The recent attacks by Islamic fundamentalists on the Danish embassies in Lebanon and Syria can be called blind, tragic, even cartoonish. To that list of adjectives, add this one: ironic. According to the Commitment to Development Index, which rates rich countries on how much their government policies help or hurt poorer countries, no nation works harder than Denmark to help people in poorer parts of the world, including predominantly Muslim nations. Few less deserve this hatred. The CDI looks not just at foreign aid policies, but at those relating to trade, investment, migration, environment, military affairs, and technology; so Denmark’s top-notch standing shows that it is a good global citizen in a broad sense. (See Denmark CDI page)
Each day, Danes give $1.03 a person in foreign aid to poorer countries, including Bangladesh, Egypt, and Afghanistan, and other predominantly Muslim nations, putting them second only to Norway—whose embassies have also been attacked. (Compare that to the 18 cents Americans give.) But it turns out the two Nordics give almost the same as share of gross domestic product. (Norwegians give more, but are oil-rich.) Accounting for that and the higher quality of Danish aid, as measured in the CDI, moves Denmark into first on the CDI aid component. Denmark is an environmental exemplar among rich industrial countries, ranking sixth on the CDI environment component, as one of the few to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in the last decade. One cause is an aggressive push into windpower. One consequence is a small drop in the chance that rising seas will inundate much of Bangladesh. And Denmark is among the leaders on the CDI’s security component, too. After NATO waged an air war to force Serbia to halt ethnic cleansing in Muslim Kosovo in 1999, Denmark contributed 900 troops to the follow-on peacekeeping operation there, more than any other country for its size. (Troop tallies are under “Security 2005” in the CDI 2005 spreadsheet.-- excel file) And when it comes to selling arms to despotic regimes in the Middle East, Denmark’s hands are clean.
All this seems forgotten in the hate of Denmark. The Associated Press reported yesterday that Danish aid organizations have halted food distribution in Muslim Chechnya out of fears for workers’ safety. Thus has anger over a symbolic injury to Islam brought injury of the most tangible sort to Islam’s followers.
(Learn more: Hear David discuss Denmark in a BBC interview)