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Occupy G-7

Compare how the world’s top economies help poor countries. (The 1% don’t rank well.)

The Center for Global Development scored countries on seven different criteria to determine their final ranking. An average score in each category is 5. Click on the country names to see how different ones compare. (Note: On some browsers, the dots showing a country’s score on each indicator may not move when you select a new country. Try refreshing the page, clicking/tapping on this story in the menu on the left to reload it, or if you are using a desktop computer, altering the width of your browser window. We apologize for the bug.)

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How do you measure the commitment of the world’s wealthiest countries to global development? We’ve got answers: The Center for Global Development has created an index that ranks the world’s top economies across seven categories—aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security and technology—to see how if they are giving others a hand up. We’ve got the take-aways here, and you can use our country comparison tool above to see how different nations match up.

The G-7 does not do well. The highest ranked country in the world’s top economies is the United Kingdom, at #8; the United States is #18. The US scores only above average for promoting trade and gets dinged for arms exports, high C02 emissions, and weak foreign aid efforts that are often tied to purchases of US goods. The UK, at the top spot for the wealthiest countries, is above average in aid, trade, investment, environment and security.

The Scandinavians excel. What is it about northern Europe and well-intentioned internationalism? The top three are Denmark, Norway and Sweden, which donate large amounts of money relative to their size and target it at the most needy recipients, have migration-friendly policies, and support international security; their weaknesses are producing too much fossil fuel and, in Sweden’s case, arms sales to poor and undemocratic governments.

Japan and South Korea do not. The only Asian countries currently on the list (the study’s authors are working on adapting its framework to the BRICs, however) don’t fare all that well. “They are quite different, more inward-oriented,  at least in their government policy stance, and this shows up in a number of ways,” David Roodman,who led the study, says. This is largely expressed in restrictive trade policies: Both countries scored negatively for protectionism; in particular, the countries’ tariffs on rice are damaging to poorer Asian countries.

The European Union as a whole isn’t that competitive. For the first time, the study’s authors ranked Europe as though it were a nation—perhaps anticipating its recent Nobel Peace Prize win. It did OK, scoring just above average at 5.3; beating the United States and the Pacific nations but still coming in third behind Canada and New Zealand, which tops the list when Europe is aggregated.

One reason for that: peripheral European countries aren’t cutting it. Four new countries were added to the list this year in Eastern Europe—Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland—and they all ended up at the bottom, just above Japan and South Korea.

The big lessons? There’s more to development than giving aid. Trade remains one of the largest forces for development. Researchers are also getting a better understanding of newer measures of environmental security, and countries’ efforts to share technological progress around the world, which could help lead to more development-friendly policies in the future. And openness to immigrants is another critical measure, since migration plays a big role in developing countries’ growth. “The policies we are focused on are not easily changed,” Roodman says. “We’re not naive about the ability to make progress here. On the other hand, more generally, what the index shows is that there is a lot of potential for improvement.”

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