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Leave it to Owen Barder, a CGD visiting fellow who writes an eponymous blog in Ethiopia, to notice something surprising about this year’s Commitment to Development Index that had escaped my notice: the UK has fallen from 5th place when the Index was launched in 2005 to 16th place today:

For people in the UK who feel smug about the UK’s approach to development, the Commitment to Development Index makes pretty sobering reading. The UK is in 16th place, out of 22 countries in the index.

The UK has fallen ten places since 2005, when it was in joint fifth place, after only Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands and Norway…

Given that the UK has a relatively generous and effective aid programme, why does it come so far down the league of overall impact on development?

In short: arms exports… The UK is by far the worst of the 22 nations in the index on selling arms to poor and undemocratic governments.

Ouch! Owen’s post has elicited some interesting comments, including questions about the U.S. rankings on Index security component.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.