Assessing the impact of democracy on sustainable human development

  • Julian Michael Smith

    Student thesis: Coursework Masters - CDU


    Previous studies examining the impact of democracy on 'development' have adopted limited definitions and have therefore employed very narrow instruments to measure these concepts. This study seeks to advance the research into democracy's impact on development by adopting improved measures of both democracy and development; measures based on more valid definitions of eachterm.

    Using Humana's democracy index over a ten year period to develop profiles of countries' regimes, the study correlated scores from Humana's index with countries' scores on the United Nations Development Program's (UNDP) Human Development Index (HDI) and the Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Information and Analysis Center's CO2 emission level data, in attempting to arrive at more satisfactory, albeit signpost measures of sustainable human development (SI-ID). Emissions data were used in the absence of any comprehensive ecological measures developed as SHD indicators enabling cross national comparisons.

    The study found that countries scoring higher on Humana's democracy index consistently scored higher on the HDI, while the highest scoring sub-group of democracies was the only sub-group in the study's sample to reduce its mean CO2 emissions over the five year period (1990-1994). However, the study also found that all democracy sub-groups emitted significantly higher levels of CO2. 

    The study concluded that if CO2 emission decreases recorded by the highest scoring democracies continue, their high scores on the UNDP's 1-IDI together with the decreasing environmental costs associated with this development may mean their development can be considered truly sustainable. However, if these reductions fail to continue and if other democracies fail to reverse their increasing CO2 emission levels, the sustainable human development gains made by these countries as measured by the FIDI may be called into question, due to the environmental damage they have caused.
    Date of AwardFeb 1998
    Original languageEnglish

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