Global Political, Economic, and Social Facts

From the UN's Human Development Report 2007/2008
  • In the last two decades, political and civil rights have improved substantially throughout the world: since 1980, 81 countries have taken significant steps in democratization, with 33 military regimes replaced by civilian governments. But of these fledgling democracies, only 47 are considered full democracies today.
  • Only 82 countries, representing 57% of the world's population, are fully democratic.
  • Multiparty elections are now held in 140 of the world's 193 countries.
  • Coups overthrew 46 elected governments in the second half of the twentieth century.
  • The proportion of the world's extremely poor fell from 29% in 1990 to 23% in 1999.
  • In 1999, 2.8 billion people lived on less than $2 a day, with 1.2 billion of them surviving on the margins of subsistence with less than $1 a day.
  • In 2000, 1.1 billion people lacked access to safe water, and 2.4 billion did not have access to any form of improved sanitation services.
  • Between 1970 and 2000 the under-5 mortality rate worldwide fell from 96 to 56 per 1,000 live births.
  • Just 125 countries, with 62% of the world's population, have a free or partly free press.
  • In 2001, 37 journalists died in the line of duty. Another 118 were imprisoned. Worldwide, more than 600 journalists or their news organizations were intimidated or physically attacked.
  • In 103 countries the proportion of women in parliament increased between 1995 and 2000, but around the world it still averages just 14%.
  • Of the world's estimated 854 million illiterate adults, 544 million are women.
  • Armed conflict continues to blight the lives of millions: since 1990, 3.6 million people have died as a result of civil wars and ethnic violence, more than 16 times the number killed in wars between states.
  • Civilians have accounted for more than 90% of the casualties—either injured or killed—in post-cold war conflicts.
  • Ninety countries are affected by landmines and unexploded ordinance, with rough estimates of 15,000 to 20,000 mine victims each year.
  • Greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere are accruing at a record rate. In 2007, there were 380 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years.
  • The United States has a carbon footprint five times that of China, and over 15 times that of India.
  • The 23 million residents of the US state of Texas emit more carbon dioxide than the entire population of sub-Saharan Africa, which is 720 million people.

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