Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

The Commitment to Development Index (CDI) ranks 40 of the world’s most powerful countries on policies that affect more than five billion people living in poorer nations. Because development is about more than foreign aid, the CDI covers eight distinct policy areas:

  • Development Finance
  • Investment
  • Migration
  • Trade
  • Health
  • Environment
  • Security
  • Technology

Why Does Commitment to Development Matter?

In our integrated world, decisions made by the richest countries about their own policies and behaviour have repercussions for people in lower-income nations. At the same time, greater prosperity and security in poorer countries benefit the whole world. They create new economic opportunities, increase innovation, and help reduce risks posed by public health, security, and economic crises. The CDI looks at 40 countries with some of the largest economies and celebrates those with policies that benefit not only themselves, but also the development of others and our common good.

How Do We Calculate the Commitment to Development Index?

We use thousands of data points across more than 50 indicators to come up with overall rankings and for each of the eight policy components. Countries score well for things like generous and high-quality finance for development, transparent investment, low barriers to trade for developing countries, and migration policies which are open and promote integration. They also do well for policies that enhance global public goods, such as supporting technological research and development, protecting the environment, contributing to global security, and, in a component that is new this year, fostering global health with disease prevention.

Like the Sustainable Development Goals, the CDI recognizes development progress is holistic. But while the SDGs focus on outcomes and all nations, the CDI emphasizes how the policies of countries with the most powerful economies can make a huge difference.

CDI 2021 Results: How Well Are Countries Doing?

Sweden tops this year’s CDI, followed by France in second and Norway in third. Sweden scores well across seven of the eight components, ranking first on environment and migration, and second on the new health component. It has room for improvement on technology, with relatively little research collaboration and few foreign students from lower-income countries.

France comes second overall, ranking top on investment and second on environment but with mid-table scores on development finance and migration. Norway takes third place with strong scores on development finance and migration but middling environmental performance and relatively restrictive trade policies. Australia moves into the top five thanks to its performance on health, with strong pandemic preparedness and no export restrictions on medical goods or food. The UK completes the top five, ranking first on security and scoring strongly in development finance and trade, albeit before its recent cut in aid.

Environmental performance at a key moment for climate

The CDI’s environmental component assesses countries’ contributions on key environmental issues, including climate change. Measures are adjusted to account for differences in the size of countries’ populations and economies, to ensure comparisons are fair. We examine direct emissions as well as those embedded in international trade. We also look at fossil fuel subsidies and production and carbon pricing.

Sweden tops the environment component: its direct annual emissions of 5 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per head are half the CDI average and it tops the carbon pricing indicator at $56 per tonne. France, Portugal, Spain, and Chile complete the top five. India has the lowest emissions per capita, at just over 2 tonnes per head.

The lowest ranking countries on environment—Canada, the US, Australia, UAE, and Luxembourg—each emitted 20 tonnes of CO2 per head or more.

Carbon pricing expanded among CDI countries in 2020. Australia set a price of $6.3 per tonne emitted, stepping up from no additional cost in the prior year. South Korea’s emissions trading scheme expanded, with the price rising almost 50 percent and reaching $24.6 per tonne in 2020. Despite raised ambitions, neither country reaches Sweden’s level, where each tonne is priced an additional $55.8. Almost a quarter of countries have yet to implement carbon pricing.

Figure 1. Carbon Prices in CDI Countries

Chart showing carbon price for each CDI countries. Sweden, Norway, and Finland lead, while the US, China, Mexico, South Africa, and others bring up the rear

Note: Countries classed as “others” (no carbon price) are Brazil, India, Indonesia, Israel, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and UAE

Leadership on global health

The CDI’s new health component recognises the importance of countries’ contributions to global health, not only in pandemic preparedness, but also broader global health issues, like preventing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), engaging in international cooperation on tobacco, curbing pollutants and waste, and avoiding trade restrictions on health and medical goods.

Finland, Sweden, and Japan top the health component. Each scores strongly on preventing AMR and imposed virtually no restrictions on medical or food supplies in the last year. Finland and Japan also score strongly on pandemic preparedness. Australia and Saudi Arabia complete the top five, with the former leading on pandemic preparedness and the latter doing relatively well on AMR and joining all health treaties and bodies we assess.

The CDI highlights that most countries have long ignored epidemic preparedness: only 13 CDI countries ever completed a Joint External Evaluation with the World Health Organization (WHO) and over half have not updated their national influenza plans for over a decade. Similarly, nearly a quarter of countries have not approved a national action plan that reflects the objectives of WHO’s Global Action Plan on AMR. A further 28 countries do not meet the WHO target and herd immunity threshold of 95 percent for measles vaccination coverage.

EU well ahead of China and US on development

The US score is based almost entirely on Trump-era policies. It ranks 22nd overall, with its best score on security. It ranks in the bottom five on environment and earns only middling scores on most components.

China lags behind the US in its commitment to development, ranking 36th. China’s is in the top half on technology (17th) but it has low quality development finance and ranks in the bottom five on both migration and security.

EU countries take six of the top ten places. The EU’s trade-for-development regime is among the best, and its countries tend to provide more development finance relative to the size of their economy. Still, this is not always focussed on the neediest, and EU countries do less well on technology, with trade agreements that go beyond World Trade Organization standards in restricting the flow of technology.

Middle-income economies take leading roles

Policies in major middle-income economies are important to other countries’ development, and the CDI covers all G20 countries, including Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, and Turkey. South Africa ranks highest among this group with relative strengths in migration, trade, security, and technology. Turkey scores strongly on development finance and migration, largely reflecting the war in Syria. India ranks 6th on environment.

To account for how a country’s wealth affects its development contribution, we also calculate income-adjusted scores. These look at development contributions compared to what we might expect of countries based on their income level. In these results, Sweden also ranks top—doing much more than we’d expect for its income-level—but other countries shoot up the ranking. Portugal ranks 2nd on our income-adjusted measure and South Africa ranks 9th. Czechia, Hungary, and Chile also significantly rise in the income-adjusted rankings, ranking 10th, 12th, and 13th.

Development Finance

Development Finance Quantity and Quality

Concessional financing remains an important part of development policy. To measure the quantity of finance consistently across countries, we developed the “Finance for International Development” (FID) measure. We also assess the quality of development finance, with credit for contributions through the multilateral system and bilateral indicators assessing focus on poor or fragile countries, and effective practices.

Luxembourg tops the development finance component, scoring well on both quantity (providing just under 1 percent of GNI as FID) and quality. Turkey provides the most relative to its GNI, and as Syria receives most of its development finance, its scores well on the poverty and fragility focus. Belgium and Ireland top the quality subcomponent based on their strong focus on poor countries, and South Africa substantially improves its quality score for the same reason with its recent support to South Sudan.

The US comes in mid-table on development finance, at 18th. It provides the most development finance in absolute terms, but it is less generous relative to the size of its economy, providing 0.16 percent of GNI. The median EU country we assess provides almost double this, 0.35 percent.

China scores poorly on both quantity and quality. Financial flows from China are large but their concessionality is either low or in doubt. China is the least transparent provider of finance, though it recently committed to developing a modern statistical information system.

Exchange

Investment

Foreign direct investment is the largest source of financing for many developing countries. The CDI rewards countries for policies that support investment and for signing onto international commitments (including preventing bribery and safeguarding human rights) but do not undermine partner countries’ ability to develop sustainable public policy. Countries are penalised for policies that allow financial secrecy, which enables tax evasion, money laundering, and corruption, and degrades governance and international security.

France, Canada, and the UK score highest on investment. France has an all-round strong performance, particularly on policies to limit financial secrecy. Canada scores best on the development friendliness of bilateral investment agreements while the UK scores highly on business and human rights and anticorruption. Brazil is the highest ranked middle-income country. Belgium is the most transparent financial jurisdiction, followed by Spain and Italy, while the UAE and the US are the most secretive.

Migration

Labour mobility can be a powerful tool for poverty reduction. By migrating to richer countries, workers can increase their productivity and earn higher incomes. Migrants send billions of dollars home each year, a flow that surpasses foreign aid. The CDI rewards countries for welcoming migrants from poorer countries, receiving a high share of female migrants, accepting refugees, embracing sound migrant integration policies, and joining international conventions protecting the rights of migrants.

Sweden scores highest overall on migration. Relative to its population, it welcomes the second largest number of refugees and scores highest on its integration policies. Turkey comes 2nd by hosting the largest number of refugees relative to its population, almost 10 times the CDI average.

Greece is 5th in migration, rising 23 places from the previous CDI as new data shows the large number of migrants it welcomes. Chile rises 18 places to 3rd, driven by large migrant inflows from Venezuela and Haiti.

Trade

Trade provides poorer countries with opportunities to attract investment, create jobs, and reduce poverty. Large economies dominate global trade, with some goods and services from poorer countries still facing trade barriers. Tariffs and subsidies create an uneven playing field for agricultural goods, and red tape and legal restrictions make trade harder for developing countries.

The Netherlands scores highest on trade with low tariffs and agricultural subsidies, strong logistics, and openness to trade in services. Australia and New Zealand rank 2nd and 3rd, with low tariffs and subsidies. India, Brazil, and Argentina are at the bottom of the trade component with high tariffs after weighting against poorer countries, despite Brazil and Argentina’s low agriculture subsidies.

Global Public Goods

Environment

Higher-income countries contribute most to climate change, but poorer countries will suffer most. They are more susceptible geographically, have fewer resources and less state capacity to deal with the effects, and many more of their people depend directly on the environment to meet their daily needs. The CDI scores countries on how low their greenhouse gas emissions are, their production and subsidy levels of fossil fuels, the extent to which carbon emissions are priced, whether they avoid subsidies to fishing, and for signing up to environmental treaties.

On the whole, net emissions per head in CDI countries continued to increase in the latest data, from 7.86 to 7.93 tonnes. India’s direct emissions increased slightly, but both direct and net (adjusted for land use and trade) were lowest of all countries at 2.3 and 2.1 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per head, respectively. Despite rising CO2 emissions overall, 29 CDI countries decreased their direct emissions per head in the latest data. Policy incentives around fossil fuel also deteriorated. Direct subsidies for the production and consumption of fossil fuels rose from an average of 0.72 to 0.78 percent of GNI. Chile was the lowest subsidiser, with almost zero subsidies across coal, oil, gas, and electricity. The average carbon price among CDI countries fell from $10.75 to $10.08 additional cost per tonne of CO2 emitted.

Health

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the transboundary nature of disease outbreaks, the spillovers of domestic policy decisions, and the need for international collaboration. But “peacetime” policies also matter. The risks posed by growing antimicrobial resistance threaten numerous lives beyond domestic borders. The CDI awards countries on their efforts to prevent diseases, including through vaccination, pandemic preparedness, and antimicrobial stewardship. Countries are penalised for restricting exports in medical goods and food, and for neglecting to implement high standards in tobacco trade.

Finland, Sweden, and Japan top the health component. Along with Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Chile, Mexico, and UAE, they tended to avoid export restrictions on key food and health products.

Figure 2. Restrictions of Food and Health Products

Chart showing which CDI countries restrict the most food and health products for export. India leads by far, followed by Germany, Norway, and Brazil. A number of countries, including Australia, Canada, Japan, and Mexico have no restrictions.

Meanwhile, France and the UK have the most stringent regulations on international tobacco trade.

Security

Security and development are closely linked. War and political violence can destroy livelihoods and public institutions, while poverty and institutional weakness make it easier for violence to erupt. The CDI rewards countries for contributing to peacekeeping and humanitarian interventions, basing naval fleets where they can secure sea lanes, and participating in international security regimes that promote non-proliferation, disarmament, and international rule of law. The CDI penalizes countries for arms exports, especially to nations with undemocratic regimes, and for not publishing data on their arms trade.

The UK leads on security as a significant contributor to sea lanes protection and international peacekeeping operations. Slovakia ranks 2nd with the highest support to peacekeeping relative to the size of its economy. The US comes 6th and provides the largest proportion of GNI to international sea lanes protection.

UAE, Israel, and Russia place at the bottom on security. Israel and UAE each export arms worth over 1 percent of their GNIs. UAE, closely followed by China, come bottom on arms sales that minimise conflict potential, sending the highest shares of their arms to poor, undemocratic, and militaristic countries.

Technology

Technology is critical to economic and human development. Advances in medicines, information and communication technology, sustainable energy, and agricultural technology help raise the quality of life worldwide. The CDI rewards policies stimulating technology creation and facilitating the international flow of knowledge.

Australia, South Korea, and Luxembourg are the top performers in technology. On technology creation, South Korea and Luxembourg score highly by giving large government budget allocations to R&D while France scores top on providing tax incentives for private R&D.

On technology transfers, Luxembourg and Australia accept the most significant numbers of foreign students when weighted by the poverty of the country of origin. In the indicator measuring efforts by a country’s researchers to co-author outputs with partners in developing countries, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and UAE come top.

On intellectual property rights, countries outside the OECD, including China, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia, lead by not imposing more stringent intellectual property rights than already embodied in World Trade Organization rules.

Chart showing the subcomponents for each of the 8 CDI components, like migrant inflows and refugee hosting under migration and ag subsidies and tariff averages under trade

Table showing CDI scores by country for each of the eight indicators and overall

For Country Reports and Full Results

Visit cgdev.org/cdi to explore the Commitment to Development Index, including full country reports, interactive web portal, full calculations, and method paper.

About the CDI

The Center for Global Development has compiled the Commitment to Development Index annually since 2003. CGD works to reduce global poverty and improve lives through innovative economic research that drives better policy and practice by the world’s top decision makers. Ian Mitchell directs the CDI with significant contributions from Lee Robinson, Beata Cichocka, Sam Hughes, and Euan Ritchie. The 2021 CDI builds on the work in earlier editions by Anita Käppeli, Owen Barder, and David Roodman. The CDI is supported by funding for CGD Europe’s development effectiveness programme, including contributions from the governments of Australia, Canada, Germany, Luxembourg, and Sweden. The CDI does not reflect the official opinion of funders. The authors are responsible for all methodological decisions and for the information and views expressed here.

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