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The Spire Project: Country Profiles
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    General Information
    Travel Reports
    Health Reports
    War and Justice
    Economic Profiles
    Further Tools
In research, nothing comes more natural than comparing internationally. Other countries experience the same problems differently, with different degrees of success. There are also projects which cross borders: business opportunities, environment, politics, travel.
Start with a Map

Perry-Castaņeda Library
Online Map Collection

The internet is a fine source for country specific information, though commercial compilations exist too. This field is dominated by data from large international organizations (UN, World Bank, WHO) and government departments (CIA, UK Foreign Consular Office, Health Canada). This information attains a high standard of quality but do note the date to information you find.

      General Information 

Oceana Asia Africa Europe Middle-east North America South America Central America
to article list General and Demographic Country Profiles
These summary and perhaps introductory profiles cover maps, history, demographics, political synopsis and similar information. We have also included a resource for locating national websites.
Touch this map to list these reports by country.
webpage The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) publishes The World Factbook 2000. This is the best of the general country profiles. Simple but dense, these include a map, population statistics, environment and more. Coverage is universal, including oceans. Start with this country list, the factbook page, or the CIA publications page.
webpage The US Library of Congress publish Country Studies for most countries. List and site. There is also a flexible search function covering these country studies.
webpage The US Department of State publish their own Country Background Notes. Start with their country list or international page.
webpage UNICEF (, publishes a single page statistical look at each country. These statistics are current, and heavily borrowed from the other UN organs. Start at their statistics page.
webpage US Census Department (, publishes the International Data Base (IDB), statistical tables covering demographic, social and a little economic data for every country. The prize here is how you can select different countries for a direct comparison of information. Have you seen population pyramids? The data is recent too. Start with this list of options then perhaps select Summary Demographic Data or Online Access.
webpage The UN's InfoNation is very similar to the IDB and compares economic & demographic data as supplied by the UN Statistics Division. Start at the country list and select up to 7.
webpage Country Indicators for Foreign Policy (CIFP) is a study initiated by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. Absolutely incredible what comparative analysis can deliver. Difficult concepts like social cohesion, religious diversity, and detailed comparative analysis of numerous conflict indicators come alive as a weighted index. This resources is currently in beta testing stage, and there are many things wrong, not least a lack of statistical source and dates common to other resources, and the need for free subscription by email (takes perhaps a day to get the free permission to search the database). All this is little when you consider the uniqueness and cleverness of this kind of international comparison. Start here.

Further resources:   1_ International Government Web Sites presented by the University of Michigan Documents Center, highlights official government web entrypoints. Select the region in the left column.   2_ Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments is another document on the CIA publications page. Start with the country list.   3_ The PARLINE Database by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) describes the parliaments, including next election dates. Start here.   4_ The UN Statistical Division (here) publish Social Indicators. Organized by category, the current data compares countries by social indicators: various demographics, childbearing, literacy, income, housing, water supply and more.   5_ The World Bank publishes Development Data: Development Goals. These statistics present country data in PDF format for: Poverty, Education, Mortality, Health, Gender & Environment 6_ The OECD also publishes a great deal of cross-national statistics. OECD Statistics links to their free statistics. 7_ The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) primarily publishes health data but the Core Data for the Americas includes much social data. Start with PAHO or the CORE health data system.

      Travel Advisories 

to article list International Travel Advisory Reports
These reports from the US, Canada, Australia and UK contain considerable detail about issues affecting travellers: health care, crime, and current security issues. These advisories only mildly overlap so try to read each one and take note of the preparation date.
webpage The US Department of State Travel Warnings & Consular Information Sheets - list and site. This is a large and active site covering the most countries and is most actively added to.
webpage The [Canadian] Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) Travel Information & Advisory Reports - list and site
webpage The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (DEFAT) Consular Travel Advisories - list & site.
webpage (UK) Foreign Consular Office Travel Advice - list, topic webpage and site.

      Health Reports 

to article list Country Health Reports
Health reports and guidance come from organizations like the CDC and Health Canada.
webpage Health Canada publishes Health Information for Canadian Travelers, a very precise and helpful resource, especially their coverage of global health issues. See their country information or their organization website.
webpage The [US] Center for Disease Control (CDC) publishes CDC Travel Information, also very precise and helpful with global health issues. See their travel information, information by region, or their organization website.
webpage The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) publishes Health in the Americas 1998 and Basic Country Health Profiles 1999 and a flexible database, the Core Data for the Americas. All are country specific health descriptions for the Americas. PAHO provides information to WHO, like an analysis of Hurricane Mitch in the WHO Outbreak News. There is considerable information available here, so start either on the PAHO site or look just at the summary CORE data on the Country Health Data page. Following a brilliant strategy of online publishing, it appears many of their print publications (and there are many) are now availabie in html too.

The World Health Organization (WHO), is not the most active online publisher but does have the OUTBREAK NEWS - a small description of health concerns in the world (organized by country), and WHOSIS, a guide to health-related information from WHO. By virtue of the status of this organization, consider just searching the WHO website for something relevant.

      War and Justice 

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to article list Reports of War and Justice
Amnesty International, The Red Cross and others report on Human Rights, Refugees and Conflict Resolution. The contributing social indicators and population pyramids appear above under general information.
Touch this map to list these reports by country.
webpage Amnesty International (AI) maintains a country-specific Publications & News Releases page. AI reports on situations of human rights abuse and keeps lengthy and supported records back to 1994 online. Start at the index of publications by country. Of particular interest is their annual the Amnesty International Annual Report (past editions also online)
webpage The Human Rights Watch ( is similar to Amnesty International but with perhaps more governmental and NGO ties and reporting. The website includes country specific articles but also many publications for purchase.
webpage US Department of State publishes their Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (released early each year). - 2000 Table of Contents and the site.
webpage The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) publishes the UNHCR Refugee Profile. Start at their country list.
webpage US Committee for Refugees ( publishes The World Refugee Survey, which in many ways mirrors the work of the UNHCR. Start at their clickable map.
webpage The Canadian Forces College, with the support of The Canadian Dept. of National Defense, publishes the War, Peace and Security Guide. Start at the country list or site
webpage The US State Dept publishes the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom in their collection of documents on human rights. The focus is solely on religious freedom, discussing country by country. Start here for year 2000 or with their international page.
webpage The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) publishes Human Development Report 1999 fully online as pdf files. It is an annual publication that sets the agenda and monitors the pace of global development. Start here.

Further resources:   1_ The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade publish country executive summaries and factsheets online. Start here.   2_ The International Committee of the Red Cross ( publish their Operations by Country with photos, reports & news.   3_ The Initiative on Conflict Resolution and Ethnicity (INCORE), a joint project by the University of Ulster & United Nations University, includes country-by-country reporting on conflicts. (See Conflict Data Service: Country Guides)   4_ The Canadian Forces College includes leads to further conflict information here.   5_ Eldis, Gateway to Development Studies, on the Institute of Development Studies Sussex website covers development and environment. Eldis, under country profiles, appears to include a focused search engine of developmental related documents ordered by country.   6_ Care Country Profiles, by the international NGO Care, publishes small country summaries each listing some facts and Care programs.   7_ WarReports, ( appears to be a fine list of further sources on war reporting, perhaps a good place to start further research.

      Economic Indicators 

Oceana Asia Africa Europe Middle-east North America South America Central America
to article list Economic Country Profiles
These resources cover financial health, business climate and trade barriers. Some of this information is very spectacular but a second benefit is that clear comparisons can be made. Each resource will provide a slightly different take on the economy, so we would suggest you review all the relevant reports.
Touch this map to list these reports by country.
webpage New Zealand Trade Development Board Country Profiles. The New Zealand Trade Development Board publish short and sharp Country Profiles, as well as some fine Province and City profiles for China. These include some commentary and are better than the US profiles.
webpage DEFAT Country Factsheets. The (Australian) Department of Foreign Affairs prepares single page pdf files encapsulating basic economic data. Short sharp and charts & statistical descriptions. See the country list, their publications, or their organization website.
The World Bank ( publishes two documents of interest here. Firstly, Competitiveness Indicators (list and description). Secondly, the WorldBank Country at a Glance, data for 190 countries for socio-economic indicators as PDF files. The World Bank also publishes a collection of international statistics in Data by Topic and Development Data. Start at either their Site Map or their data page.
webpage Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade Practices (1993 to 1999). US Department of State - 1999 country list, all years and site. Not all countries are reviewed each year, and as of Feb 2001, year 2000 is not online.
webpage The Country Commercial Guides produced by US embassies for businesses moving into a new country (so covers introductory information). All are available freely (including the most recent) from the US State Dept here or their site. The archive goes back a few years, and most are >100kbytes (large!). Comes in pdf, html and in print through the NTIS.
webpage The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publishes Economic Surveys for 35 countries. These are 100+ pages of stats and conclusions. Their online bookstore has an interesting and motivating approach called Browseit-Buyit-Readit where you get to read the book (online pdf but can't save or print). Buy it and get the pdf immediately. Talk about service! Each cost US$30. Start with the bookstore (Select Country Surveys on left side) or the OECD website.
webpage Market Access Database (, a project by the Commission of the European Union, presents some sharp analysis about market access for a collection of 30+ countries. Extends from overviews of barriers, to specific barriers in specific industries. Query the database by country.

The comparable Report on Foreign Trade Barriers 2000 by the US Trade Representative covers far more countries than the EU market access database but is less informative and too americano-centric. This is one of many trade related reports. The 2000 report is here.

Further resources:   1_ The PACIFIC Exchange Rate Service, through the University of British Columbia, presents Current Currency Exchange Rates - some, the rest, and the organization website.   2_ The Food & Agriculture Organization, a UN organ, maintains a database of each countries food and agricultural resources. Complete and detailed, though complex at first, this database gateway generates tables of data. Start at the database gateway.   3_ The World Trade Organization (WTO) produces a range of dense documents covering trade and trade policy reviews. Start here.   4_ The World Bank ( publishes Development Data: Data by Topic, a long list of available data fields on a wide range of topics from air pollution to access to education.   5_ US & Canadian Trade Statistics for specific goods are free online through Trade Data Online. Further description appears on this website. We cover this further in our article Imports & Exports.   6_ Energy Use and Production is well covered by the Country Analysis Briefs of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a statistical agency of the US Department of Energy.   7_ Handbook of International Economic Statistics, on the CIA publications page is another PDF file publication.   8_ The International Trade Monitor, on the CIA publications page, is a bi-annual PDF-file periodical with the trade statistics to many of the large economies, China, North Korea and Cuba.   9_ National Manufacturing Benchmarks are collated by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). Site and country list. Look under statistics for clarity.   10_ International Monetary Fund (IMF) publishes very detailed IMF Staff Country Reports as pdf files. Actually, the IMF publish a great deal of information, much of it too dense for simple comparisons. Start either with their publications page (lower right column), or documents by country.

      Further Tools 

      to article listRead Locally Prepared News
Important National Newspapers will cover political and social concerns. This is covered in more detail in our article News & News Databases but for convenience, we include here a map to selected online newspapers. Sometimes, regional periodicals like The Far East Economic Review and The European provide a less affected look. Many such papers are available to word search through commercial databases.

Selected English-Language Newspapers Online
Consult our graphical directory on a separate page included with the zipfile.


to article list Library Resources & Books
This is a sample of reference tools available at large libraries to get you thinking if this could answer your query.
book The World in Figures: editorial information compiled by the Economist.
Social Indicators of Development by the World Bank.
The Europa World Year Book 2 volumes now past its 37th edition. Very similar to the Library of Congress Country Studies and CIA World Factbook referenced above.
Compendium of Social Statistics and Indicators by The United Nations
The World Development Indicators 2000 and Global Development Finance 2000 by The World Bank. Blurbs Here.
Statistical Yearbook 1998 by the United Nations, now in its 41st edition
Population and Vital Statistics Report is a UN quarterly journal.
The Far Eastern Economic Review runs periodic descriptions of South East Asian Countries.
The World's Most Dangerous Countries by Robert Pelton is a delightful book for the danger-addicted traveler we have in our library.


to article list Commercial Compilations
webpage PERC (Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Ltd) prepares & analyses the east & southeast Asian markets. Part of their work includes producing risk reports by country, quarterly. Some past risk reports used to be free online but can't be found now. Site and blurb.
webpage (Australian) Department of Foreign Affairs sell their Country Economic Briefs. Each is about 40 pages, A$30 each ($850 the set) and full of stats & data. These profiles also highlight the relationship with Australia. The blurb and sample are online, or visit the agency website.
webpage Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the Economist Magazine publish Country Reports, Country Summaries and more. These are available for direct purchase or database access through their website.
webpage The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publishes Economic Surveys for 35 countries. These are 100+ pages of stats and conclusions. Their online bookstore has an interesting and motivating approach called Browseit-Buyit-Readit where you get to read the book (online pdf but can't save or print). Buy it and get the pdf immediately. Talk about service! Each cost US$30. Start with the bookstore (Select Country Surveys on left side) or the OECD website.
Additional Commercial Compilations do exist. We have heard of: Associated Banks of Europe: Country Reports, Bank of America/World Infomation Services, Country Reports by Walden, Kaleidoscope Current World Data, and IBC Political Risk Services & Country Risk Guides.


  5 Second Summary:
Much data is available from UN organs and Gov Depts.
Different profiles have different perspectives, different data.
Numerous additional resources are available.
to article list Other Resources
Before you finish, there are several additional sources available to you. Firstly, many countries will have an Ambassador, Consulate or Consular Representative in your nearest large city. Beyond providing services to nationals, they also provide commercial information and tourism assistance. Many cities have Japanese cultural centers. Secondly, your own country's Ambassador, Consulate or Representative in your target country often provide paid assistance to commercial inquiries. There will be a government agency locally to help you with this.

Article ListResearch CommentarySeminar datesUpdate Notices For more refined information, you can look for International Policy Journals which include expert commentary under peer review. There are a large number of such scholarly journals, often available at university libraries, many published by the United Nations. In fact, The United Nations publish a wide variety of comparative studies. See our separate article, United Nations Information.

Lastly, you can progress to the standard tools like Locating Books or an article search for further information.

to article listThe Spire Project - better ways to find information.
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