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September 2014


The Good Country Index: A New Way of Looking at the WorldThe Good Country Index: A New Way of Looking at the World

by Giulia De Gasperi



Every year studies rank countries according to quality of life, quality of health care, of education, gross domestic product, and so on, to essentially determine which is the best place to live. But what about the role a country plays globally for the greater good of all the other countries? What about the outcomes of our investments in arts and culture on neighbouring countries, for example; or how the importance we give to international peace and security affects the rest of the world?
      The answers to such questions can be found in the results of a recent study titled The Good Country Index, first announced at the TED Summit in Berlin on June 23rd of this year. The brains behind this project are those of Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor and honorary professor at the School of Political, Social and International Studies at the University of East Anglia (UK), and of Robert Govers, an indep­endent advisor for national, regional and city government admin­istra­tions, scholar, author and speaker.
      Using 35 reliable datasets gathered from the United Nations and other international organizations, Anholt and Govers, helped and advised by a group of experts, tried to answer a very simple, yet extremely important question: “what does each country on this earth contribute to the common good of humanity, and what does it take away?”
      What the project tried to do is not only draw up a ranking of all countries on earth in relation to one another, but also, as one reads on the home page of the project, “to start a global debate about what countries really stand for. Do they exist purely to serve the interests of their own politicians, businesses and citizens, or are they actively working for all of humanity and the whole planet? The debate is a critical one, because if the first answer is the correct one, we’re all in deep trouble.”
      The project team analyzed the available data by looking specifically at the impact each country has world wide based on seven categories: science and technology, culture, international peace and security, world order, planet and climate, prosperity and equality and health and wellbeing.
      The project is not about the best place to live in the world or the best place to go on holiday, and it does not make moral judgements on the countries or provide comments on the results of the rankings. The main concept behind the project is “encouraging populations and their governments to be more outward looking, and to consider the international consequences of their national behaviour.”
      Can you guess, based on these categories, which country scored the highest and thus ranks first overall? The answer is Ireland, which ranks first in prosperity and equality, fourth in world order, seventh in culture and ninth in health and wellbeing.
      Ireland is followed, not surprisingly perhaps, by Finland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The United Kingdom is at number seven; Canada is at number twelve. The country ranks second in planet and climate, fourth in health and wellbeing and fourteenth in world order. The country’s worst ranking is in international peace and security where it ranks 106th, ahead of Estonia and behind Poland.
Italy, sandwiched between Spain and the United States, is at number twenty, ranking eleventh in world order, nineteenth in health and wellbeing and twenty-second in culture. Its worst ranking is in international peace and security.
      The bottom of the list (number 125) is occupied by Libya, which ranks sixteenth in international peace and security, but is almost at the bottom of the list in all other categories.
      We live in a world that is increasingly global and borderless. More and more, we face problems that are universal and that impact the lives of everyone everywhere: climate change, poverty and hunger, migration and human rights… Countries can ill afford to think of themselves as isolated entities. Rather, we must work side by side to identify problems and plan strategies to solve them. The concept of collaboration and communication across borders, which characterizes this project, is stressed by the use of the adjective “good” in the project title. Here “good” is not used in opposition to “bad,” as one might expect, but instead suggests the selfishness of a country that acts as if it were sitting “on its own private planet.”
      The project, the first of many that Anholt and Govers are implementing, tries to see how much every country is doing, how this affects the rest of the world, and how it can influence actions taken in the same direction by the rest of the world.
      The Good Country Index is a first of its kind and its findings are thus neither definite nor perfect. It raises many questions and doubts about the way the data has been analyzed, the categories that were selected, and which countries were included and not included. As Anholt and Govers explain, “it’s a start, and we welcome constructive contributions. It will probably never be possible to give a complete answer on any of these issues, but it’s surely better to get the debate going than to keep silent.”
      To learn more about this project and perhaps contribute some constructive criticism, see


Giulia De Gasperi is originally from Treviso, Italy. She currently lives in Summerside, PEI.

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