The new Social Progress Index 2014 has just been released with its plethora of talking points for policy junkies and pedestrian pundits alike. We’re feeling a little macabre, so rather than talk about the state of world health or freedom or clean water, we've decided to make our first order of business: Where in the world are you most likely to come to harm in 2014?
Before you list off the many countries you can think of that regularly came up in reports of violent protests, suicide bombings, drone strikes, missile attacks and other news-worthy events of the past 12 months, know that some of the most unsafe countries this year are among the hottest vacationing spots in the world. No, that has nothing to do with bad seafood or shark attacks (which rarely happen; leave the sharks alone). This is about the frequency of murder, crime and fatal traffic incidents, as well as more sweeping trends like human rights abuses, political terror and genocidal violence.
Many countries which ranked as 'most dangerous' either fall into the “beach paradise” category or the “child gangs, drug cartels and car bombings” category (or a little of both). Apparently tourism can exist as close to violence as political instability, inter-warring and institutionalized drug trafficking. But before you rethink your summer vacation, use some common sense here: Flying to your favourite beach resort and checking into the Marriott doesn’t carry the same kind of risk as strolling through the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Like anywhere else, there’s always the paradise you see and the hell you don’t. In the most unfortunate cases however, it seems there's very little of the former picture.
Here are the 10 countries which scored lowest for personal safety in 2014, based on the SPI’s 100-point personal safety index (where the safest countries score nearer 100).
10 Sudan: 37.25
9 Mexico: 34.61
8 Honduras: 33.94
7 Dominican Republic: 32.90
6 Chad: 31.97
5 South Africa: 30.90
4 Central African Republic: 29.41
It’s not often a government advises against travelling to its own country. Bandits, armed rebel groups and poachers have virtually destroyed tourism in the echo of CAR’s civil war, and civilian safety remains entirely unenforced in many parts of the country. However, this lack of security might spare you a torture, beating, rape, or imprisonment under subhuman conditions by the country’s security forces; you might just have to deal with a heavily-armed youth gang instead.
3 Venezuela: 27.55
2 Nigeria: 23.57
1 Iraq: 21.52
Iraq might be an obvious choice as the most dangerous country in the world, but the full nature of that danger tends to get overlooked. Despite the Iraq War officially ending with US withdrawal in 2011, insurgency within its borders remains virtually unchanged. A lack of stable government has ushered in comprehensive networks of organized crime in the vein of drug trafficking in the Balkans, Mexico and Nigeria. Here however, the rise of this criminal landscape becomes all the more potent in a post-war scenario marked by insurgent groups who build and in turn harness power from the organized crime operations. According to the US Bureau of Diplomatic Security, 2013 was the worst year for civilian deaths since the height of War in 2008.
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