What is a good country? | Inquirer Opinion

What is a good country?

An ambitious project was launched recently by independent policy advisor Simon Anholt that measures what each country on earth contributes to the welfare  of the global community. Anholt, who has advised the presidents and prime ministers of more than 50 nations on matters of public diplomacy, calls it the Good Country Index (GCI). He began collecting data for this project in 2005, and by 2014 he had some 240 billion data points, which makes the GCI one of the largest data-based social surveys ever conducted.

The concept behind the Good Country Index is to determine what each country gives to the common good of humanity, and what it takes away, in relation to its size. By using a massive collection of data from the United Nations and other international organizations, the GCI gave each country some sort of a balance sheet to quickly show whether it is a net creditor to humankind, an oppressive burden on the planet, or something in between.

The Good Country Index neither makes moral judgments about countries nor measures what countries do at home. What it aims to do is to start a global discussion about how countries can balance their duty to their own citizens with their responsibility to the wider world. The GCI ranks 160 countries according to 35 indicators including positive indicators like humanitarian aid donations and UN volunteers abroad, as well as negative ones like carbon dioxide emissions and arms exports. It considers what each country contributes to science and technology, culture, international peace and security, planet and climate, prosperity and equality, and health and wellbeing.


The Good Country Index measurements have been cali brated to reflect the size of a country’s economy, and what countries can contribute relative to their capacity to contribute. It is not about how rich a country is, but about how a country engages productively and collaboratively with other countries.


Independently, countries are understandably focused on their own population, so they’re not contributing much to the rest of the world. Obviously, countries that were ranked at the bottom from 90 to 125 are deemed to be harming the planet and the rest of humanity.  The ones that are just focusing on their own needs tend to be a little bit higher, between 50 and 90.

And now for the good country rankings from No. 1 to No. 20 in descending order: Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Germany, Finland, France,  Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Belgium, Cyprus, Italy, Luxembourg, Australia, Japan and the United States. The GCI yielded some curious results: Cyprus ranked No. 5 in its global contribution to science and technology, versus the United States at No. 20, Japan No. 50, Malaysia No. 53, Thailand No. 80, Vietnam No. 86, Singapore No. 23 and the Philippines No. 146.


In the culture category, a country is ranked based on its contribution to the common good by exporting its culture. This judgment is likely to be contentious to some, considering that the Philippines is ranked No. 108 versus Malaysia at No. 44, Thailand No. 77, and Indonesia No. 160. Our feeling is that we have exported, and continue to export, the happy smiles of our people, the gracefulness of our women, and the skill of our boxers. The component appears mainly to reward the geopolitical power of the European Union, the United States, and other developed countries over the past decade.

Nevertheless, we hope the Good Country Index will influence President Duterte and his advisers to understand that they are responsible for taking care of the national interest while also factoring in the global implications of their actions. While Mr. Duterte got elected with over 16 million votes and is blessed with unprecedented political capital, so far he has expended much of this political capital on a controversial and internal war on drugs, which has invited heavy criticism from across the world. No wonder we are  No. 102 in our global contribution to international peace and security.

As the GCI suggests, our President should look forward and outward rather than backward and inward, and not behave as if our country were an island independent of all the others. Our domestic agenda is not incompatible with our international agenca, hence we should start to find ways of working together with other countries.

Considering that most national problems today are essentially global in nature, such as climate change, human rights, terrorism, economic chaos, pandemics, drug trafficking and unemployment, the Good Country Index makes a lot of sense. We should accept the fact that we cannot solve these problems alone. One irresponsible Bicolano who pollutes the sea pollutes the oceans that belong to all the world. One geek with a laptop in Davao can shut down the power grid, one bad Manila bank can bring the global financial system to its knees, and one arriving OFW afflicted with the Zika virus can cause a pandemic. Greece cannot fix its economic crisis and Italy cannot fix its migration problem. These are global problems that need global cooperation.

We can only solve our national problems if all of us, the “Yellowtards,” the “Neutraltards” and the “Dutertards” strive together to solve them with our President, our leaders and our institutions in collaboration with other countries. That’s what a good country is all  about.

Charlie Agatep is  chair and CEO of Grupo Agatep, a creative and PR agency, and former UST professor of journalism and mass communication.

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TAGS: Charlie A. Agatep, Global Community, Inquirer Commentary, Inquirer Opinion

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