Scandinavia tops rich country development index, US falls in ranks

The flags from left to right: Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the European Union. Photo by: flöschen / CC BY

Denmark, Sweden and Finland have the strongest development policies out of the world’s 27 richest countries, according to the latest annual global development index.

The Center for Global Development’s 2017 Commitment to Development Index, released Wednesday morning, offers an indication of how high-income countries may reach global goals on environment, health and equality. It may then serve as a warning signal to the United States, Switzerland and Japan, which ranked 23rd, 24th and 26th, respectively, on the list, falling below Western and Central European countries, including the Czech Republic and Poland.

The development index measures how countries perform on aid, finance, technology, environment, trade, security and migration policy. South Korea falls at the bottom of the list. Even though it performed best for technology policy, it ranked worst for aid, environment and security policy.  

“We are seeing the change in global leadership on development in Scandinavian countries — which tend to score well — and below that, France,” said Ian Mitchell, a senior fellow at Center for Global Development and the report’s author.

Germany climbed 10 slots from last year’s index, rising from 15th to fifth most “committed” country in this year’s report, sourced from 2016 public data. The U.S., meanwhile, fell by three places to 23rd, ranking toward the bottom of the pile on aid, finance, technology and environment.

Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, Norway and the United Kingdom were ranked best on aid, specifically. The Slovak Republic, Greece, Poland and Hungary, along with South Korea, performed the worst on aid policy.

The index also ranks France fourth overall — topping the G-7 country list — and the United Kingdom stands at seventh.

“Germany has moved up a huge amount ... on their contributions to aid and migration in recent years. The changing global roster is pretty interesting,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell cautions, however, against watching a country’s movement from one year’s index to the next too closely. The center’s methodology process changes slightly each year, and data availability can also vary.

He said that the center hopes the index can be taken as a broad-based approach to “have good conversations about what policy does to development.”

The center is now considering broadening its list to include other countries such as China, Brazil and India.

“CDI is about policies, and the SDGs only focus on outcome,” Mitchell said. “There are guides to country reports that make clear whether they need to improve on certain areas and we hope people look at that and use it to really have a conversation and think about it how they can improve and learn from one another.”

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About the author

  • Lieberman amy

    Amy Lieberman

    Amy Lieberman is the New York Correspondent for Devex. She covers the United Nations and reports on global development and politics. Amy previously worked as a freelance reporter, covering the environment, human rights, immigration, and health across the U.S. and in more than 10 countries, including Colombia, Mexico, Nepal, and Cambodia. Her coverage has appeared in the Guardian, the Atlantic, Slate, and the Los Angeles Times. A native New Yorker, Amy received her master’s degree in politics and government from Columbia’s School of Journalism.