There are lots of different ways for countries to measure their progress, how well they’re serving their citizens. GDP remains the index to rule them all of course, but there’s no shortage of other metrics to track a fuller definition of progress, from literacy and health to environmental performance.
But, what’s been missing all this time is a measure of how countries influence the wider world. All those measures of progress are concerned with internal performance, and they implicitly encourage the silo mentality of ‘national interest’. Policy advisor Simon Anholt believes its time we created some tools to help us look at our international role as nations, and this year he unveiled the Good Country Index.
This index takes a whole set of figures and compiles them into a ranking of countries’ influence in the world. Are they broadly a positive influence, or are they free-riding on the international community? It measures “what each country on earth contributes to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away.”
Areas of influence include scientific and cultural indicators, such as the number of patents, international students hosted, creative exports and press freedom. Humanitarian aid and pharmaceutical exports help describe a country’s influence on the world’s health, its trade, aid and investment on its contribution to global prosperity. Carbon emissions and pollution are included, and there are a number of measures for security and world order, from the number of refugees created or hosted, UN treaties signed, to arms exports and peacekeeping forces.
So which country is doing the most good in the world? Ireland, apparently. Followed by Finland, Switzerland, Netherlands and New Zealand.
At the bottom come Iraq, Vietnam and Libya.
It’s a slightly counter-intuitive set of figures, when you start exploring. Does Ireland really come first in the world for ‘equality and prosperity’, when you consider the massive wealth destruction that occurred there in the financial crisis? Well, maybe, since it was domestic wealth that was destroyed through its property bubble, while foreign direct investment levels remained very high for the size of the economy. But how does Egypt come first in the international peace and security category?
As always with these sorts of projects, the aim is to encourage us to think about our interdependence, rather than deliver a new measure for us all to hold ourselves up to. “It’s more an act of public diplomacy than statistical analysis” says Anholt. “This is not to say I don’t stand by it, I think it’s a good piece of work. But in the end there isn’t enough data to give a definitive account of what every country on earth contributes to humanity – partially because that isn’t really measurable. The reason I wanted to do it is to find every way possible to bring this topic alive to people and make them ask these kinds of questions.”