have ever happened — until this year, when the Carter Center seems poised to complete its decades-long work in eradicating the debilitating guinea worm infection.

Once the scourge of the developing world — affecting nearly 4 million people less than three decades ago — this painful disease has been reduced to less than two dozen cases as of 2015 (which in turn was 83 percent less than in 2014). Continue reading

Graph: The World’s Most Religious Societies

The Pew Research Center’s 2015 Global Attitudes survey measured the degree to which people around the world value religion in their personal lives.  The results show that poorer and less stable countries tend to be more religious, although there are some interesting outliers to this pattern.

Religious Conviction Around The World

Courtesy of The Telegraph

The above data is drawn from over 45,400 interviews from adults spanning the forty subjection nations. (You can learn more about the methodology here.) Continue reading

By All Accounts, 2015 Was The Best Year In Human History

This might seem like an audacious statement to make in light of the numerous tragedies and disasters that have churned out with shocking regularity (to say nothing of the persistent and shockingly normalized prevalence of poverty, hunger, disease, and political oppression).

But as The Atlantic points out in great detail, by almost every measure — from crime rates to income levels — 2015 was the best year in human history for the average person. Beginning with what was arguably the most high profile problem of 2015, violence, one finds that from gun crime to terrorism, humans are harming one another far less than they historically have.  Continue reading

The Countries That Support Free Speech The Most

This past spring, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey of over 40,000 people across 38 countries to find out how much they supported free expression, ranging from criticisms of the government to sexually explicit comments in public. The following map shows the results:

Here’s Vox’s take on the results:

People in Western countries, like America, Poland, and Spain, tend to be more supportive of free expression, while those in the eastern parts of the world — like China, India, Japan, and Turkey — are generally less supportive. And the U.S. stood out as more supportive of free expression than anyone else.

Still, the 38 countries surveyed by Pew were broadly supportive of free expression — with a few exceptions. For instance, a global median of about 52 percent of respondents said the media should not be able to publish information that’s sensitive to national security issues. And respondents outside the U.S. generally seemed to favor restrictions on specific types of speech, including that which may offend religious or minority groups

Overall, there was a clear divide between east and west on this issue, with the former less supportive of free speech than the latter (and African nations being somewhat in the middle ground). Nevertheless, most countries were generally pro-free speech, with respondents expressing hangs ups mostly towards sexually explicit content or anything that may be offensive to certain ethnic or religious minorities. This was the case even in the U.S., which is generally more comfortable with political speech than with anything sexual. Continue reading

Most of the World’s Countries Are Progressing

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. 20151219_fnc781

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).

Tokyo Offers Best Quality of Life

Or says Monocle’s magazine’s annual Quality of Life survey, which ranks cities around the world based on metrics like crime rate, infrastructure, health care facilities opportunities, education and more.

This year’s index also added 22 other factors for consideration, from the cost of rent to access to outdoor activity.

So based on this expanded criteria, Japan’s largest city moved from an already respectable second place position last year, to the top of the world. Monocle noted Tokyo’s “defining paradox of heart-stopping size and concurrent feeling of peace and quiet” as well as its efficient public transit, great culinary offering, unmatched safety, and polite residents.

Interestingly enough, the magazine also admitted that “by any conventional measure Tokyo should be a disaster”, owing largely to its sheer size, which most cities would struggle to accommodate — it is a testament to the city’s success, and perhaps Japanese culture and society, that one could find safety and serenity in the presence of over 30 million people.  Continue reading