Valuing a Diverse World for All

Monday, April 14, 2014

Global Environmental Performance

The 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) is a joint project between the Yale Center for Environmental Law & Policy (YCELP) and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and support from the Samuel Family Foundation and the McCall MacBain Foundation. The EPI is constructed through the calculation and aggregation of 20 indicators reflecting national-level environmental data. These indicators are combined into nine issue categories, each of which fit under one of two overarching objectives. 

The two objectives that provide the overarching structure of the 2014 EPI are Environmental Health and Ecosystem Vitality. Environmental Health measures the protection of human health from environmental harm. Ecosystem Vitality measures ecosystem protection and resource management. These two objectives are further divided into nine issue categories that span high-priority environmental policy issues, including air quality, forests, fisheries, and climate and energy, among others.  The 2014 EPI Framework includes 9 issues and 20 indicators. Access to Electricity is not included in the figure because it is not used to calculate country scores.  


Switzerland leads the world in addressing environmental challenges, according to the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI). Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore, and Czech Republic round out the top five positions of the Index, which ranks countries on high-priority environmental concerns including air quality, water management, and climate change. 

While reinforcing the challenges nations face in promoting sustainable development, the 2014 EPI shows that top countries have relatively strong performance across the board and have advanced on a range of environmental issues over the last decade. But the scorecard reveals weaknesses for many countries and areas of concern for even the best performers. Switzerland, for example, is only average on forest protection, demonstrating that all countries – regardless of rank – can improve.

Country Rankings: See how all 178 countries rank on the 2014 EPI. Click on a country's name to go to its profile page and learn more about its performance.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Global Arms Trade 2013

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reports on all international transfers of major conventional weapons (including sales, gifts and production licenses) to states, international organizations and armed non-state groups. SIPRI data reflects the volume of deliveries of arms, not the financial value of the deals. The SIPRI Arms Transfers Database now contains information on all international transfers of major conventional weapons from 1950 to the end of 2013. It is the only publicly available resource providing consistent data on international arms transfers for this length of time.



The volume of transfers of major weapons in 2009–13 was 14% higher than in 2004 –2008.

The five biggest exporters in 2009–13 were the USA, Russia, Germany, China and France. Together they accounted for 74% of the volume of arms exports. The USA and Russia alone supplied 56% of all exports.

China has further cemented its position as a major exporter of arms, replacing France as the fourth largest arms exporter.

The five biggest importers in 2009–13 were India, China, Pakistan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Together, they received 32% of all arms imports.

Saudi Arabia ranked among the five biggest recipients for the first time since 1997–2001.

The main recipient region in 2009–13 was Asia and Oceania (accounting for 47% of imports), followed by the Middle East (19%), Europe (14%), the Americas (10%) and Africa (9%).

Between 2004–2008 and 2009 –13, arms imports to states in Africa increased by 53%, Asia and Oceania by 34% and the Americas by 10%. Imports by states in the Middle East remained largely unchanged, while imports by states in Europe decreased by 25%.

 Amnesty arms trade demonstrator

Monday, March 31, 2014

World’s Ten Best Ethical Destinations 2014

Travel has recently become the world’s largest industry, exceeding a trillion-dollar annual footprint. Every year Ethical Traveler (an all volunteer, non- profit organization) reviews the policies and practices of the world’s developing nations, then selects the ten that are doing the best job of preserving their environment, promoting human rights and creating a sustainable, community-based tourism industry. 

A research team first conducts a survey of developing nations—from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe—to identify the best travel and tourism destinations, focusing primarily on environmental protection, social welfare and human rights, past and present. For the first time in this year’s analysis, animal welfare was also considered. Using publicly available data, these countries are rated. Each country selected also offers the opportunity to experience “unspoiled natural beauty, and to interact with local people and cultures in a meaningful, mutually enriching way.”

Ethical Destinations - map of winners 

The complete list for 2014 includes the Bahamas, Barbados, Cape Verde, Chile, Dominica, Latvia, Lithuania, Mauritius, Palau and Uruguay. Ethical Traveler does not rank the countries within the top 10. Three countries that fell off the list from 2013 – Costa Rica, Ghana and Samoa – slid backward on key metrics such as environmental protection and human rights violations.

Island in Bahamas
Andros National Park 
 The Bahamas

Beach in Barbados
Bottom Bay in Barbados

Cape Verde
Cape Verde waters 
Cape Verde scenery 
Cape Verde

Houses in Chile
Chile scenery

Forests in Dominica
Jacko Steps
Layou River in Dominica

Riga Historic Centre
House of Blackheads
Gothic St. Peter's Church

Lithuania's Town Hall Square
Fire show 
St. John's Day 

Mauritius aerial view
Mauritius waters
Mauritius island

Jellyfish lake
Jellyfish lake in Palau 

Uruguay waters 
Beaches in Uruguay 
Uruguay water activities 
(Photos: BBC Travel)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Worldwide Cost of Living 2014
Singapore has been named the world’s most expensive city to live in 2014. The Worldwide Cost of Living survey by The Economist Intelligence Unit sees the city replace Tokyo, which topped the list in 2013. The twice annual survey compares more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services. These include food, drink, clothing, household supplies and personal care items, home rents, transport, utility bills, private schools, domestic help and recreational costs.” It is a purpose-built internet tool designed to help HR and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expats and business travelers.

Calling the city’s rising prominence “steady rather than spectacular” it cites high car costs, transport costs (at three times higher than New York) and limited natural resources, making it reliant on other countries for energy and water supplies. It also points out the proliferation of expensive malls and boutiques importing luxury European brands to “satisfy a wealthy and fashion conscious consumer base.” 

Speaking of Europe, second in line is Paris, followed by Oslo and Zurich. Of the European “resurgence”, the report states: “However, Europe has been the subject of renewed optimism for the coming year, with confidence picking up in some markets and declines easing in others. “This, combined with currency weakness in Japan, has made European cities relatively more expensive once more.” European cities account for three of the five most expensive and one-half of the top ten cities.

The Indian city of Mumbai has been named the least expensive city in the world to live in.  Though India is considered a growing economy, income inequality means lower wages proliferate, driving down household spending. New Delhi comes third in the list, though one unfamiliar entry is that of Damascus, which makes the list because of the unfolding crisis in Syria and its impact on exchange rates. Though cost of living prices are low, the report cites security risks as being off-putting for many considering living in these cities. It names Pakistan, Nepal, Syria and Algeria as all having well-documented security issues or domestic unrest. (Source: The Huffington Post)

Monday, March 17, 2014

Global Index of Economic Freedom 2014

The Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation’s recently released 2014 Index of Economic Freedom. The index measures ten different factors and compares countries based on their regulatory efficiency, size of government, rule of law, and the openness of their markets. Each of the factors is measured on a scale of 1 to 100, and the country’s overall score is the average of each factor. For the 2014 index, the data cover the last half of 2012 to the first half of 2013.

Economic freedom once again on the rise. Much of the momentum lost during the past five years has been regained. The global average economic freedom score in the 2014 Index is 60.3, the highest average in the 20-year history of the Index. The average is 0.7 point higher than last year and a 2.7 point improvement from 1995.

114 countries, the majority of which are less developed, contributed to the growth in economic freedom over the past year; 43 countries, including Singapore, Sweden, Colombia, Poland, Cape Verde, and Turkey, achieved their highest economic freedom scores ever in the 2014 Index. While four countries recorded no score change, declines in economic freedom were registered in 59 countries, including nine advanced economies.

The United States continues to lose ground to its competitors in the global race to advance economic freedom and prosperity. Registering a decline in economic freedom for the seventh year in a row, the U.S. tumbled from the ranks of the top 10 freest economies, falling two spots in the rankings to 12th place. The U.S. score has declined almost 6 points since 2007, placing the U.S. among those countries considered to be only “mostly free.” In the 2014 Index, the U.S. recorded notable declines in fiscal freedom, business freedom, and property rights.

Average levels of economic freedom improved in all regions of the world except North America and the Middle East/North Africa. The Asia–Pacific region, led by Burma, Malaysia, and Samoa, showed the greatest gains, with an average increase exceeding 1 point. Sub-Saharan Africa did almost as well, with countries gaining 0.9 point on average. Europe and the South and Central America/Caribbean region recorded average score improvements of 0.5 point and 0.3 point, respectively.

Monday, March 10, 2014

World Press Freedom Index 2014

2014 World Press Freedom Index

The 2014 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders is a reference tool that is based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure. It spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. 

The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. 

Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. Despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them.

This year's index covers 180 countries, one more than the 179 countries covered in last year's index. The newcomer is Belize, which has been ranked in the enviable position of 29th. The 2014 index emphasizes the negative correlation between armed conflicts and freedom of information. In an unstable environment, the media become strategic goals or targets for groups or individuals trying to control news and information in violation of the guarantees enshrined in international conventions.

Syria (177th) is rubbing shoulders with the last three countries in the index. In Africa, Mali continued its fall and is now ranked 122nd. Central African Republic (109th) has followed suit, falling 43 places. In Egypt (159th), President Morsi's ouster by the army led by Al-Sisi freed those media that the Muslim Brotherhood had gagged ever since coming to power, but it marked the start of a witch hunt against journalists suspected of supporting the Brotherhood.
There are many examples of governments abusing the "fight against terrorism." In Turkey (154th), dozens of journalists have been detained on this pretext, above all those who cover the Kurdish issue. In Israel (96th), which regained some of the places it lost in the previous index because of Operation Pillar of Defense's impact on freedom of information, the territorial integrity imperative often suppresses freedom of information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Sri Lanka (165th, - 2), the army shapes the news by suppressing accounts that stray too far from the official vision of "pacification" in the former Tamil separatist strongholds. 

In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistle blowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world's leading power. The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) has followed in the US wake, distinguishing itself by its harassment of The Guardian.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Global Employment Trends 2014

The Global Employment Trends 2014 report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) said employment growth remains weak, unemployment continues to rise, especially among young people, and large numbers of discouraged potential workers are still outside the labor market. Profits are being made in many sectors, but those are mainly going into asset markets and not the real economy, damaging long-term employment prospects. On current trends, an additional 200 million jobs will be created by 2018. This is less than what is required to absorb the growing number of new entrants in to the labor market. 

The report stressed the pressing need to integrate young people into the labor force. At present, some 74.5 million men and women under the age of 25 are unemployed, a global youth unemployment rate of over 13 per cent – over two times more than the overall global unemployment rate.

Key Facts and Figures
  • The number of unemployed worldwide rose by 5 million in 2013 to almost 202 million, a 6 per cent unemployment rate.
  • Some 23 million workers have dropped out of the labor market.
  • The number of job seekers is expected to rise by more than 13 million by 2018.
  • Some 74.5 million people in the 15 to 24 age group were unemployed in 2013, a 13.1% youth unemployment rate.
  • Around 839 million workers lived with their families on less than US$2 in 2013.
  • Some 375 million workers lived with their families on less than $1.25 a day in 2013.
Unemployment rate

In developing countries, informal employment remains widespread, and the pace of improvements in job quality is slowing down. That means fewer people are moving out of working poverty. In 2013, the number of workers in extreme poverty – living on less than
$ 1.25 a day – declined by only 2.7% globally, one of the lowest rates over the past decade, with the exception of the immediate crisis years.

ILO global unemployment

Monday, February 24, 2014

World's Scariest Bridges

One of the most scariest and dangerous bridges of the world is the Hussaini- Borit Lake Bridge in Hunza Pakistan and listed as the world's most scary by From rickety rope walkways to spectacular feats of engineering, The Guardian takes a look at some of the world's scariest bridges below.

Hikers crossing the Capilano suspension bridge 
The Capilano suspension bridge, in Vancouver, British Columbia, has been a popular attraction among daring tourists since it opened in 1889. The 70m-high bridge stretches 137m across the river below, taking hikers past the tree tops of the evergreens.  

Siduhe Bridge 
 Half a kilometre high and linking a valley that's well over 1,000m wide, the Siduhe river bridge in China is a feat of engineering that opened in 2009 making it the highest bridge in the world. 

Canopy walkway, Kakum National Park, Ghana 
Located in Kakum national park, Ghana, the canopy walkway is a 40m-high, 350m-long rope bridge that connects seven tree tops in the forest.

Bungy Jumping Kawarau Bridge Kawarau Gorge near Queenstown South Island New Zealand 
If you don't find the Kawarau bridge scary enough, try jumping off it. The 43m-high suspension bridge on New Zealand's South Island is the birthplace of commercial bungee jumping.

Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the Antrim coast 
It may seem quaint, but the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge on the Antrim coast of Northern Ireland still makes for a hairy hike - though not quite as scary as back in the 70s, when it still only had one handrail. The bridge takes visitors across a rocky gorge to the tiny island of Carrickarede – and once you're there, there's only one way back again.

Langkawi viewpoint 
The Langkawi Skybridge in Malaysia is a 125m-long curved footbridge 700m above sea level, offering visitors spectacular views. It can only be reached by cable car, meaning this is definitely one for those with a head for heights.

Crossing the Suspension Bridge at Ghasa Napel 
The Hanging Bridge of Ghasa in Nepal is one of many unnerving rope bridges you'll find in this mountainous country. It's not uncommon to find local farmers herding their animals across the rickety crossing.

Viewing platform and walkway, Aiguille du Midi, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc 
To get to the bridge at the summit of the Aiguille du Midi, near Chamonix in the French Alps, you have to take a cable car ride that takes you up 2,800 vertical metres first. If that isn't enough for you, you might want to check in at the Chamonix Skywalk.

Royal Gorge Bridge  
Until 2001, the Royal Gorge bridge in Colorado was the highest bridge in the world. Built in 1929, the 291m-high structure is now a popular tourist attraction, not least because of the fact that it is situated within a theme park.  (Source: The Guardian)

Karakoram Highway ... Scary River Crossing on a Rope Bridge 
 Scary crossing over the Hunza River along the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan. (Murtaza Abad)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Global Education Report 2013/4

The 2013/14 Education for All Global Monitoring Report was released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It shows why education is pivotal for development in a rapidly changing world and also explains how investing wisely in teachers, and other reforms aimed at strengthening equitable learning, can transform the long-term prospects of people and societies.

Half of the 57 million children out of school live in conflict-affected countries. Globally, the number of children out of school has fallen from 60 million in 2008 to 57 million in 2011. However, the benefits of this slow progress have not reached children in conflict-affected countries; they now make up 50% of children who are denied an education, up from 42% in 2008.

44% of the 28.5 million children affected live in sub-Saharan Africa, 19% in South and West Asia and 14% in the Arab States. The vast majority – 95%- live in low and lower-middle income countries. Girls, who make up 55% of the total, are the worst affected, as they are often victims of rape and other sexual violence that accompanies armed conflicts. In addition to the boys and girls out of school, almost a third of the world’s out-of-school adolescents (20 million) live in conflict affected countries.  Some 54% of these are women.


The share of humanitarian aid for education has declined from 2% in 2009 to just 1.4% in 2011. Not only does it receive a small share overall, but it also receives the smallest proportion of the amount requested from humanitarian aid of any sector: in 2010, of the modest amount requested for education in humanitarian crises, just over a quarter was actually received, leaving a funding gap of around $220 million.


  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Ethiopia
  • India
  • Philippines
  • Burkina Faso
  • Kenya
  • Niger
  • Yemen
  • Mali


  • Niger
  • Mauritania
  • Madagascar
  • Chad
  • Benin
  • Mali
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • Burkina Faso
  • Congo 

The report reveals that a global learning crisis is costing governments $129 billion a year. Ten per cent of global spending on primary education is being lost on poor quality education that is failing to ensure that children learn. This situation leaves one in four young people in poor countries unable to read a single sentence.  The Report concludes that good teachers are the key to improvement and calls on governments to provide the best in the profession to those who need them most.