World Justice Project Charts World's Safest Countries

By Editorial 17 March, 2014

A global survey has found that the rule of law is strongest in Scandinavian nations, while Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong are among the top locations for lack of violence.

The Rule of Law Index, now in its fourth year, is based on a survey conducted by the Seattle-based World Justice Project (WJP). The Index takes account of 500 variables, organized into nine factors: constraints on Government powers; absence of corruption; open Government; fundamental rights; order and security; regulatory enforcement; civil justice; criminal justice; and informal justice. Countries are given a score from one to zero.

"Order and security" refers to crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, burglary, armed robbery, extortion and fraud; to political violence, including terrorism, armed conflict and political unrest; and to violence resulting from lack of confidence in the police and criminal justice program. Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong all scored 0.9 or above, along with Denmark and Uzbekistan. Other countries with high ranks included Australia, scoring 0.86, the UK 0.84, and Spain 0.79. Pakistan scored worst, at 0.30, behind Nigeria (0.36) and Afghanistan (0.42).

Australia ranks 8th for overall rule of law (0.80), although the Index warns that the country lags behind other high income countries in guaranteeing equal treatment and non-discrimination, especially for immigrants and those on low incomes. Civil courts are described as "efficient and independent," although with cost barriers to legal counsel. There are effective constraints on Government powers (8th, 0.86) and regulatory enforcement (7th, 0.80), although there has been slight deterioration since last year. The Index finds corruption to be "minimal" (8th, 0.86,) and ranks Australia 10th (0.82) for protecting fundamental rights.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, ranks 16th overall (0.76), 4th (0.90) in providing order and security, 9th in controlling corruption (0.85), and 10th (0.77) in open Government and effective criminal justice (0.73). The Index found administrative agencies and courts to be free of corruption, but that restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly mean that the territory ranks just 29th (0.68) for guaranteeing fundamental rights.

The Index ranks the United Kingdom at 13th overall (0.78), with a high ranking for government accountability (10th, 0.81), minimal corruption (15th, 0.80), efficient regulatory enforcement, and independent courts. However, courts were found to be less affordable than others in the region, and the Index highlights privacy infringement as "an area of concern."

Spain ranks 24th (0.67), and according to the Index has "relatively good marks" despite a decline in judicial independence and increased legislative corruption, and some inefficiency in enforcing regulations (25th, 0.63). According to the Index, fundamental rights remain strongly protected (14th, 0.78), but there are "judicial delays, ineffective enforcement of civil justice, police discrimination, and corruption in the civil and criminal justice systems."

Data for the study is drawn from a general population poll of 1,000 respondents in the three largest cities and questionnaires addressed to in-country experts. According to the WJP, the study builds on years of development and consultation with academics, practitioners, and community leaders from over 100 countries and 17 professional disciplines.

The WJP was created in 2006 by the American Bar Association.

Tags: Court | Pakistan | Denmark | Niger | Nigeria | Law | Australia | Singapore | United Kingdom | Enforcement | Afghanistan | Hong Kong | Spain | Regulation | Japan | Uzbekistan | Expats | Welfare |


News Archive