LONDON—Sweden, Germany, and Norway do the most for global development, according to newly released rankings from Washington- and London-based think tank, the Center for Global Development. Russia is ranked last out of the 40 countries included in the index.
The Center for Global Development’s 2023 Commitment to Development Index (CDI), released today, measures a broad range of policies, rather than just the amount of financial aid provided to poor countries. Countries score well for things like taking high numbers of refugees and migrants from poor countries; fostering global health security; protecting the climate; and contributing to peacekeeping efforts. While Sweden tops this year’s index for the fourth time in a row—ranking first for development finance, migration, and environment—its lead has shrunk.
Germany comes second overall and performs the best among G7 countries, climbing a significant five places since the rankings were last published in 2021. Norway ranks third, performing well in development finance, technology, and top in investment. Finland and France complete the top five. Finland tops the health component while France scores strongly for policies supporting investment in developing countries. The UK fell away from the pack and ranks seventh, as its 2021 aid cuts were assessed for the first time.
The USA comes in 26th place, after South Africa—the highest-ranking BRICS country. China nears the bottom of the table in 36th place as although it provides significant development finance, this is outweighed by poorly scoring policies in areas like migration and security.
This year’s CDI results are published against a backdrop of major challenges: from the fiscal impact of COVID-19 and cost-of-living pressures to increasingly frequent climate-driven disasters; and perhaps most importantly, the vast spillover effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—which is challenging the development focus of many countries.
Ian Mitchell, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development and lead architect of the CDI, commented:
“Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has had a disastrous impact on global development. Rising global food prices have affected billions worldwide. Global fuel shortages have led to soaring fossil fuel subsidies. While some countries have been quick to support Ukraine and host refugees, resources and focus have been diverted away from other poor countries in order to assist Ukraine.”
The impacts of the war in Ukraine are reflected not only by Russia’s low ranking—but elsewhere in the index too. Countries have stepped up their commitment to development by receiving refugees. Czechia, Poland, Slovakia are hosting a staggering 100 times the number of refugees as before the war. And Ireland is accepting eight times as many refugees as previously. Food shortages have led to new food-related trade restrictions, exacerbating inflation, and impacting the nutrition and health security of lower-income countries. Argentina, Canada, India, Indonesia, Türkiye, and New Zealand have placed export restrictions on over 10 types of food products, with an impact on developing countries in the last two years.
Elsewhere, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has climbed seven places to 32nd out of 40 countries assessed. They come in top for development-friendly technology and knowledge sharing policies, while traditional global leaders lag behind in this area. The UAE accepts more foreign students than any other country, with over 70 percent of its student population coming from abroad; most of these coming from relatively poor countries. Saudi Arabia and South Africa are this year’s leaders on research collaboration. EU member states and the US score poorly for intellectual property rights restrictions included in their free trade agreements with poor countries. These are stricter even than existing World Trade Organisation standards, which most countries have already signed on to. China and Indonesia score highly here, since their trade agreements tend to be more liberal.
The CDI also assesses how powerful countries’ policies support (or hinder) global climate goals. The 40 countries included account for almost three quarters of current global greenhouse gas emissions. While emissions fell during the period measured, government subsidies for fossil fuels rose significantly, even before the most recent spikes in energy costs. The CDI also now assesses countries’ “climate ambitions” for 2030. Though the average CDI country plans to reduce emissions by 17 percent relative to projections, some countries—including Indonesia, Türkiye, Russia, India, and China— show little to no ambition, as the targets they have set themselves will be easily achievable, or exceeded, even if no action is taken to reduce emissions.
“Global development depends on much more than just how foreign aid budgets are spent. As countries respond to global challenges—climate change, Russia’s war, and hosting refugees—they must recognise that lower income countries are often facing even greater needs.
“The CDI shows that there are many ways countries can drive forward development, from policies on trade to research and security; and some countries are succeeding in balancing priorities and stepping up to the challenge.”
Notes to editor
Full rankings for eight policy areas, and reports for all of the countries assessed by the CDI are available via an interactive web portal at www.cgdev.org/cdi.