The United Kingdom has been ranked as one of the most stable and prosperous countries in the world, beating the United States, France and even Switzerland in a global assessment of every nation's achievements and standards.
A one-year investigation and analysis of 235 countries and dependent territories has put the UK joint seventh in the premier league of nations. The top ten comprise also the Vatican, Sweden, Luxembourg, Monaco, Gibraltar, San Marino, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands and the Irish Republic.
The US lies 22nd and Switzerland, normally associated with wealth and untouchable stability, is rated 17th, losing points in the assessment of its social achievements.
The bottom ten, surprisingly, do not include Iraq. They are listed as Gaza and the West Bank, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic.
The UK received high marks despite the deployment of combat troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the suicide bombings in London on July 7, 2005, the continuing threat from home-grown terrorists and the collapse of the Northern Rock bank.
The global check on every country recognized as an individual state or territory by the United Nations was carried out by Jane's Information Group and is published today.
Christian Le MiÃƒÂ¨re, managing editor of Jane's Country Risk, which compiled the ratings, said: "The UK is a very stable country. But the top 20 or 30 countries are all stable. There are terrorist groups in the UK but there are effective security forces to deal with them. We took the July 7 bombings into account but the UK still came out very well."
He acknowledged that it was a little unfair to put the Vatican at the top because it did not face the sort of threats and economic pressures of other countries. But under the rating system, which took into account each nation's political structures, social and economic trends, military and security risks and external relations, the Vatican state scored an average of 99 out of 100. Sweden and Luxembourg were also rated 99, with the UK not far off, with an average of 97, but scoring 100 for its politics, economics and external relations.
Mr Le MiÃƒÂ¨re said that the US had fallen down the scale, although it still scored an average of 93 out of 100, partly because of the proliferation of small arms owned by Americans and the threat to the population posed by the flow of drugs from across the Mexican border.
He explained that Iraq had managed to escape the ignominy of being in the bottom ten because, despite "extremely high levels of violence", it had a "relatively stable Government" that controlled a significant area of the country and had good economic prospects. "Unlike Afghanistan, where - despite the presence of more than 40,000 foreign troops - the Government exercises poor control over large parts of the country and where 50 per cent of the economy is dependent on the opium trade," he said.
Mr Le MiÃƒÂ¨re gave warning of worrying trends in Africa where, he said, there was likely to be a struggle for resources. He added that it was the first time that a rating system for countries had been carried out on such a grand scale. The Jane's system differed from government assessments of country risk because it was based entirely on objective analysis, "with no politicisation of the intelligence", he said.
Every country has been given a risk rating out of 100 for all-round stablilty
1. Vatican 99
2. Sweden 99
3. Luxembourg 99
4. Monaco 98
5. Gibraltar 98
6. San Marino 98
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7. Liechtenstein 97
8. United Kingdom 97
9. The Netherlands 97
10. Irish Republic 97
US: 22nd equal 93
Central African Republic 39
Democratic Congo 38
Ivory Coast 36
Gaza and West Bank 27
Iraq: 10th equal from bottom, with 44 points.
Source: Janes Information Services
© 2008 The Times Online