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What's the 'Goodest' Country? Hint: It's Not the US

A 'good country,' according to the index, is one 'that contributes to the greater good of humanity.'

Bikers stop in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo: Public domain)

Which country is doing the most to serve humankind? Sweden, according to the latest Good Country Index.

The biennial index, which ranks 163 nations, "is all about encouraging populations and their governments to be more outward looking, and to consider the international consequences of their national behavior," the Good Country website explains.

To figure out the rankings, it looks at seven categories—science and technology; culture; international peace and security; world order; planet and climate; prosperity and equality; and health and well-being—each of which is based on 5 indicators, with the information culled from 35 datasets from the United Nations system, as well as international agencies and other NGOs.

Put simply, a "good country" is one "that contributes to the greater good of humanity. A country that serves the interests of its own people, but without harming—and preferably by advancing—the interests of people in other countries too."

Here's the list of 2016's top 10 "goodest" countries:

  1. Sweden
  2. Denmark
  3. Netherlands
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Germany
  6. Finland
  7. Canada
  8. France
  9. Austria
  10. New Zealand

Ireland now sits at number 11, having been booted from the top spot it earned in 2014.

As for the United States, you'd have to look much further down the list; it sits at 21 overall, and at 66 in the category of international peace and security. Ranking last: Libya.

Explaining why policy advisor Simon Anholt began the Good Country project, its website explains:

We need to co-operate and collaborate much more closely if we’re going to make the world work.

But, most of the time, we don’t. Why not?


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Well, because the seven billion people who created all these problems are organized in two hundred tribes called nations. Each one is run by a government that’s totally focused on the national interest: what will make us richer, happier, safer, stronger? They don’t worry too much if that makes others poorer, unhappier, more vulnerable, weaker because, well, they’re foreigners. And foreigners can’t vote.

Can this ever change? Yes it can. It will change when we, the people who keep those governments in power, wake them up and tell them the world has changed, and their jobs have changed with it.

That foreigners aren’t aliens, they’re humans just like us, and we care about them.

That countries aren’t islands, unconnected to the rest of the world: they’re all part of one system. If it fails, we all fail.

There won’t be winners and losers, only losers. And the evidence of that simple truth is accumulating all around us, every day.

And if there's a message here for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders from the index, it's what the Good Country calls the Dual Mandate.

"Today, leaders must realize that they're responsible not only for their own people, but for every man, woman, child and animal on the planet; not just responsible for their own slice of territory, but for every square inch of the earth's surface and the atmosphere above it.

"In our opinion, any leader who isn't prepared for this level of responsibility shouldn't be leading."


To hear Anholt talk more about how he came up with the Index, watch his June 2014 TEDtalk below:

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