A country’s economic prowess and military may command respect on the international stage. But being a good global citizen – leading the world by example – is often the ingredient that turns a respected country into a lauded one. Countries that care about human rights, gender equality and religious freedom are the nations held up by academics, advocates and others as examples worth imitating. These global citizens inspire pride in their people, civil society leaders and lawmakers.
The 2018 Best Countries rankings, formed in partnership with global marketing communications company Y&R's brand strategy firm, BAV Group, and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, are based on a survey that asked more than 21,000 people from four regions to associate 80 countries with specific attributes. The Citizenship subranking is based on an equally weighted average of scores from eight country attributes that relate to a country's citizenship: cares about human rights, cares about the environment, gender equality, progressive, religious freedom, respects property rights, trustworthy and well-distributed political power. The Citizenship subranking had a 17 percent weight in the overall Best Countries ranking.
Top 5 Winners
Many thought leaders have proclaimed the Nordic model – known to promote social justice and progressive causes – one of the most sustainable ways forward, and people around the world seem to agree. Survey participants rank Denmark the best country for gender equality and human rights. But overall, Norway takes the No. 1 in Citizenship for the second year in a row.
Norway is consistently among the most generous countries when it comes to foreign aid and has committed to invest at least 1 percent of its gross national income to overseas development each year. People are encouraged to live and move freely in the country; a national law, the "allemannsretten," or right to access, ensures people get to experience nature. Same-sex marriage is legal in Norway, and transgender individuals are able to declare their own identity free from any medical assessment. When laws are broken, however, the country's prisons have been lauded as the world's most humane.
Nordic neighbors Finland and Sweden also top the list, along with Switzerland and Canada – all countries that have relatively generous social safety nets and offer affordable health care and education. They are among the world’s wealthiest nations and are also democratic. The United States, which often positions itself as a champion of freedom, didn’t crack the top 10 for the second year in a row. The global superpower took particularly hard hits in perceptions of its trustworthiness.
Countries at the other end of the spectrum – those deemed poor global citizens in the eyes of survey respondents – tend to be led by authoritarian and oppressive regimes. Iran, perceived to be the worst global citizen for the third year in a row, has rulers who violently suppress dissent and severely limit the rights of women.
Countries such as Pakistan and Egypt often come under fire from human-rights groups for curtailing freedom of expression, discrimination and harassing members of the political opposition. Myanmar, which in 2017 came under increasing criticism for its treatment of the Rohingya, also finished near the bottom of the ranking. The exception to the rule is China. Despite being a single-party state that controls free speech and jails dissidents, the world’s second-largest economy scores above average, ranking 38th in terms of citizenship.