04 November 2011

Who Is Most Committed to International Development

I originally posted a version of this for the PSI Healthy Lives Blog

The Center for Global Development has produced its annual Commitment to Development Index.  Measuring the performance of 22 countries' policies, the index pulls together data to rank the countries based on aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology.  Each category is given a score and then are combined to determine who is the most committed to international development.

So, which countries are "the most" committed to international development? Here's the top 10 list:
CGD fellow David Roodman discusses the index:
As we reflect on the 2011 CDI, two issues concern us most. First is the rise of the United States on the strength of its military intervention in Afghanistan. The approach in the security component to military activities is shaped by three ideas: some interventions, such as the NATO-led war to stop the serves from potentially committing genocide in Bosnia, seem like contributions to development; other interventions are much harder to defend; and the rule used to distinguish between the two kinds should be mechanical, to limit bias—”objective,” if you will. It was Michael O’Hanlon who years agosuggested the presence-of-an-international-mandate criterion. (As mentioned, the Afghanistan war has such a mandate.) But even O’Hanlon argued for exceptions, at the time having Iraq in mind. The Security Council did not sanction the invasion of Iraq, but it did sanction post-invasion activities, so a strict implementation of the criterion would have rewarded the latter. O’Hanlon argued against rewarding the occupation of Iraq since it was so thoroughly motivated by national security rationales, not “commitment to development.”


Second, with the rise of China and India, and with the at least momentary decline of the West, the list of CDI countries is starting to look archaic. It dates to a time when one could draw a neat line between prosperous and poor polities. Now the world is becoming more complicated. In time, as the geography of development shifts, we expect to add more countries to the CDI. We added South Korea in 2008, and experimentally added Brazil, Russia, India, and China to the environment component in 2007.

However, the data and conceptual challenges are not trivial. We lack good data, for example, on how much aid China gives. And even if we had it, would it make sense to hold a nation with hundreds of millions of poor people to the same standard as we hold Switzerland? Our colleague Justin Sandefur is thinking about how CGD could make a new index or scorecard for a world in which the G–20 is more relevant than the G–7. Here too, we welcome your comments.
Better yet, for all you data and map nerds, CGD has a nice interactive map that goes through all of the categories, explains how they are scored, and allows you to see how the countries score in specific regions. Below is a screen grab, but definitely check it out.

When the list was announced I assumed that the US and UK would have been flipped.  I suspected that the above graph of the US rating on aid would be more reflective of its position.  Clearly I was wrong and part of this can be attributed to higher scores across all other measures, especially security.  The overall score matters  because there each of the measures are very important, but my concerns zero in on aid.  It was the first place I looked.  That is because it is the place that is most under attack (environment is probably equal) in congress.  Hopefully the rating will show how we can improve, but there is a chance it could be used as evidence of a failing system.