News / Science & Technology

New Index Ranks Countries' 'Goodness'

The "Good Country Index" ranked Ireland as the top country.
The "Good Country Index" ranked Ireland as the top country.

Related Articles

Security Tops Agenda in Algeria During Egypt Leader's First Foreign Trip

On his first international trip since being elected, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi seeks Algeria's support to counter Islamist militancy in north Africa

Photogallery Kerry: Russia Must Prove Commitment to Ukraine Peace

US, European allies refrain from imposing new sanctions but want Kremlin to press rebels to disarm

Video USAID Unveils New Efforts to Reduce Child and Maternal Deaths

Agency to spend up to $2.9 billion of its resources to continue fight for maternal and child health in 24 countries

A new index, which attempts to rank the countries of the world by their “goodness,” is turning heads.

The Good Country Index is the work of independent policy advisor Simon Anholt and, by his reckoning, Ireland is at the top of the heap in terms of goodness, followed by Finland and Switzerland. Iraq, Vietnam and Libya ranked at the bottom of the 125-country list.

The U.S. came in at number 21, under Italy and above Costa Rica.

Does that mean Ireland is the best place in the world to live?

Not according to Anholt, who tweeted “Some media are calling #goodcountryindex a ‘best country to live in’ survey. No!! It measures countries' contribution to humanity & planet.”

He went a little further on the group’s website.

“The Good Country Index doesn’t measure what countries do at home: not because I think these things don’t matter, of course, but because there are plenty of surveys that already do that,” he wrote.

“What the Index does aim to do is to start a global discussion about how countries can balance their duty to their own citizens with their responsibility to the wider world, because this is essential for the future of humanity and the health of our planet,” said Anholt.

To measure a country’s “goodness,” the index considered several factors, including “science and technology,” “culture,” “international peace and security,” “world order,” “planet and climate,” “prosperity and equality,” and “health and wellbeing.”

The group says it used “35 reliable datasets which track the way that most countries on earth behave.”

Some countries were not included because not enough data was available, according to Anholt.

The index, which Anholt called “enormously tricky,” has yielded some surprising results.

Kenya, for example, was ranked 26th, which many found surprising.

Anholt tweeted his take.

“My favourite result from the #goodcountry Index, Kenya in Top 30. Being a good country isn't about money,” he wrote.

Another example is Malta, which ranks third in the culture category, compared to the U.S., which ranked 41 – just above Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. appears to have been penalized for lacking “creative services exports.”

A reason some smaller and/or poorer countries rank so highly is because “each country’s score in the Good Country Index is divided by its Gross Domestic Product [GDP] so that smaller and poorer countries aren’t unduly penalized in the ranking for their limited ability to ‘make a difference’ in the world.”

In the international peace and security category, Egypt ranks first, followed by Jordan and several other African and Latin American states. This appears to be because of their participation in U.N. peacekeeping missions and lack of arms sales.

For example, Nigeria, which is dealing with a violent insurgency, is ranked near the top of the index’s international peace category but contributes troops to UN missions.

Anholt told VOA he has not received any “serious academic” criticism of the index, but has been deluged with critics online, saying he’s received 200 to 300 “angry” emails, some up to 4,000 words long, from people asking why their country wasn’t included.

“It never fails to strike me how passionately people feel about their country when they see it in a ranking,” he said. “It stirs up strong feelings.”

One criticism that he’s heard repeatedly is how Russia doesn’t rank last given the recent annexation of Crimea and ongoing tension with Ukraine.

Anholt says the index is a “snapshot what your country was contributing in 2010.”

Even if the data were more recent, Anholt says that for something like the annexation of Crimea, “there’s not an easy way to turn it into numbers.”

He said he is toying with the idea of making the index a living document, and that the “holy grail” would be that it would be able to reflect episodes.”

“This cannot be an academic piece of work,” he said. “There isn’t enough data. The only answer [to criticism] is I’m trying to make a point.”

While the index may be unconventional, Anholt hopes it will stimulate action.

“Today as never before, we desperately need a world made of good countries,” he wrote on the website. “We will only get them by demanding them: from our leaders, our companies, our societies, and of course from ourselves.”

Anholt says that biggest challenges facing the world are “global and borderless,” citing climate change, terrorism, pandemics and others.

“All of these problems stretch across national borders, so the only way they can be properly tackled is through international efforts,” he writes on the website. “The trouble is, most countries carry on behaving as if they were islands, focusing on developing domestic solutions to domestic problems. We’ll never get anywhere unless we start to change this habit.”

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Dude
July 14, 2014 12:15 PM
what a bunch of junk. America will always be #1. Thats why everybody is trying to get here. I don't Ireland will have an illegal immigration problem any time soon

by: 1worldnow from: Earth
June 28, 2014 4:09 AM
Hurray Ireland! I'm sure this list will change after my brother Irishmen reads this and have a great reason to hit the pubs tonight!!! Drinking and fighting, those were the best days of my life! Oooops, I should say when men knew how to fight and bond.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs