Ideas to Action:

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Views from the Center


This post is coauthored with Julia Clark. You can listen to the pre-release podcast with David Roodman and Owen Barder.

We're proud to announce the release of the tenth edition of the Commitment to Development Index. Each year since 2003, the CDI has ranked wealthy nations on how much their governments' policies and actions support global prosperity. Nations are linked in many ways: through trade, aid, climate, technology, and more. The CDI assesses policies in all these areas in order to communicate that helping takes more than aid, and to organize a comprehensive agenda for development policy.

Denmark has climbed atop the rankings for the first time since 2005, on the strength of ample aid-giving and high participation in international peacekeeping and military operations such as the intervention in Libya last year (more on that below). Japan and South Korea continue in the bottom two spots because of low contributions in aid and peacekeeping and high barriers to crops and migrants from developing countries. One thing that hasn't changed is the finding that all countries have substantial room for improvement when it comes to helping the world's poor.

As a set of formulas, the CDI is fairly stable. But we do tweak it each year, largely in response to feedback. The biggest changes this year:

  • We added the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, and Slovakia. The CDI now includes 19 of the 27 members of the European Union. We will add more as adequate data become available.
  • On a suggestion from Owen Barder, the CDI site now let's you see what happens if the CDI treats Europe as a single nation. Just click "Europe as one" in the upper left. What makes the scenario relevant is that the EU has some attributes of a state---for example, trade and agriculture policy are set in Brussels. (We've found it more natural to speak of "Europe" than the "EU," the difference for the CDI being Norway and Switzerland. So it's Europe whose measure is taken if you click that box.)Europeans take nine of the top ten spots on the regular CDI. But treating Europe as one gives it a score of just 5.3, where 5 is about average, and ranks it 3rd out of 7. In statistics, the technical term for this performance is "OK but not great." And that belies Europe's (self-)image as a bastion of excellence in development. Weak performance from large nations such as France and Italy pull the continent down.
  • Afghanistan doesn't count; Libya does. Last year the troop surge in Afghanistan lifted the United States to first place on security. The CDI rewarded this military move because the U.N. Security Council continued to endorse the foreign intervention in Afghanistan. We decided in 2012 to impose an additional criterion for inclusion: an operation also needs to be reasonably describable as primarily intended to help the citizens of the country in question. The war in Afghanistan does not mean that test in our judgment. The 2011 intervention in Libya does.
  • The conception of "security" has expanded beyond the use of force. Countries are now rewarded for participating in international security arrangements such as the International Criminal Court and Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel land mines.
  • Opacity is penalized. Countries that do not report how much of their aid is "tied" (required to be spent on donor-country goods and services) are assumed to tie all their aid. And Australia and South Korea, which do not release details of arms exports, are assumed to export at a rate high enough to earn them a score of zero on that part of the security component.
  • Because Apple and Google have banished Flash from their mobile devices, we hired Mapping Worlds to make the data explorer substitute HTML5 for Flash when necessary. Check it out on your iPad.

The CDI site holds a trove of country reports, background papers, spreadsheets, and databases. We're always working to improve it, so let us know what you think.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.