Why did you choose these particular categories?

Actually, they kind of chose themselves. Once we’d identified the 35 datasets which were suitable for producing the Index, they fell quite naturally into these seven categories (which, quite by coincidence, closely mirror the components of the United Nations Charter, so we seem to be on the right track).

How sensitive is your method to the choice of ranking algorithm?

We tried a number of alternative ranking algorithms for these data. Our method is simple to understand and something that was relatively insensitive to outliers. We are certainly not applying any weighting. Frankly the precise position of a country in a table does not matter that much. What matters much more is each country’s balance sheet and the gross positions in the table. Countries in the top twenty are doing a lot for the common good, relative to the size of their economy. Those in the bottom twenty are hindering the common good, or at least are free-riders on other countries. Countries in the middle are doing something in between.

We hope that people can see not only how well their county is contributing to the common good but also how they are doing it – note, for example, how the way that Finland contributes is different from the way New Zealand does.

I’m surprised by some of the countries that rank among the best performers in the peace and security category. Why is this?

On the whole, the countries that score well in this category do not export arms; they are not directly involved in international violent conflicts (except in some cases as peacekeepers); they tend to have tight cyber-security, and may contribute significantly to UN peacekeeping missions with troops and/or funds. Of course, several of them have a great deal to worry about at home, including violent conflicts within their own borders, and their contribution to international peace and security is often a largely passive one: they do very little harm overseas, rather than doing a lot of good. Still, the net effect is positive and this is what earns them their high ranking in this particular category – even if, in many cases, their overall contribution to the common good is let down by lower scores in other categories.

It’s important to emphasize again that the Good Country Index only measures the international impacts of countries; what they do at home is well documented in many other studies and surveys. The fact that domestic behaviour isn’t included in the Good Country Index of course doesn’t mean we excuse, condone, minimise or overlook it in any way: it’s simply not the thing that we’re measuring.

Remember that when we talk about a ‘good country’ we’re not attempting to judge its overall moral standing: we’re measuring its impact on the rest of the world, its contribution to the common good. You can’t get a complete picture of any country without considering both domestic and international factors, and we would always encourage people to consider the Good Country Index scores alongside some reliable measures of domestic behaviour.