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The Facts

Human Rights

new internationalist
issue 229 - March 1992

Human RIghts - The FACTS

Using global statistics, Western countries would win a Human Rights Olympics
outright every time because they have more money than Third World countries.
So the NI takes a different approach and examines those countries
that have improved or deteriorated most in recent years.


The amount of food available to people each day altered markedly in some countries between 1983 and 1988.3

Better nourishers
Countries showing the biggest increase
in the daily supply of calories per head of
population (as a percentage of daily requirements).
Worse nourishers
Countries showing the biggest fall in the
daily supply of calories per head of population
(as a percentage of daily requirements).

[image, unknown]



Many of those countries which increased their health spending between 1972 and 1989 are among the poorest while some very rich countries slashed their health spending during that period.1

Healthy spenders
Countries showing the biggest increase
in health spending 1972-89
(as percentage of total expenditure).
Sickly spenders
Countries showing the biggest cut in
health spending 1972-89
(as percentage of total expenditure).

[image, unknown]



The world is more democratic than It was five years ago. Out of 88 countries monitored in 1985, 18 had moved towards greater democracy by 1990 by holding multi-party elections.2

They were: Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Panama, Hungary, Benin, Bangladesh, Poland, German Democratic Republic, Czechoslovakia, Pakistan, Paraguay, Bulgaria, Philippines, the USSR, Romania. Algeria and Haiti were also included but have since suffered coups.

Among the countries not monitored in this survey, Uruguay, Namibia and Zambia have also held multi-party elections since 1985 - and there are many more such elections on the way, especially in Africa and the constituent parts of the former Soviet Union.



In most countries the proportion of children receiving primary education remained fairly constant through the 1980s. But in a few there was a startling rise - and in others an even more startling fall.4

Fewer children in school
Biggest decline in primary-school
provision between 1982-4 and 1986-8.
More children in school
Biggest growth in primary-school
provision between 1982-4 and 1986-8.

[image, unknown]



Rich countries generally find it easier to allow a free press, since material comfort gives their citizens less cause for dissent. Among our readers' countries, the UK is conspicuous by its absence from both lists of most free countries, while Costa Rica's inclusion among much wealthier nations is a major achievement.5

The best and worst countries in 1985 and 1991 as regards press freedom, as rated by US human-rights group Freedom House:

[image, unknown]

MOST FREE 1985 Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, West Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland.

MOST FREE 1991 Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, USA.

LEAST FREE 1985 Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Central African Republic, China, Cuba, Haiti, Iran, Sudan, Vietnam.

LEAST FREE 1991 Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Iraq, Libya, Malawi, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Vietnam, Zaire.

1 World Development Report 1991, World Bank.
2 Human Development Report 1991, UN Development Programme.
3 State of the World's Children 1987 and 1992, UNICEF.
4 State of the World's Children 1987 and 1991, UNICEF. Countries scoring above 100% have not been included.
5 Freedom Review, Freedom House, New York, 1985 and Jan-Feb 1992.

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New Internationalist issue 229 magazine cover This article is from the March 1992 issue of New Internationalist.
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