Press Release

Which Wealthy Countries Have the Best and Worst Development Policies? United States Ranks 21st of 27 in Annual Commitment to Development Index

December 10, 2015

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The Center for Global Development today released the Commitment to Development Index (CDI), the annual barometer of how the policies of wealthy countries help or hurt the world’s poorest people.

Main Findings of CDI 2015

  • Denmark has the most development-friendly policies, for the 4th year in a row.
  • The UK is the highest ranked G7 country, at no.6.
  • South Korea, Japan are at the bottom of table.
  • The US ranks poorly – 21st out of 27.

How the CDI Works

Each year, the CDI ranks 27 of the world’s richest countries according to their performance in seven policy areas – aid, trade, finance, migration, environment, technology and security. CGD works year-round to collect millions of data points for more than a hundred different indicators to understand better how rich countries’ policies impact developing nations. It reminds us that development depends upon much more than aid. Doing better in these policy areas would not only improve conditions for the world’s poorest people, but in most cases would also benefit the rich countries too. Most countries do well in some categories but badly in others. The CDI provides valuable information to these countries about which policy areas they could focus on to make more of a difference to the lives of the global poor while benefitting their own economies.

“The global goals show us there’s now a consensus that all countries should work together to bring about sustained, shared prosperity,” said Owen Barder, senior fellow, director and vice president, Center for Global Development Europe. “Development-friendly policies on trade, transparency, the environment and in many other areas are a win-win for both rich and poor. The CDI helps policymakers understand where their countries can do better.”

The CDI and the Global Goals

Following the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in September, the CDI is a report card for the world’s richest countries which shows how well they are doing to help all countries make progress on the SDGs – and how to do better.

The CDI & the United States

The United States could do much more to help developing countries achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In 2015, the U.S. ranks in only 21st place, with its policies around migration, finance and the environment dragging it towards the bottom of the table. While the U.S. gives the most foreign assistance overall, the money spent only represents 0.18 percent of the country’s national income (by comparison Luxembourg and Norway, the most generous aid donors, give more than 1 per cent of their national income in foreign assistance each year). U.S. policies towards the environment have also contributed to the poor ranking, as it is one of the biggest emitters of fossil fuels per capita and is only one of two CDI countries not party to the Kyoto Protocol.

Who Did Best

  • Scandinavian countries did the best overall, with Denmark, Sweden and Norway taking the top three spots. Denmark came out on top with some of the best policy rankings for aid, technology, trade and security; Norway ranked highest for polices related to migration, security and finance.
  • Of the G7 largest economies in the world, the highest ranked are the United Kingdom (which does well on trade and security) and France (which does well on technology transfer and security).  
  • Slovakia remains at the top of the environmental standings, with gasoline taxes among the highest in CDI countries and greenhouse gas emissions among the lowest, but its weak performance in other areas drags down its ranking to 23rd of 27.

Who Could Do More

  • The CDI shows that ALL rich countries could do more to help people in the developing world, in ways that would also benefit their own citizens.
  • While both countries are scored highly for policies which promote technology, Japan and South Korea are at the bottom of the table because they score poorly on security, trade, and the environment
  • The United States’ policies on finance, environmental, technology and aid pull it down to 21st place.
  • While Canada ranks well for its support for investment and migration, it performs less well on the environment which brings down its overall ranking to 11th place.

About the Center for Global Development

CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action. Learn more at