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The Facts

Human Rights

new internationalist
issue 244 - June 1993

This facts spread depicts two different worlds, measured on the one hand in terms of civil and political freedoms and on the other in terms of human development. We can argue chicken-and-egg style about which human right must come first but it is clear that both are vital – and that citizens of the poorest countries tend to lose out on both counts.

State of the world's human rights
This map representing the state of the world's civil and political rights is based on the system adopted by Charles Humana
in the World Human Rights Guide (OUP 1992) - also the source for the statistical material on this block.
All 1993 figures and assessments have been independently updated by the NI.


Child mortality rate
This map representing the state of the world's basic needs is drawn from State of the World's Children 1993, UNICEF.
This is also a source for the statistical material on the development rights block. Other sources: Human Development Report 1992, UNDP; World Development Report, World Bank; Third World Guide 1993/94.


The best...
The 10 countries with the best record on civil and political rights (1991)
1. Finland               99%
2. Aotearoa/NZ    98%
    Denmark           98%
    Germany           98%
    Netherlands       98%
6. Czechoslovakia    97%
    Hungary        97%
    Norway        97%
9. Belgium        96%
    Switzerland    96%
(12. Canada 94%; 15. UK 93%; 17. Australia 91%; 18. US 90%.)

... and the worst
The 10 countries with the worst records on civil and political rights (1991)
1. Burma     17%
    Iraq        17%
3. Sudan     18%
4. North Korea    20%
5. China        21%
6. Iran        22%
7. Libya        24%
8. Angola        27%
9. Afghanistan    28%
10.Saudi Arabia    29%

Readers in Aotearoa/New Zealand will be surprised to learn that they live in such a paradise given the inroads made into their rights since the advent of the Bolger Government: this rating derives from the Labour Administration which preceded it. In general the rich countries of the North predominate because their wealth makes it easier for them to guarantee basic freedoms of expression and movement.

Newly liberated Czechoslovakia and Hungary have therefore gained remarkably high ratings and the achievements of developing countries Costa Rica and Uruguay in gaining a 90% rating are, to say the least, greater than the US's in reaching the same percentage.

Among the world's worst offenders, Burma's military rulers held an election in 1990 but when the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD) won an overwhelming majority simply ignored the result and clamped down even harder. Torture and extrajudicial executions are regularly reported. Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq needs no introduction.

In Sudan the Islamic fundamentalist government's offensive against the Christian minority in the south has led to systematic human-rights abuse as well as a major famine.

Over the five-year period from 1986 to 1991 the average human-rights rating went up from 55% to 62%. There were similar improvements in the availability of multiparty political systems.

Percentage of world’s population living under multiparty, one-party or military systems.

1986 1993

If China were to change, the proportion of people living under multiparty systems would rise to 86%. Handle these statistics with care, though, since the multi-party category includes countries like Mexico and Russia, which have many parties but fall well short of normal democratic standards.


The gulf between the rich world and the poor world in the delivery of the basic human rights to food, health and education has been narrowing over the last three decades
but is still vast.

Long-term progress...
[image, unknown] Average life expectancy in the world is now 66 years — 20 years more than in 1960.
[image, unknown] The child mortality rate has halved in 30 years.

[image, unknown] 1.3 billion people still lack access to safe water and 2.3 billion to sanitation.
[image, unknown] 14 million under-fives die each year.

Life expectancy (years)

Life expectancy (years)

photo by CLAUDE SAUVAGEOT Long-term progress...
[image, unknown] The adult literacy rate worldwide has increased by more than one-third since 1970.
[image, unknown] Nearly three-quarters of the world’s children are enrolled in school.

[image, unknown] One billion adults are still illiterate, including 600 million women.
[image, unknown] 300 million children are out of school.

Adult literacy rate (%)

Adult literacy rate (%)

Long-term progress...
[image, unknown] Daily calorie supply per head worldwide is now about 110% of the overall requirement, up from 90% 25 years ago.
[image, unknown] Third World food production grew at 3.2% between 1971 and 1984, outpacing the population growth of 2.6% over the same period.

[image, unknown] Over 100 million people were affected by famine in 1990.
[image, unknown] Over a quarter of the world’s people do not get enough food.

Daily calorie supply per person (average requirement 2,400)

Daily calorie supply per person.

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