State of the nations

22.07.31: WITH THE world population heading for eight billion, the European Peace Institute's annual State of the World Report concludes that the planet is becoming more divided: 1.9 billion people now live in absolute poverty.

Malnutrition is increasing as catastrophic droughts take their toll in Africa, Amazonia and Southeast Asia. In parts of Africa, life expectancy is down to 38 years. The world's refugees now number 160m.

The richest fifth of the world controls 84% of the wealth but, in spite of a rising standard of living, faces worsening insecurity. Defence spending spirals in order to 'maintain territorial integrity'.

Australia is increasing its defence budget again, having tripled it in the past decade as it invests heavily in trying to keep out those fleeing famine in Indonesia and the Philippines. Spanish, French and Italian spending is expected to rise in order to maintain Mediterranean security.

Introducing the report at the EPI's headquarters, its director, Professor Claudia Bradshaw, said that much of the instability stemmed from economic polarisation and ecological mismanagement stretching back more than 50 years.

She said the report demonstrates that the info-revolution has not been the saviour of the South, as confidently predicted. Instead, it has benefited a minority while making hundreds of millions of people much more aware of the contrast between their own predicament and that of the world's elites. PR