A recent issue of Foreign Policy contains a detailed examination of the degree to which the rich nations are actually commited to the development of poorer nations. Foreign Policy teamed with the Center for Global Development for the study, which "grades 21 rich nations on whether their aid, trade, migration, investment, peacekeeping, and environmental policies help or hurt poor nations." The Netherlands, Denmark, and Portugal scored the highest; Australia, the United States, and Japan were the bottom three.
The results may be surprising. Although the U.S. and Japan are, in raw dollar terms, the largest developmental aid donors, they rank at the very bottom of the index for a variety of reasons, ranging from restrictions on how the aid can be used to environmental and immigration policies detrimental to global development.
In ranking these countries commitment to development, the CDI rewards generous aid giving, hospitable immigration policies, sizable contributions to peacekeeping operations, and hefty foreign direct investment in developing countries. The index penalizes financial assistance to corrupt regimes, obstruction of imports from developing countries, and policies that harm shared environmental resources. Although the governments and leaders of poor nations are themselves ultimately responsible for responding to the many challenges of development, rich countries can and should change their policies to spur economic growth and social development in poorer nations. The CDI highlights and ranks the rich countries policies themselves, not their final impact. This approach emphasizes what each rich countryregardless of size and reachcan do to improve opportunities for development throughout the world.
The article is long, but well worth reading, as it details the ways in which developmental assistance is a complex system. A wide array of factors contribute to the ability of developing nations to move out of poverty and tyranny. A better understanding of the complexity of the problem can only help policymakers, activists, and the public figure out the best ways to extend development in an equitable and sustainable manner.
A link to the listing of the 21 richest countries in order of their CDI score can be found here.
It would be interesting to find out how the index has been composed, i.e. what were the criteria applied when assessing e.g. trade policy or immigration. Some are evident such as aid expressed in OECD ODA terms, other perhaps not.