The Good Country Index tries to measure how much each country on earth contributes to the planet and to the human race, relative to its size (measured in GDP).
Because the biggest challenges facing humanity today are global and borderless: climate change, economic crisis, terrorism, drug trafficking, slavery, pandemics, poverty and inequality, population growth, food and water shortages, energy, species loss, human rights, migration ... the list goes on. All of these problems stretch across national borders, so the only way they can be properly tackled is through international efforts. The trouble is, most countries carry on behaving as if they were islands, focusing on developing domestic solutions to domestic problems. We’ll never get anywhere unless we start to change this habit.
The Good Country Index isn’t interested in how well countries are doing, it’s interested in how much they are doing.
Almost all other indexes measure country performance in isolation: whether it’s economic growth, stability, justice, transparency, good governance, productivity, democracy, freedom, or even happiness, it’s mostly measured as internal performance.
The Good Country Index tries to measure the global impacts of policies and behaviours: what they contribute to the “global commons”, and what they take away. This forms a truer and more realistic global balance-sheet than one which carries on pretending that each country sits on its own private planet.
The concept of the Good Country is all about encouraging populations and their governments to be more outward looking, and to consider the international consequences of their national behaviour.
Try thinking of “good” as a measure of how much a country contributes to the common good. So in this context “good” means the opposite of “selfish”, not the opposite of “bad”. The Good Country Index isn’t trying to make any moral judgments: it just measures, as objectively as possible, what each country contributes to the common good, and what it takes away, relative to its size. I've found that the importance of this is something most people in most cultures can agree on. It certainly helps that every major religion teaches the same truths: that it's our responsibility to look after the planet, and that all men and women are our brothers and sisters.
A longer line to the right always means "more good than average".
A longer line to the left always means "less good than average".
It doesn't matter whether the indicator is positive or negative. So if the indicator in question is a negative one (such as CO2 emissions or weapons exports) a bar to the right means lower emissions or fewer weapons exports, while a bar to the left means higher emissions or more weapons exports.
If the indicator is a positive one (such as UN volunteers abroad or food aid) then a bar to the right means more volunteers or aid; a bar to the left means less of either.
No bar in either direction means that country ranks exactly average for that indicator.
A grey centre line on its own means no data is available for that country on that indicator.
For a complete list of the 35 indicators, see here.