Hells on Earth: A Hobbesian Ranking of Peace, Democracy, Health and Freedom around the World

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here are numerous think tanks, non-governmental organizations, and philanthropic institutions diligently and impressively working all around the globe today to bring us knowledge and data sets about the state of the world’s countries across a host of important life indexes. While their work is obviously inspired to bring attention to and ultimately alleviate some of the world’s worst crises and suffering, this article wants to use the same extensive data sets to bring to light the bottom of the barrel, so to speak: to highlight what are unfortunately the worst places on earth to be accidentally born into.

Now, one small caveat: this is not to take aim at or denigrate any of the cultures, traditions, or customs of the countries discussed below. Indeed, my global experiences give credence to the fact that some of the richest tapestries of culture and history are often in places with the WORST contemporary governance. People are wonderful creatures in that way: not simply resilient, but striving to create little pockets of enlightenment and joy in the midst of tyranny, corruption, and degradation. So, keep this in mind as we consider the worst hells on earth: it is not an indictment against any particular place or culture but rather evidence of how maddeningly easy it is to let modern people ruin what would otherwise be great richness.

The following rankings are run from a host of the world’s best and most thorough data-collection organizations, including the United Nations, Freedom House, the World Bank, Transparency International, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group, RAND Corporation, Oxfam, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Council on Foreign Relations, Brookings, and the National Endowment for Democracy. They are by no means the only organizations doing good work in these areas but they are estimable exemplars of said subjects.

Poverty (10 WORST)

10. Madagascar    9. Eritrea           8. Guinea             7. Mozambique                6. Malawi

5. Niger                                4. Liberia             3. Burundi           2. Democratic Republic of Congo

1. Central African Republic

Human Rights (10 WORST)

10. Nigeria           9. Yemen             8. Myanmar        7. Iraq                   6. Afghanistan

5. Somalia            4. Pakistan          3. Democratic Republic of Congo               2. Sudan

1. Syria

Human Development (12 LOWEST)

177. Liberia         178. Guinea Bissau          179. Mali              180. Mozambique            181. Sierra Leone

182. Guinea        183. Burkina Faso             184. Burundi       185. Chad            186. Eritrea        

187. Central African Republic      188. Niger

Corruption (12 HIGHEST RATES)

176 Somalia        175 South Sudan              174 North Korea               173 Syria              170 Yemen

170 Sudan           170 Libya              169 Afghanistan                168 Guinea-Bissau           166 Venezuela

166 Iraq                164 Eritrea

Democratic Institutions (12 LEAST DEVELOPED AND CONSOLIDATED)

156 Yemen          157 Guinea-Bissau           158 Uzbekistan 159 Saudi Arabia              

159 Democratic Republic of Congo           161 Tajikistan     162 Turkmenistan           

163 Equatorial Guinea    164 Central African Republic        165 Chad              166 Syria

167 North Korea

Gender Equality (10 LEAST EQUAL)

10. Morocco       9. Jordan              8. Lebanon          7. Cote d’Ivoire 6. Iran

5. Mali                   4. Syria  3. Chad 2. Pakistan          2. Saudi Arabia

1. Yemen

Crime (10 HIGHEST RATES)

1.Venezuela       2. Papua New Guinea    3. Honduras        4. South Sudan

5.South Africa    6. Afghanistan   7. El Salvador      8. Nigeria             9. Brazil

10.Trinidad and Tobago

Social Welfare (12 LEAST SUPPORTIVE)

166 Central African Republic                        165 Democratic Republic of Congo           164 North Korea

163 Liberia           162 Burundi        161 Mali               160 Comoros      159 Mozambique

158 Niger             157 Haiti               156 Togo              155 Guinea-Bissau

Health Care (10 WORST COVERED)

10 Zambia            9 Lesotho            8 Mozambique  7 Malawi              6 Liberia               5 Nigeria

4 Democratic Republic of Congo                3 Central African Republic            2 Myanmar

1 Sierra Leone

Political Rights and Civil Liberties (11 WORST FREEDOM LEVELS)

1.Syria   2. Eritrea              3. North Korea 4. Uzbekistan                     5. South Sudan

6.            Turkmenistan    7. Somalia            8. Sudan               9. Equatorial Guinea

10.          Central African Republic                11. Saudi Arabia

These 10 indexes were taken because I believe they represent, in total, just about every plausible measure the would encompass a ‘good life.’ Now, this is not an ode to American greed or a testimony to global market capitalism: a ‘good life’ does not mean endless riches, multiple fast cars, or flashy bling (Sorry, Hollywood and Dubai). Rather, it is a much simpler calculation of having some disposable income, leisure time, political participation, reliable governance, and rational social safety net. Not overwhelming requests or expectations by any means. But taken together they provide a human being the opportunity to plan for and be excited about the future and a belief that while wrongs and injustices may still occur in life, they have reasonable expectation to take recourse to right any unjust wrong legally and judiciously.

And so, without further ado, I give the Nihilistic Nine: countries that found their names on the ten indexes the most. In each case the indexes are listed, as I believe there is some fascinating future research possible by understanding just where a country fails its people and does not provide a good life. Some entries are expected because of the horror of war and egregious governmental ineptitude (like Syria, Yemen, and the Democratic Republic of Congo). But some entries I dare say will leave people scratching their heads: not because you thought these places were bastions of stability and prosperity, but rather because you likely have never heard or seen anything about these countries at all. And in that case perhaps the most important question we need to be asking is not how these countries are faring so poorly, but WHY has the world basically said and done nothing about them?

So, take a very good look at the following list. For these are the places, quantitatively, that tell us you can find Hell on earth, a wretched affirmation that what Hobbes noted so many centuries ago still torments the modern day: that even in the 21st century, there remain places where life is nothing but nasty, brutish, and short.

Niger: Human Development, Poverty, Social Welfare

Nigeria: Human Rights, Crime, Health Care

Eritrea: Corruption, Human Development, Poverty

Guinea-Bissau: Social Welfare, Corruption, Human Development

Saudi Arabia: Democratic Institutions, Gender Equality, Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Yemen: Gender Equality, Democratic Institutions, Corruption, Human Rights

DRC: Health Care, Social Welfare, Democratic Institutions, Human Rights, Poverty

Syria: Human Rights, Corruption, Democratic Institutions, Gender Equality, Political Rights and Civil Liberties

Central African Republic: Political Rights and Civil Liberties, Health Care, Social Welfare, Democratic Institutions, Human Development, Poverty

Dr. Matthew Crosston

Dr. Matthew Crosston is Vice Chairman of Modern Diplomacy and member of the Editorial Board at the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence.

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