Access to safe water

This term identifies the estimated percentage of the population having access to improved drinking water sources, such as household connections, public standpipes, boreholes, protected dug wells, protected springs, and rainwater collection. These sources tend to provide safer drinking water than unimproved sources such as rivers, ponds, or unprotected wells.

Source: UNICEF and WHO

Access to sanitation

This term refers to the estimated percentage of the population with access to improved sanitation facilities, including connections to public sewers or septic systems, pour-flush latrines, and simple or ventilated improved pit latrines. These are more likely to ensure privacy and hygienic use than unimproved facilities, such as open pit or bucket latrines.

Source: UNICEF and WHO

Adult literacy rate

This rate identifies the percentage of the population, aged 15 and over, who can read and write with understanding a simple statement about their everyday life. See Literacy and Youth literacy rate.

Source: UNESCO

Aid effectiveness

This notion rests on the application principles defined in the Paris Declaration. It refers to improvement in the quality and impact of development aid through partnership commitments organized around five key principles: ownership, alignment, harmonization, managing for results, and mutual accountability.

Source: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)


This stands for “acquired immune deficiency syndrome” and describes the associated collection of symptoms and infections. Infection with HIV has been established as the underlying cause of AIDS. The level of HIV in the body and the appearance of certain infections are used as indicators that HIV infection has progressed to AIDS.

Source: UNAIDS

Anti-malarial bed nets

These are insecticide-treated nets that provide a protective barrier against mosquitoes that spread malaria during the night. They are a low-cost, safe, and highly effective method of preventing this deadly disease. The insecticide-treated nets last for up to five years and have been shown to reduce malaria-related infections by 50 percent. See Parasitic diseases.

Source: the Canadian Red Cross


Basic education

This involves literacy, numeracy, and life skills. Life skills, such as decision making, problem solving, critical thinking, and effective communication, enable individuals to deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life. The generally accepted definition for literacy is a Grade 5 education. (The second Millennium Development Goal is to achieve universal primary education by 2015.)

Source: CIDA

Basic human needs

These include nutrition, health care, safe drinking water and sanitation, primary education, employment, housing, equality between women and men, and participation in cultural, social, and political life. Basic human needs are interrelated, and meeting them is necessary in order to achieve sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Source: CIDA

Bilateral aid

This is government-to-government assistance, provided directly by a donor country in response to a developing country's request for economic and social development assistance. In this type of aid, the donor country maintains control over its contributions. Bilateral aid includes a wide range of activities from large irrigation projects to the supply of paper for printing textbooks.

Source: CIDA


Canadian Geographic

One of the partners in the creation of the Developing World Map, Canadian Geographic is a magazine that features the latest science, environment, travel, and human and cultural stories from across the country. It is owned by The Royal Canadian Geographical Society, a not-for-profit educational organization that channels proceeds from the magazine into research, grants, education, and expeditions in order to advance geographical knowledge and stimulate awareness of the significance of geography in Canada's development, well-being, and culture.

Source: Canadian Geographic

Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)

This is the primary federal government agency administering Canada’s development assistance program. Its goals are to reduce poverty, promote human rights, and support sustainable development in developing countries. The Agency also responds to humanitarian emergencies, provides training and technical assistance, and shares its experience and knowledge about development with its partners. CIDA delivers Canada’s development assistance program with the help of experienced partners in Canada and abroad.

Source: CIDA

Capacity development

Refers to the process through which individuals, organizations, and societies obtain, strengthen, and maintain the capabilities to set and achieve their own development objectives over time.

Source: UNDP

Child mortality rate

Refers to the probability of dying between the ages of one and five, if subject to current mortality rates for specific age groups. Used interchangeably with the under-five mortality rate, the term is expressed as the number of deaths per 1,000 live births. It is a leading indicator of the level of child health and overall development in countries. (The fourth Millennium Development Goal is to reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five.) See also Infant mortality rate.

Source: WHO and World Bank

Child protection

This term refers to assistance provided to children marginalized by armed conflict, natural disasters, sexual exploitation and trafficking, and HIV/AIDS. The objective is to improve their lives through programs in health, education, nutrition, access to water and sanitation, and family incomes. Canada is a world leader in child protection. The global community has made strong commitments to the rights of children through the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Millennium Development Goals, most of which involve the fulfillment of the rights of children.

Source: CIDA


The seven principal land masses of the Earth—Africa, Antarctica, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America—are known as continents.

Countries in transition

This term is used to describe countries at different stages of the transition from communism to democracy and from planned to market economies. See Democratization.

Source: CIDA



Refers to the process of making the transition to democracy. It depends on an effective legislature that is supported by strong constitutional and procedural systems sustained by capable legislators, a free media, a strong civil society, and effective citizen engagement. Countries in transition.

Source: CIDA

Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT)

This federal government department is responsible for representing Canada around the world through its network of embassies and trade and diplomatic offices, and by participating in multilateral institutions and international treaties and arrangements.

Source: DFAIT

Department of National Defence (DND)

This federal government department and the Canadian Forces exist to protect Canada, defend North America in co-operation with the United States, and contribute to international peace.

Source: DND

Developed country

This is a term used to refer to relatively wealthy and technologically advanced countries in which most people have high life expectancies, access to education, and a gross national income per capita of more than US$ 11,115 in 2008.

Source: CIDA and World Bank

Developing country

This is a term used to refer to low- and middle-income countries in which most people have a lower standard of living with access to fewer goods and services than do most people in high-income countries.

Source: World Bank and CIDA


This long-term process begins with meeting the most basic human needs of people—food, clean water, good health, shelter. It includes the chance to get an education and earn a living in a society where human rights are respected and where women, as well as men, can participate fully in the life of their communities. At the same time, it also involves building an infrastructure that provides essential services for all and an economy that encourages innovation and respect for the environment.

Source: CIDA

Development assistance

Basically, this means helping people to help themselves. Countries that can meet the needs of their own people often provide development assistance to poor countries and fragile states to help them reduce poverty, increase access to basic education and health services, and improve the standard of living. See Bilateral aid.

Source: CIDA

Diarrheal diseases

This term refers to diseases that affect the intestines and result in dehydration. The diseases are caused by unsafe drinking water and inadequate sanitation and account for nearly two million deaths a year among children under five. After pneumonia, they are the second most common cause of child death worldwide. See also Access to safe drinking water and Access to sanitation.

Source: World Bank and CIDA


Economic growth

Through this process, a country increases its ability to produce goods and services.

Source: World Bank


A biological community of interacting organisms and their physical environment.

Source: Environment Canada

Environmental sustainability

This term refers to the management of ecosystems and the environment so that the quality of land, air, and water can be protected.

Source: CIDA


Fertility rate

This refers to the average number of children a woman will have during her lifetime. The total fertility rate in developing countries is between three and four children per woman; in industrial countries it is less than two.

Source: World Bank

Food security

This exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Source: FAO

Fragile and failed states

In countries that have experienced years of extreme poverty, or have suffered social, political, or military strife, the government may have lost the will or capacity to be in control of its territory. “Failed states” refers to countries where large areas are not under the authority of any formal, organized government. “Fragile states” refers to countries that have not deteriorated to this point, but are at risk of doing so.

Source: CIDA


Gender disparity

This refers to the imbalance of power between women and men in economic, social, and political sectors of society. This unequal distribution of power arises from barriers related to beliefs, stereotypes, and discriminative practices. Eliminating gender disparity helps to empower women but does not necessarily ensure equality.

Source: CIDA

Gender equality

This exists when women and men have equal conditions for realizing their full human rights and potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social, and cultural development and to benefit equally from the results.

Source: Status of Women Canada and CIDA


This term describes the increased mobility of goods, services, labour, technology, and capital throughout the world.

Source: Government of Canada


This refers to the values, rules, institutions, and processes through which people and organizations attempt to work towards common objectives, make decisions, generate authority and legitimacy, and exercise power. Democracy is a critical element in good governance.

Source: CIDA

Gross domestic product (GDP)

The GDP is one of the ways of measuring the size of a country’s economy. It is defined as the total market value of the goods and services produced within a country and by this country abroad during a given period of time, usually a year. The GDP is often contrasted with the gross national product (GNP), now called the gross national income (GNI).

Source: UNDP

Gross national income (GNI)

This is the value of a country’s final output of goods and services in a year. It is the gross domestic product plus what a country’s residents earn abroad and minus what is paid out abroad. The GNI has replaced the term GNP.

Source: World Bank and UNDP

Gross national product (GNP)

This term has been replaced by Gross national income (GNI).

GDP or GNI per capita

This refers to a country's GDP or GNI divided by its population. It reflects the average income of a country's citizens and provides an understanding of the country's economic strengths and needs.

Source: World Bank Youthink


High human development index

This is one of three categories in the UNDP's Human Development Index. On CIDA’s map, countries that have a high human development index appear in yellow.

Source: UNDP

HIV or human immunodeficiency virus

This virus steadily weakens the body's defence (immune) system until it can no longer fight off infections, and this eventually leads to diarrhea, tumors and illnesses such as pneumonia.

Source: WHO and World Bank

Human Development Index (HDI)

This is an index created by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It measures the quality of life in United Nations member countries and is based on three aspects of human development: longevity (measured by life expectancy at birth), knowledge (measured by a combination of adult literacy and school enrolment) and standard of living (measured by GDP per capita in US$ purchasing power parity). See also Adult literacy rate and Net primary enrolment rate.

Source: UNDP

Humanitarian assistance

This refers to appropriate, timely, and effective assistance provided to developing countries in need, in order to ease human suffering resulting from conflicts and natural disasters. When the needs of the affected communities exceed the capacity of their government to respond, Canada and governments around the world provide assistance through an established international humanitarian response system. Donors to this system include countries like Canada, United Nations organizations such as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and non-governmental organizations.


Human rights

This refers to the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights and freedoms of all individuals as outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and detailed in many human rights conventions negotiated amongst national governments.

Source: CIDA



The inability to read and write a simple statement about one's everyday life and do simple mathematical calculations is called illiteracy.

Source: UNESCO


This refers to a medical procedure, usually a vaccine, that builds up a person’s resistance to contagious diseases such as polio, measles, and tuberculosis.

Source: WHO and World Bank

Industrialized countries

This term refers to countries with a history of high industrial outputs. Today, it tends to refer to high-income countries.

Source: World Bank

Infant mortality rate

The probability of dying between birth and the age of one, according to current mortality rates and expressed as a rate per 1,000 live births, is called the infant mortality rate. The lower the rate, the greater the likelihood that basic health care is widely available throughout the country. See also Child mortality rate and Under-five mortality rate.

Source: World Bank


This refers to such things as roads, electricity, water systems, telecommunication services, and public transportation, which play a key role in reducing poverty by helping to increase productivity and improve the quality of life in a community.

Source: World Bank Youthink

International cooperation

This refers to countries around the world working together to provide development assistance to less-developed countries and/or fragile states.

Source: CIDA

International development

See Development assistance.


Less-developed country

This term refers to a developing country lacking significant economic growth, with a very low per capita income, and a low literacy rate. Countries classified as less developed tend to have the following characteristics: extreme poverty, inadequate health, education, and transport facilities, geographical or climate barriers, and economies based primarily on agriculture.

Source: CIDA

Life expectancy at birth

The number of years a newborn infant would be expected to live if health and living conditions at the time of birth stayed the same throughout the child’s life, is known as life expectancy at birth.

Source: UNDP


The ability to read and write a simple statement about one’s everyday life and do simple mathematical calculations is called literacy. See Illiteracy.

Source: World Bank and UNESCO

Low human development index

This is one of three categories in the UNDP’s Human Development Index. On CIDA’s map, countries that have a low human development index appear in red.

Source: UNDP



This is a life-threatening, parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes. See Anti-malarial bed nets and Parasitic diseases.

Source: WHO


This is a general term used to indicate that a person does not have enough nourishing food to support a healthy active life, or that a child does not have enough food to support growth and development. Undernourishment, excessive eating, or having an unbalanced diet that lacks essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and minerals, can cause it.

Source: FAO

Maternal mortality ratio

This refers to the number of deaths of women from pregnancy-related causes per 100,000 live births in a particular year. In many poor countries, one of the main causes of maternal mortality is the lack of a trained doctor or midwife to deliver the baby. (The fifth Millennium Development Goal is to reduce the maternal mortality ratio by three quarters.)

Source: WHO

Medium human development index

This is one of three categories in the UNDP's Human Development Index. On CIDA’s map, countries that have a medium human development index appear in orange.

Source: UNDP


These are small loans that help poor people who want to start or expand a small business, but are not able to get banks to lend to them.

Source: CIDA


These are nutrients needed only in miniscule amounts to enable the body to produce enzymes, hormones, and other substances that are essential for proper growth and development. Even though the amount of micronutrients required is quite tiny, the consequences of their absence are severe. Iodine, vitamin A, and iron are the most important micronutrients in global public health terms. A lack of these nutrients presents a major threat to the health and development of populations all over the world, particularly for children and pregnant women from low-income countries. See Malnutrition.

Source: WHO

Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)

These are a set of time-bound goals to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women by the year 2015. They were agreed upon by the world’s leaders at a special United Nations assembly in September 2000, to mark the turn of the century.

Source: United Nations

Multilateral development bank (MDB)

This term refers to lending organizations that are not owned by any one country, but by a number of countries. Members include both countries that borrow money from the bank, and donor countries who define lending policies and provide capital. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are two examples.

Source: CIDA, World Bank and ADB


Net primary enrolment rate

This represents the number of children enrolled in primary school who are of official primary school age, expressed as a percentage of the total number of children of official primary school age.

Source: UNESCO

Non-governmental organization (NGO)

This term refers to organizations that are not for profit and independent of the government. Many Canadian NGOs carry out projects to help people in developing countries meet their basic needs, but they also raise awareness in Canada about development issues and raise funds for projects.

Source: CIDA and World Bank Youthink


Official development assistance (ODA)

This term refers to the grants and low-interest loans that government agencies in developed countries provide to developing countries to help their development in such areas as basic education and health (HIV/AIDS), private sector development, and good governance.

Source: CIDA and OECD



This refers to the widespread outbreak of a new infectious disease against which the human population has no immunity. It presents as several simultaneous epidemics worldwide and results in enormous numbers of illnesses and deaths.

Source: WHO

Parasitic diseases

These diseases are transmitted by consuming contaminated food and water or through direct contact with a parasite (an organism that gets nourishment from feeding off a host organism). This type of disease can be transmitted to and from animals or humans. See Malaria.

Source: CIDA and WHO

Paris Declaration

Endorsed on March 2, 2005, this is an international agreement on reforming aid delivery and aid management. It promotes cooperation between donors and partner countries as well as transparency and accountability on the use of development resources. Over 100 ministers, heads of agencies, and other senior officials committed their countries and organizations to abide by its principles. See Aid effectiveness.

Source: OECD


This term refers to a way of helping countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace. United Nations peacekeepers—soldiers and military officers, civilian police officers, and civilian personnel from many countries—monitor and observe peace processes that emerge in post-conflict situations and assist ex-combatants to implement the peace agreements they have signed. Such assistance comes in many forms including confidence-building measures, power-sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law, and economic and social development.

Source: United Nations and United Nations Association of Canada


This is a severe form of acute lower respiratory infection that specifically affects the lungs. It is estimated that over 150 million cases occur every year among children in developing countries and that over two million children die from pneumonia each year. Pneumonia is the leading cause of child death worldwide, killing more children under five years of age than AIDS, malaria, and measles combined. Despite this, there has been very little research done on the disease.

Source: WHO and UNICEF

Population growth rate

This refers to the increase in a country's population during one year, divided by the population at the start of that year. It reflects the number of births and deaths during the period and the number of people moving to and from a country.

Source: World Bank


There are many definitions of poverty, but the most commonly used is that of extreme poverty. This is defined as living on less than a dollar a day. About one billion people in the world—nearly one in six—live in extreme poverty.

Source: World Bank

Primary health care

This term refers to essential health services for the prevention and treatment of disease that are locally accessible, affordable, practical, scientifically sound, and socially acceptable.

Source: WHO and World Bank

Private sector development

This means the creation of employment opportunities and higher income jobs in less-developed countries by helping markets function well and by stimulating the growth of private sector businesses. See Less-developed country.

Source: CIDA

Purchasing power parity (PPP)

This is a method of measuring the relative purchasing power of different countries' currencies for the same types of goods and services.

Source: UNDP and World Bank



This is long-term development assistance after an emergency situation. It helps people in the affected areas rebuild their lives, and addresses current as well as future needs. Reconstruction usually occurs after the needs for humanitarian relief and rehabilitation are met. See Humanitarian assistance.

Source: CIDA


This type of development assistance restores local services required to meet the basic needs of people after an emergency situation. It can include sanitation, power, transportation, and law and order. Rehabilitation is usually provided after humanitarian relief and before reconstruction. See Humanitarian assistance.

Source: CIDA

Robinson projection

This is a type of map projection that aims to create a realistic, visually appealing, flat image of the entire globe. It isn’t possible to develop a flat map without distortion in size, shape, or distance. The Robinson is a compromise projection that does not totally eliminate these types of distortion but is successful at keeping the distortion level relatively low over most of the map.

Source: Arthur H. Robinson Map Library


Safe water

See Access to safe water.


See Access to sanitation.

Standard of living

Refers to the amount of goods and services that a person can buy with the money that he or she earns. It depends on the value of goods and services produced per person in a particular population. Reaching an acceptable standard of living for all people includes having access to the basics: food, housing, employment, health services, education, safety and security.

Source: World Bank Youthink

Sub-Saharan Africa

This term refers to countries in Africa that are located below the Sahara Desert. It does not include the countries of North Africa.

Source: United Nations

Sustainable development

This is development that meets the needs of today, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It includes addressing environmental, economic, and community issues.

Source: World Bank


Tuberculosis (TB)

This is an illness of the respiratory system, spread by coughing and sneezing. Each year about two million people die from TB, which is a curable disease.

Source: WHO


Under-five mortality rate

This is the probability of dying between birth and five years of age, expressed as a rate per 1,000 live births. It is otherwise known as the Child mortality rate. See also Infant mortality rate.

Source: WHO


This refers to the condition of people whose dietary energy consumption is continuously below the minimum requirement for carrying out light physical activity and maintaining good health. See Malnutrition.

Source: FAO



This refers to a preparation of micro-organisms administered by injection in order to produce or increase immunity to a particular disease.

Source: WHO



The United Nations defines a youth as a person between the ages of 15 and 24. Generally, it is the time in a person's life between childhood and adulthood.

Source: United Nations

Youth literacy rate

This is the number of literate persons, aged 15 to 24, expressed as a percentage of the total population in that age group. A person is considered literate if he or she can read and write with understanding a simple statement related to everyday life. See Adult literacy.

Source: UNESCO