Good governance is fundamental to driving progress towards prosperity, peace and sustainability. Levels of crime and corruption, gender equality and access to essential infrastructure and communications are all indicators of how effectively a government provides for its citizens.


Corruption affects all levels of society but tends to have the greatest impact on the poor. It increases the cost and lowers the quality of public services, and can limit access to essential infrastructure, education, health care and other key needs. Due to its clandestine nature, corruption is difficult to detect and measure, and therefore to tackle. For the three World Governance Indicators assessed ('Control of Corruption'; 'Rule of Law' and 'Regulatory Quality') most regions of the tropics performed more poorly than the rest of the world. Northern Africa & the Middle East had the highest rates of corruption, while the Caribbean performed better than everywhere else on the 'Control of Corruption' indicator.

Homicide rate

The intensity and organisation of violent crime can take many forms, and can have a major impact on the wellbeing of victims and communities. While representing only a small fraction of overall crime, intentional homicide is one of the most serious offences in civil society and is thus used here as a measure of the prevalence of crime. In 2004, the tropics on the whole reported a homicide rate of 14.5 per 100,000 population (about 375,000 murders). This was almost three times that of the rest of the world at 5.6 per 100,000. South America (at 32.9), Central & Southern Africa (21.6) and Central America (17.0) had the highest rates in the tropics.


Around the world millions of people have had to flee their home countries to escape war, genocide, torture and persecution. Globally, although refugee numbers fell almost 30% in the two decades to 2010, several million people are currently classified as refugees while many more are considered internally displaced people (IDPs) or asylum seekers. In 2010, of the main countries where refugees originated from, 8 out of 10 were in, or partly in, the tropics.

Improving opportunities for women is associated with improvements across a range of social and economic indicators. Increased earnings, opportunities and choices are coupled with additional social benefits as they are associated with delayed marriage, lower fertility and improved health and survival rates of children. Healthy, educated and empowered women benefit their families, communities and entire nations.

Women and education

Education is a key contributor to improving gender equality and is recognised as one of the most powerful instruments for reducing poverty and developing a foundation for sustained economic growth. Although the gap has closed significantly in recent decades, in 2010, the female to male ratio of adults with secondary education in the tropics was 0.75, well below the rest of the world at 0.86, let alone equality at 1.0.

Women in national parliament

A principle of democratic government is that parliament should represent and express the will of the people. Relative to the proportion of the population, women are grossly under-represented in national parliaments worldwide. Although there has been an improvement in recent decades, on average, only 1 in 5 parliamentarians are women, with similar ratios in the tropics and the rest of the world. Some nations, however, particularly those emerging from years of conflict, have developed proportional representational electoral systems which are more likely to have a better gender balance. In Rwanda, 64% of members of parliament are women - the highest rate in the world.

Gross capital formation

Gross capital formation refers to the proportion of current economic activity that is being invested for longer term economic and social returns. This includes investment in key infrastructure such as roads, buildings and machinery. Worldwide, the rate of capital formation has been declining. In the tropics, however, there is a notable upward trend, with growth averaging 0.5% of GDP per year. There is considerable variation between regions, with South Asia increasing the most.

Access to water sources

Access to clean and safe drinking water is considered the single most important factor influencing public health. Although the gap has narrowed, less people have access to drinking water in the tropics (81% of total population in 2010) compared to the rest of the world (93%). Tropical regions in Africa had the least access to improved water sources.

Access to improved sanitation

Sanitation refers to the provision of facilities and services for the safe disposal of human wastes, including through services such as garbage collection and wastewater disposal. Inadequate sanitation is a major cause of disease, and is a major issue in the tropical nations due to the climate, rapidly growing populations and increased urbanisation. By 2010, 50% of the tropical population had adequate access to improved sanitation compared with 73% in the rest of the world. Tropical regions in Africa also had the least access to sanitation facilities.

The rapid growth of information technology and communications has facilitated social and economic development and global coordination of business, trade, governance, and security on an unprecedented scale.

Mobile phone subscriptions

Over the past decade the mobile phone has emerged as one of the fastest growing consumer technologies ever introduced. Although mobile phones have become the dominant means of communication in most tropical regions (with approximately 68% uptake across the region by 2010) the tropics still lag behind the rest of the world (at 83%). There is significant disparity between regions, and rural populations are generally much less connected. Nevertheless, market liberalisation, along with technological and commercial innovation, means that uptake rates continue to grow rapidly. In Myanmar (Burma), for example, mobile phone use increased seven-fold between 2010 and 2013.

Internet users

Internet access has spread quickly in the tropics. Growth rates of 30% per annum in the decade to 2010 were twice that of the rest of the world. However, there is great variability in access between regions. Internet use is lowest in African regions and South Asia. Poor telecommunications infrastructure, tight market control, low rates of personal computer ownership, high access costs, low literacy rates and a lack of content in local languages are factors limiting access in these regions.