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Reliability of Anholt’s Good Country Index as a Measure of a Country’s Goodness

Overview of the Good Country Index


The Good Country Index (GCI) is a balance sheet developed by Anholt to measure the ‘goodness’ of a country by assessing how much contribution a government makes to the planet and humanity. The Good Country Index is fundamentally rooted in the philosophy of “Be good.” It aims to illustrate the individual efforts made by each country for the betterment of the global society (Akilli, 2018, p.902). The concept behind the Good Country Index is really straightforward: it involves quantifying the extent to which nations add to the collective well-being of humanity and the time to which they detract from it (Papp-Vary, 2021, p.1117). To do this, a diverse array of statistics from the United Nations, alongside other global entities, is utilised. The GCI assesses each country’s position, determining if it is a net contributor to humanity’s existence, a burden to the world, or falls in between (Anholt, 2022, p.11). The Good Country Index does not include a country image dimension, nor does it utilise an opinion poll to evaluate the perception of each nation. The GCI uses seven categories as the criterion to assess the ‘goodness’ of a country (Papp-Vary, 2021, p.1118). A weighted score is given to each category according to how important it is for the greater good. A nation that makes a more significant constructive impact on the global stage, benefiting not only its populace but also the entirety of humanity, would have a more favourable reputation (University of Southern California, 2021). More discussion about what it takes to be a decent global citizen has ensued as a result of this weighing method, which complicates the “goodness” equation. The data points are clustered into seven categories as follows:

Category Indicators
Science & Technology The quantity of foreign pupils

Scientific articles export

The quantity of global publications

The cumulative value of Nobel Prizes

The quantity of patents

International peace and security The total number of UN peacekeeping forces deployed abroad.

Amounts owed for contributions to UN peacekeeping deployments expressed as a proportion of total contributions.

Deaths attributable to global armed conflict (negative indicator).

Global cybersecurity index rating.

Export of arms.

Culture Export of innovative cultural products

Hosted international events

UNESCO outstanding dues

Freedom of mobility (visa restrictions)

Press freedom

Planet & Climate The footprint of the nation’s ecosystems.

Adherence to environmental treaties.

Export of harmful pesticides.

Distributed contribution to overall energy consumption.

Ozone depletion: exposure to chemicals that deplete the ozone layer.

World Order Charitable giving population

Amount of asylum seekers accommodated

Number of refugees generated

Signing status of UN agreements

Birth rate of the population

Health & wellbeing Food assistance

Exported pharmaceuticals

Extra contributions made to WHO voluntarily

Offerings to humanitarian assistance

Adherence to global health standards

Prosperity & Equality The state of cross-border trade

United Nations volunteers overseas

The remittance cost

Remittances made by foreign investors

Development aid (Papp-Vary, 2021, p.1118)

Methodology for creating the index

Anholt chose a relatively insensitive method to create the index, one that does not apply weighting for the data points. The GCI draws on 35 credible datasets for each category, all collected from reputable sources such as academic institutions, the UN, WHO, the World Bank, and international organisations (Anholt, 2022, p.16). These databases track particular variables, such as the number of patents filed, the amount of foreign aid given, or the number of troops deployed in times of peace. The data points are measured based on the country’s size (per GDP dollar), and a score is assigned to each dataset. Nations that do not have complete data on at least two out of five indicators in any given category are not included in the ranking; thus, 169 nations have been included in the index (Anholt, 2022, p.24). Measurement of a country’s position on the GCI depends on the availability of UN data, most of which is often a few years old.

Critique of the Good Country Index

Subjectivity in defining and measuring goodness (cultural and value differences)

The Good Country Index (GCI) is a promising endeavour that aims to measure a concept that is infamously difficult to pin down: the “goodness” of a nation. Despite the seeming objectivity of its technique, the GCI fails when it comes to addressing the cultural and value-based complexity inherent in the word “goodness” and its measurement. According to Anholt (2020b, p.25), national images and perceptions are extensively regarded as cultural constructs on how populations view different cultures. The things that are seen as beneficial in one culture could be seen as detrimental in another (Llana & Walsh, 2015). One example is how the GCI promotes ideals that are highly esteemed in Western societies: scientific advancement and technological innovation. Nevertheless, indigenous communities may place a higher value on spiritual health and environmental balance than on technological progress.

An effort to establish a standard definition of “goodness” through the use of measurable indicators in many domains is not explicitly achieved in the GCI. This is because it fails to consider the fact that these measurements are inherently subjective. Regarding the ‘prosperity and equality’ cluster, the degree and kind of allocation desired (e.g., income tax vs. direct resource allocation) differs significantly between cultures, making it difficult to accurately compare nations, even though encouraging wealth sharing is generally seen as a good thing. Data collected by global organisations and academic institutions is also crucial to GCI measurements. Cultural predispositions and moral judgments can affect even these institutions.

Data accuracy and verification

Despite the GCI’s reliance on academic bodies and international organisations, concerns about the accuracy of the data present a significant obstacle to the GCI’s goal of providing an unbiased evaluation of “goodness.” There is a possibility that specific data sources, including official publications or research conducted by NGOs, have biases that impact the accuracy of their measurements. Depending on the particular data points used, this can distort the GCI’s depiction of the nation’s performance. The process of gathering data is time-consuming, and updates may not occur simultaneously for all indications. Inaccuracies may arise when the GCI utilises non-current data or neglects to consider temporal discrepancies. The GCI relies on the trustworthiness of its data sources because it does not have a specific system in place to check the accuracy of the data; thus, mistakes or discrepancies may slip through the cracks.

Alternative Metrics for Assessing a Country’s Goodness

A country’s effectiveness can be assessed through various frameworks and metrics. Some of the metrics used to determine a nation’s goodness include the Human Development Index and the Country Brand Index.

Comparison of GCI with Country Brand Index and Human Development Index

Index Measure Strengths Weaknesses
Good Country Index A country’s contribution to humanity for global good *Relies on objective data

* Consider 7 dimensions & 35 indicators

* Prioritises global well-being and collaboration

*It is subjective in its ‘goodness’ definition.

* Fails to capture a complete image of a country’s effectiveness.

* Reliance on historical data limits inclusion of contemporary statistics

Nation Brand Index A nation’s standing (image) and reputation internationally (Benedek, 2016, p.51) * Captures how people feel and what they think

* Consider 6 dimensions & 22 indicators (Benedek, 2016, p.63)

* Helpful for figuring out a country’s soft power

*Subject to public relations and marketing initiatives.

* The rankings are subjective and susceptible to bias.

* It does not accurately represent a country’s actual performance.

* The rankings prioritise perception above reality.

Human Development Index A nation’s level of human well-being and development * It considers vital variables such as health, living standards, and education.

*It applies 3 dimensions and 4 indicators

* It is well-established and widely accepted.

* Does not consider the global influence of a country.

* Has a narrow emphasis on environmental or cultural factors.

* It is affected by the wealth and size of a nation.

Measuring a country’s ‘goodness’ requires a holistic and multifaceted approach to make a comprehensive assessment. Other critical dimensions to consider include social progress, economic well-being, and governance. Government effectiveness as a concept and dimension should also be considered in assessing a country’s ‘goodness’. Politically, administratively, and financially, governments display varying degrees and kinds of decentralisation (Andrews, 2010, p.7). Countries that are generally successful (in terms of high incomes, good social results, and good service delivery) do so by having a unique mix of structural and organisational traits (p.8). The GCI indicators are influenced mainly by GDP, which may not always be the most suitable denominator (Krylová & Barder, 2014). Certain countries encounter constraints outside their size and income that restrict their ability to contribute. For instance, landlocked countries have a lower likelihood of intercepting illicit substances at their borders.

Case Study

Analysis of the UK’s GCI

The trend in the UK is generally declining, although it is not as sharp or steady as the trend in the USA. Historically, the United Kingdom has consistently held a position of prominence, usually ranking around 7-8 or above, as a significant contributor to the world community (Anholt, 2022, p.14). However, in edition 1.3, it experienced a decline and fell to the 15th position. In the most recent edition, it further declined to the 14th position from the 8th rank in edition 1.4 (p.14). Despite its declining ranking, the UK ranks third in terms of science & technology and health & wellbeing. The UK’s decline in international peace and security results from its increased export of firearms and international violent conflict. Despite this drop in peacekeeping, its GCI indicates a tremendous investment in internet security. Although the curve is not always smooth, it will be intriguing to observe in the future whether it aligns more closely with its upper or lower limits or even declines even more. Based on the UK’s case, it is imperative to acknowledge the significant role of GCI in shaping conversations about a country’s effectiveness.

Comparison with HDI and NBI

The HDI value of a country is calculated by combining its performance in a wide range of indicators, such as poverty index, internet accessibility, life expectancy, mortality rates, social inequalities, and literacy levels, among others. Based on the HDI, the UK ranks 17th in the ‘very high’ HDI tier with a 2021 minimum rating of 0.929. Besides, despite a decline in its rating from 2nd to 5th in 2021, the United Kingdom’s overall reputation remains favourable, with a score of 70.08 based on the Nation Brand Index. The NBI score of the UK in 2022 is 69.13, ranking at position 6 (McGrath & Bobev, 2022, p.10). The United Kingdom is highly regarded for its exports, culture, immigration and investment. This is primarily due to the positive perception of the UK’s advancements in science and technology, its influence on sports and modern culture, and its robust educational infrastructure.

Discrepancies and patterns

Over the years, the Nation Brands Index has been utilised by over 40 governments to monitor global opinions and the global image of their respective countries (Anholt, 2020a, p.21). This intelligence has been used to strategise investment, tourism, and trade promotion, to identify untapped markets, and to influence foreign policy and interactions. These discrepancies reveal a pattern in these metrics: Particular measures implemented in specific domains significantly influence a nation’s overall score in terms of its level of goodness (Anholt, 2020b, pp. 99 ff). Generally, the GCI does not provide a reliable metric for measuring a country’s ‘goodness’ due to its weaknesses and limitations in capturing all possible indicators of ‘goodness’ and using GDP as the sole denominator for measuring ‘goodness’.


Akilli, E., 2018. International students, nation branding and the good country index: Turkey example. MANAS Sosyal Araştırmalar Dergisi7(3). Pp. 893-905.

Andrews, M., 2010. Good government means different things in different countries. Governance23(1), pp.1-42.

Anholt, S., 2020a. Multidimensional Measurement of National Progress: A Practitioner’s Suggestions for a New Framework. UNDP Human Development Report Office. Pp. 1-49.

Anholt, S., 2020b. The good country equation: How we can repair the world in one generation. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. Pp. 1-260.


Benedek, I., 2016. Romania as a country brand: A comparative study based on current nation brand indexes. In Forum on Economics and Business (Vol. 19, No. 129, pp. 47-70). Hungarian Economists’ Society of Romania.

Krylová, P., & Barder, O., 2014. What is good about the good country index? Center For Global Development | Ideas to Action.

Llana, S. M., & Walsh, J., 2015. How should a country’s ‘goodness’ be measured? The Christian Science Monitor.

McGrath, J., & Bobev, M., 2022. The Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index Report. IPSOS. Pp. 1-29.

Papp-Vary, A.F., 2021. COUNTRY BRAND RANKINGS DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC:” ONE THING IS IMPORTANT: TO BE GOOD NOW”. Economic and Social Development: Book of Proceedings, pp.1111-1123.

University of Southern California., 2021. What makes a country “Good” according to the rest of the world? USC Center on Communication Leadership and Policy.


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