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TEDSalon Berlin 2014

Simon Anholt: Which country does the most good for the world?

June 23, 2014

It's an unexpected side effect of globalization: problems that once would have stayed local—say, a bank lending out too much money—now have consequences worldwide. But still, countries operate independently, as if alone on the planet. Policy advisor Simon Anholt has dreamed up an unusual scale to get governments thinking outwardly: The Good Country Index. In a riveting and funny talk, he answers the question, "Which country does the most good?" The answer may surprise you (especially if you live in the US or China).

Simon Anholt - Policy advisor
Simon Anholt helps national, regional and city governments earn better reputations—not by launching advertising or PR campaigns, but by changing the way they behave. Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
I've been thinking a lot about the world recently
00:13
and how it's changed over the last 20, 30, 40 years.
00:16
Twenty or 30 years ago,
00:19
if a chicken caught a cold and sneezed and died
00:22
in a remote village in East Asia,
00:24
it would have been a tragedy for the chicken
00:26
and its closest relatives,
00:29
but I don't think there was much possibility
00:30
of us fearing a global pandemic
00:32
and the deaths of millions.
00:35
Twenty or 30 years ago, if a bank in North America
00:37
lent too much money to some people
00:40
who couldn't afford to pay it back
00:42
and the bank went bust,
00:44
that was bad for the lender
00:45
and bad for the borrower,
00:46
but we didn't imagine it would bring
00:48
the global economic system to its knees
00:50
for nearly a decade.
00:52
This is globalization.
00:55
This is the miracle that has enabled us
00:57
to transship our bodies and our minds
00:59
and our words and our pictures and our ideas
01:02
and our teaching and our learning around the planet
01:04
ever faster and ever cheaper.
01:08
It's brought a lot of bad stuff,
01:11
like the stuff that I just described,
01:12
but it's also brought a lot of good stuff.
01:14
A lot of us are not aware
01:16
of the extraordinary successes of
the Millennium Development Goals,
01:18
several of which have achieved their targets
01:22
long before the due date.
01:24
That proves that this species of humanity
01:25
is capable of achieving extraordinary progress
01:28
if it really acts together and it really tries hard.
01:31
But if I had to put it in a nutshell these days,
01:36
I sort of feel that globalization
01:38
has taken us by surprise,
01:41
and we've been slow to respond to it.
01:43
If you look at the downside of globalization,
01:46
it really does seem to be sometimes overwhelming.
01:48
All of the grand challenges that we face today,
01:51
like climate change and human rights
01:53
and demographics and terrorism and pandemics
01:56
and narco-trafficking and human slavery
02:00
and species loss, I could go on,
02:03
we're not making an awful lot of progress
02:06
against an awful lot of those challenges.
02:08
So in a nutshell, that's the challenge
02:10
that we all face today
02:12
at this interesting point in history.
02:13
That's clearly what we've got to do next.
02:16
We've somehow got to get our act together
02:18
and we've got to figure out how to globalize
02:21
the solutions better
02:23
so that we don't simply become a species
02:25
which is the victim of the globalization of problems.
02:27
Why are we so slow at achieving these advances?
02:32
What's the reason for it?
02:36
Well, there are, of course, a number of reasons,
02:38
but perhaps the primary reason
02:40
is because we're still organized as a species
02:42
in the same way that we were organized
02:46
200 or 300 years ago.
02:47
There's one superpower left on the planet
02:50
and that is the seven billion people,
02:52
the seven billion of us who cause all these problems,
02:54
the same seven billion, by the way,
02:56
who will resolve them all.
02:58
But how are those seven billion organized?
03:00
They're still organized in 200 or so nation-states,
03:02
and the nations have governments
03:06
that make rules
03:09
and cause us to behave in certain ways.
03:10
And that's a pretty efficient system,
03:13
but the problem is that the
way that those laws are made
03:15
and the way those governments think
03:18
is absolutely wrong for the
solution of global problems,
03:21
because it all looks inwards.
03:23
The politicians that we elect
03:26
and the politicians we don't elect, on the whole,
03:28
have minds that microscope.
03:30
They don't have minds that telescope.
03:31
They look in. They pretend, they behave,
03:34
as if they believed that every country was an island
03:38
that existed quite happily, independently
03:42
of all the others
03:44
on its own little planet
03:45
in its own little solar system.
03:47
This is the problem:
03:49
countries competing against each other,
03:51
countries fighting against each other.
03:53
This week, as any week you care to look at,
03:55
you'll find people actually trying to kill
each other from country to country,
03:57
but even when that's not going on,
04:00
there's competition between countries,
04:02
each one trying to shaft the next.
04:04
This is clearly not a good arrangement.
04:06
We clearly need to change it.
04:09
We clearly need to find ways
04:10
of encouraging countries to start working together
04:12
a little bit better.
04:15
And why won't they do that?
04:17
Why is it that our leaders still persist in looking inwards?
04:19
Well, the first and most obvious reason
04:23
is because that's what we ask them to do.
04:25
That's what we tell them to do.
04:27
When we elect governments
04:28
or when we tolerate unelected governments,
04:30
we're effectively telling them that what we want
04:32
is for them to deliver us in our country
04:35
a certain number of things.
04:38
We want them to deliver prosperity,
04:39
growth, competitiveness, transparency, justice
04:42
and all of those things.
04:47
So unless we start asking our governments
04:49
to think outside a little bit,
04:51
to consider the global problems that will finish us all
04:53
if we don't start considering them,
04:56
then we can hardly blame them
04:58
if what they carry on doing is looking inwards,
05:00
if they still have minds that microscope
05:03
rather than minds that telescope.
05:04
That's the first reason why
things tend not to change.
05:06
The second reason is that these governments,
05:09
just like all the rest of us,
05:13
are cultural psychopaths.
05:14
I don't mean to be rude,
05:17
but you know what a psychopath is.
05:18
A psychopath is a person who,
05:20
unfortunately for him or her,
05:21
lacks the ability to really empathize
05:23
with other human beings.
05:25
When they look around,
05:27
they don't see other human beings
05:28
with deep, rich, three-dimensional personal lives
05:30
and aims and ambitions.
05:33
What they see is cardboard cutouts,
05:34
and it's very sad and it's very lonely,
05:37
and it's very rare, fortunately.
05:39
But actually, aren't most of us
05:42
not really so very good at empathy?
05:45
Oh sure, we're very good at empathy
05:48
when it's a question of dealing with people
05:49
who kind of look like us
05:51
and kind of walk and talk and eat and pray
05:52
and wear like us,
05:55
but when it comes to people who don't do that,
05:56
who don't quite dress like us
05:58
and don't quite pray like us
06:00
and don't quite talk like us,
06:01
do we not also have a tendency to see them
06:04
ever so slightly as cardboard cutouts too?
06:06
And this is a question we need to ask ourselves.
06:09
I think constantly we have to monitor it.
06:11
Are we and our politicians to a degree
06:13
cultural psychopaths?
06:16
The third reason is hardly worth mentioning
06:19
because it's so silly,
06:21
but there's a belief amongst governments
06:22
that the domestic agenda
06:24
and the international agenda
06:25
are incompatible and always will be.
06:27
This is just nonsense.
06:30
In my day job, I'm a policy adviser.
06:32
I've spent the last 15 years or so
06:33
advising governments around the world,
06:35
and in all of that time I have never once seen
06:37
a single domestic policy issue
06:40
that could not be more imaginatively,
06:43
effectively and rapidly resolved
06:45
than by treating it as an international problem,
06:48
looking at the international context,
06:50
comparing what others have done,
06:52
bringing in others, working externally
06:54
instead of working internally.
06:57
And so you may say, well, given all of that,
07:00
why then doesn't it work?
07:04
Why can we not make our politicians change?
07:05
Why can't we demand them?
07:08
Well I, like a lot of us, spend
a lot of time complaining
07:10
about how hard it is to make people change,
07:13
and I don't think we should fuss about it.
07:15
I think we should just accept
07:17
that we are an inherently conservative species.
07:19
We don't like to change.
07:21
It exists for very sensible evolutionary reasons.
07:23
We probably wouldn't still be here today
07:26
if we weren't so resistant to change.
07:29
It's very simple: Many thousands of years ago,
07:31
we discovered that if we carried on
07:33
doing the same things, we wouldn't die,
07:35
because the things that we've done before
07:38
by definition didn't kill us,
07:40
and therefore as long as we carry on doing them,
07:41
we'll be okay,
07:43
and it's very sensible not to do anything new,
07:45
because it might kill you.
07:46
But of course, there are exceptions to that.
07:49
Otherwise, we'd never get anywhere.
07:51
And one of the exceptions, the interesting exception,
07:54
is when you can show to people
07:55
that there might be some self-interest
07:57
in them making that leap of faith
07:59
and changing a little bit.
08:01
So I've spent a lot of the last 10 or 15 years
08:03
trying to find out what could be that self-interest
08:06
that would encourage not just politicians
08:09
but also businesses and general populations,
08:11
all of us, to start to think a little more outwardly,
08:14
to think in a bigger picture,
08:17
not always to look inwards,
sometimes to look outwards.
08:19
And this is where I discovered
08:22
something quite important.
08:24
In 2005, I launched a study
08:27
called the Nation Brands Index.
08:30
What it is, it's a very large-scale study that polls
08:33
a very large sample of the world's population,
08:35
a sample that represents about 70 percent
08:38
of the planet's population,
08:40
and I started asking them a series of questions
08:43
about how they perceive other countries.
08:45
And the Nation Brands Index over the years
08:48
has grown to be a very, very large database.
08:50
It's about 200 billion data points
08:52
tracking what ordinary people
think about other countries
08:55
and why.
08:57
Why did I do this? Well, because
the governments that I advise
08:59
are very, very keen on knowing
09:02
how they are regarded.
09:03
They've known, partly because
09:05
I've encouraged them to realize it,
09:06
that countries depend
09:08
enormously on their reputations
09:10
in order to survive and prosper in the world.
09:12
If a country has a great, positive image,
09:14
like Germany has or Sweden or Switzerland,
09:17
everything is easy and everything is cheap.
09:19
You get more tourists. You get more investors.
09:21
You sell your products more expensively.
09:24
If, on the other hand, you have a country
09:26
with a very weak or a very negative image,
09:28
everything is difficult and everything is expensive.
09:30
So governments care desperately
09:32
about the image of their country,
09:34
because it makes a direct difference
09:35
to how much money they can make,
09:37
and that's what they've promised their populations
09:39
they're going to deliver.
09:41
So a couple of years ago, I thought I would take
09:43
some time out and speak to that gigantic database
09:45
and ask it,
09:48
why do some people prefer one country
09:50
more than another?
09:52
And the answer that the database gave me
09:54
completely staggered me.
09:56
It was 6.8.
09:57
I haven't got time to explain in detail.
09:59
Basically what it told me was —
10:02
(Laughter) (Applause) —
10:04
the kinds of countries we prefer are good countries.
10:08
We don't admire countries
primarily because they're rich,
10:12
because they're powerful,
because they're successful,
10:15
because they're modern, because
they're technologically advanced.
10:17
We primarily admire countries that are good.
10:21
What do we mean by good?
10:23
We mean countries that seem to contribute
10:25
something to the world in which we live,
10:26
countries that actually make the world safer
10:29
or better or richer or fairer.
10:32
Those are the countries we like.
10:34
This is a discovery of significant importance —
10:36
you see where I'm going —
10:38
because it squares the circle.
10:40
I can now say, and often do, to any government,
10:41
in order to do well, you need to do good.
10:44
If you want to sell more products,
10:47
if you want to get more investment,
10:49
if you want to become more competitive,
10:50
then you need to start behaving,
10:53
because that's why people will respect you
10:55
and do business with you,
10:56
and therefore, the more you collaborate,
10:59
the more competitive you become.
11:02
This is quite an important discovery,
11:04
and as soon as I discovered this,
11:06
I felt another index coming on.
11:07
I swear that as I get older, my ideas become simpler
11:10
and more and more childish.
11:12
This one is called the Good Country Index,
11:13
and it does exactly what it says on the tin.
11:17
It measures, or at least it tries to measure,
11:21
exactly how much each country on Earth contributes
11:24
not to its own population but to the rest of humanity.
11:26
Bizarrely, nobody had ever thought
11:29
of measuring this before.
11:31
So my colleague Dr. Robert Govers and I have spent
11:32
the best part of the last two years,
11:34
with the help of a large number
of very serious and clever people,
11:36
cramming together all the reliable data in the world
11:40
we could find about what countries give
11:43
to the world.
11:45
And you're waiting for me to
tell you which one comes top.
11:47
And I'm going to tell you,
11:49
but first of all I want to tell you
11:51
precisely what I mean
11:52
when I say a good country.
11:55
I do not mean morally good.
11:57
When I say that Country X
11:59
is the goodest country on Earth,
12:01
and I mean goodest, I don't mean best.
12:03
Best is something different.
12:05
When you're talking about a good country,
12:06
you can be good, gooder and goodest.
12:07
It's not the same thing as good, better and best.
12:10
This is a country which simply gives more
12:13
to humanity than any other country.
12:16
I don't talk about how they behave at home
12:18
because that's measured elsewhere.
12:20
And the winner is
12:22
Ireland.
12:24
(Applause)
12:26
According to the data here,
12:32
no country on Earth, per head of population,
12:33
per dollar of GDP, contributes more
12:36
to the world that we live in than Ireland.
12:39
What does this mean?
12:41
This means that as we go to sleep at night,
12:42
all of us in the last 15 seconds
before we drift off to sleep,
12:44
our final thought should be,
12:47
godammit, I'm glad that Ireland exists.
12:49
(Laughter)
12:52
And that — (Applause) —
12:54
In the depths of a very severe economic recession,
13:01
I think that there's a really important lesson there,
13:04
that if you can remember
your international obligations
13:06
whilst you are trying to rebuild your own economy,
13:09
that's really something.
13:11
Finland ranks pretty much the same.
13:12
The only reason why it's below Ireland
13:13
is because its lowest score is
lower than Ireland's lowest score.
13:15
Now the other thing you'll
notice about the top 10 there
13:18
is, of course, they're all, apart from New Zealand,
13:19
Western European nations.
13:22
They're also all rich.
13:24
This depressed me,
13:26
because one of the things that I did not want
13:27
to discover with this index
13:29
is that it's purely the province of rich countries
13:30
to help poor countries.
13:33
This is not what it's all about.
13:34
And indeed, if you look further down the list,
13:36
I don't have the slide here, you will see
13:37
something that made me very happy indeed,
13:40
that Kenya is in the top 30,
13:42
and that demonstrates one
very, very important thing.
13:45
This is not about money.
13:48
This is about attitude.
13:49
This is about culture.
13:51
This is about a government and a people that care
13:52
about the rest of the world
13:56
and have the imagination and the courage
13:57
to think outwards instead of only thinking selfishly.
13:59
I'm going to whip through the other slides
14:02
just so you can see some
of the lower-lying countries.
14:04
There's Germany at 13th, the U.S. comes 21st,
14:07
Mexico comes 66th,
14:10
and then we have some of
the big developing countries,
14:12
like Russia at 95th, China at 107th.
14:14
Countries like China and Russia and India,
14:17
which is down in the same part of the index,
14:20
well, in some ways, it's not surprising.
14:23
They've spent a great deal of time
14:25
over the last decades building their own economy,
14:27
building their own society and their own polity,
14:29
but it is to be hoped
14:31
that the second phase of their growth
14:33
will be somewhat more outward-looking
14:34
than the first phase has been so far.
14:36
And then you can break down each country
14:39
in terms of the actual datasets that build into it.
14:41
I'll allow you to do that.
14:44
From midnight tonight it's going
to be on goodcountry.org,
14:45
and you can look at the country.
14:48
You can look right down to the
level of the individual datasets.
14:49
Now that's the Good Country Index.
14:53
What's it there for?
14:55
Well, it's there really because I want to try
14:57
to introduce this word,
14:59
or reintroduce this word, into the discourse.
15:01
I've had enough hearing about competitive countries.
15:06
I've had enough hearing about
15:08
prosperous, wealthy, fast-growing countries.
15:10
I've even had enough hearing about happy countries
15:13
because in the end that's still selfish.
15:17
That's still about us,
15:19
and if we carry on thinking about us,
15:20
we are in deep, deep trouble.
15:22
I think we all know what it is
15:25
that we want to hear about.
15:26
We want to hear about good countries,
15:27
and so I want to ask you all a favor.
15:30
I'm not asking a lot.
15:34
It's something that you might find easy to do
15:36
and you might even find enjoyable
15:38
and even helpful to do,
15:39
and that's simply to start using the word "good"
15:40
in this context.
15:43
When you think about your own country,
15:45
when you think about other people's countries,
15:47
when you think about companies,
15:49
when you talk about the world that we live in today,
15:51
start using that word
15:53
in the way that I've talked about this evening.
15:55
Not good, the opposite of bad,
15:58
because that's an argument that never finishes.
16:00
Good, the opposite of selfish,
16:02
good being a country that thinks about all of us.
16:05
That's what I would like you to do,
16:08
and I'd like you to use it as a stick
16:09
with which to beat your politicians.
16:11
When you elect them, when you reelect them,
16:13
when you vote for them, when you listen
16:16
to what they're offering you,
16:17
use that word, "good,"
16:20
and ask yourself,
16:21
"Is that what a good country would do?"
16:23
And if the answer is no, be very suspicious.
16:25
Ask yourself, is that the behavior
16:28
of my country?
16:31
Do I want to come from a country
16:32
where the government, in my name,
16:34
is doing things like that?
16:36
Or do I, on the other hand,
16:38
prefer the idea of walking around the world
16:39
with my head held high thinking, "Yeah,
16:41
I'm proud to come from a good country"?
16:43
And everybody will welcome you.
16:46
And everybody in the last 15 seconds
16:48
before they drift off to sleep at night will say,
16:49
"Gosh, I'm glad that person's country exists."
16:52
Ultimately, that, I think,
16:55
is what will make the change.
16:57
That word, "good,"
16:59
and the number 6.8
17:00
and the discovery that's behind it
17:02
have changed my life.
17:04
I think they can change your life,
17:06
and I think we can use it to change
17:08
the way that our politicians
and our companies behave,
17:10
and in doing so, we can change the world.
17:12
I've started thinking very differently about
17:16
my own country since I've been
thinking about these things.
17:18
I used to think that I wanted to live in a rich country,
17:20
and then I started thinking I
wanted to live in a happy country,
17:22
but I began to realize, it's not enough.
17:25
I don't want to live in a rich country.
17:27
I don't want to live in a fast-growing
17:29
or competitive country.
17:31
I want to live in a good country,
17:34
and I so, so hope that you do too.
17:37
Thank you.
17:41
(Applause)
17:43

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Simon Anholt - Policy advisor
Simon Anholt helps national, regional and city governments earn better reputations—not by launching advertising or PR campaigns, but by changing the way they behave.

Why you should listen

“The only remaining superpower is international public opinion,” says Simon Anholt, an independent policy advisor who has helped more than 50 countries engage more productively with the rest of the world. He believes that public opinion cannot be shifted on the surface, but only moves when a government makes real changes in its values and behavior by rolling out enlightened policies, developing dynamic exchanges with other nations and committing to global betterment.

Simon Anholt has worked closely with heads of governments in countries ranging from the Netherlands to Botswana, from Jamaica to Malaysia. In his home country of the United Kingdom, he is a member of the Foreign Office Public Diplomacy Board and he frequently collaborates with multilateral institutions like the United Nations.

As a researcher, Anholt creates international surveys that inform policy. His latest project, The Good Country Index, is the first to measure exactly how much each country contributes to the planet and to humanity. He hopes this “national balance sheet” will inspire governments to operate less like independent islands and to think of themselves as highly interconnected, with ultimate responsiblity to all the citizens of the world.

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