Netherlands Tops The Good Country Index, But The News Isn't So Good For The U.S.

The list ranks countries based on the "good" they do for humanity.

The United States has slipped down the rankings of an index designed to rate countries on the effect they have on humanity and on the planet. It fell from 20th place in 2016 to the 25th position this year, out of 163 countries total.

The Netherlands topped the annual Good Country Index, which ranks countries across 35 indicators grouped under seven main headings, including science and technology, planet and climate, and prosperity and equality. The results are then divided by gross domestic product to create a more level playing field.

Data comes from international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which has topped a ranking of the countries that do the most "good" outside their borders.
Amsterdam in the Netherlands, which has topped a ranking of the countries that do the most "good" outside their borders.

The index is the work of Simon Anholt, a policy adviser who has worked with governments across the world for the last 25 years. He told HuffPost his aim was to move away from traditional performance measurements such as GDP and army size, and to stop looking at countries in isolation from one another.

“In the age of advanced globalization ... we’re all part of a massively interconnected system,” he said. “And what goes on in one country invariably has an impact on people in other countries. It’s a closed system, it’s a zero-sum game. ... I just thought: Who’s measuring that? Who’s measuring the interconnections?”

The Netherlands took over the top spot from Sweden, which was first in 2016. The U.S., in 25th place, falls behind much of Western Europe, as well as Canada, Singapore and Japan.  

When looking at the U.S. results, Anholt said, it’s important to note that the most recent data sets available were predominantly from 2014. The results are, therefore, pre-Trump administration. 

“It looks as if the U.S. was starting this process of beginning to disengage from the rest of the world well into the Obama presidency,” Anholt said.

While the index says the U.S. “still does a lot of good as well as harm outside its own borders,” the country’s scores are moving in the wrong direction. 

The U.S. did particularly badly in peace and security, something Anholt said is common among rich Western democracies, usually due to military involvement overseas and weapons exports. Its steepest drop in score compared to last year was in contributions to international prosperity and equality ― how much a country contributes in terms of free and open trade and spreading wealth.

The ultimate aim of the index is to encourage more co-operation between countries and less competition, Anholt said. Most of our problems are rapidly and dangerously multiplying because of globalization. We need our governments to understand that they’re not just responsible for their own voters and taxpayers, but for every living thing on the planet.”

Top 10 Scorers

1. Netherlands

2. Switzerland

3. Denmark

4. Finland

5. Germany

6. Sweden

7. Ireland

8. United Kingdom

9. Austria

10. Norway

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