2023 Chandler Good Government Index Insights
There is a strong relationship between good governance and a nation’s ability to prepare for – and respond to – crises.
This is our third year publishing the CGGI – our first Index was built on data that largely predated the COVID-19 pandemic, our second incorporated data as the pandemic intensified, and this year’s data was collected as the effects of the pandemic began to wane. This in itself presents an interesting snapshot of governance during a time of crisis. But, increasingly, a more relevant and telling snapshot is not how a government responds to a single crisis but rather a cluster of them – hence the growing popularity of the term “polycrisis” (see pg.11 for a look at Why Good Government Matters in a Polycrisis).
That is the focus of this Insights section – examining the relationships between good governance and crises. The breadth of government capabilities that the CGGI measures, and its geographical reach – 104 countries, or approximately 90% of the world population – enable us to explore that relationship from a number of angles, and at a number of levels. What does a country’s overall CGGI score tell us about its ability to prepare for and manage a crisis – and what patterns emerge when we plot that across 104 countries?
We also dive into the data behind those overall scores – the CGGI’s seven pillars, and 35 indicators – to explore the relationship at a more granular level. Stories and interviews which bring the data to life – and attempt to unpack what is causing some of the trends we are seeing – can be found later in this report.
Middle-Income Countries Moved Most in Rankings
This year’s overall CGGI rankings were relatively stable – only one-third of countries moved more than two spots from last year’s rankings. These movers tended to be upper- and lower-middle-income countries with almost half of them (48%) moving more than two spots in the overall rankings. Some of the biggest improvers are Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, North Macedonia and Vietnam. High-income and low-income countries, on the other hand, were much more stable – out of the 44 we measure, only five climbed or fell more than two spots.
More pronounced movements could be seen in the seven separate pillars and the individual indicators that comprise those pillars. Later in the report, we explore some of the biggest jumps in greater detail. The United Arab Emirates, for instance, broke into the top 20 overall rankings thanks to its strong performance in two pillars: Strong Institutions, and Leadership and Foresight. Thailand, meanwhile, moved up four places in the Helping People Rise pillar, an ascent partly powered by its performance in the Health indicator, where it climbed 22 spots in a single year.
Good Governance and the Polycrisis
In its Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum (WEF) shared four principles that governments can embrace to help prepare for the world’s most pressing short- and long-term crises:
- Strengthening risk identification and foresight;
- Recalibrating the present value of “future” risks;
- Investing in multi-domain risk preparedness, and
- Strengthening preparedness and response cooperation.1
The CGGI methodology and choice of indicators allow us to capture many of those principles – which means that the CGGI can credibly look at how good governance influences a country’s capacity to manage and respond to current and looming crises. And we can also examine the key capabilities which allow governments to continue to perform despite facing increasing pressures.
1) Good Governments Build Strong Nations That Have the Capacity to Manage Risks on the State
A strong relationship emerged when we compared countries’ CGGI scores with the Fragile States Index, a political risk assessment tool developed by the Fund for Peace that measures important vulnerabilities that contribute to the risk of state fragility.2
In other words, a well-governed country is likely to have developed more resilience to prepare for a polycrisis, and to manage it. Such a conclusion might not sound surprising – but the strength of the relationship, and how well it holds up regardless of a country’s income level, ideology, or geography, is powerful.
2) Good Governments Are Better Able to Respond to Crises
Comparing the 2023 CGGI rankings with the INFORM Risk Index by the Joint Research Centre of the European Union3, another strong relationship emerged – this time between the country’s quality of governance and its ability to prevent and respond to humanitarian crises and disasters.
This relationship is particularly important and urgent for governments given the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report4 and the rapidly closing window for nations to take climate action. Governments will have to – and some are already having to – manage the resulting environmental and humanitarian fallout of climate inaction.
3) Good Governments Are Better Prepared to Achieve Shared Prosperity
Among the many issues on which the COVID-19 pandemic shone a spotlight, one was that a crisis can disproportionately affect vulnerable groups. Crises can not only lead to unequal social and economic outcomes, but they can also widen them, which may even lead to social instability.
This year’s countries’ CGGI rankings showed a strong relationship with the Commitment to Reducing Inequality (CRI) Index5, which ranks 161 governments worldwide. The index assesses governments’ efforts based on action in three areas vital to reducing levels of inequality: social spending, progressive taxation, and labour rights.
While governments can take steps to build fairer and more inclusive societies, it may take consistent effort over a longer period to generate a significant impact. This year’s CGGI country scores are significantly correlated to the Income Gap metric in the World Inequality Report6, highlighting a significant correlation between good governance and income inequality outcomes. However, this correlation is not as strong as compared to the correlation with preparedness to deal with inequalities, suggesting there are other important factors that contribute to income inequality outcomes and that changes in capabilities may take some time to impact outcomes.
The Indicators Linked with Performance in a Polycrisis
To understand how governments can continue to perform while confronted with different interconnected crises, we take a deep dive into the indicator-level data of the CGGI.
Rule of Law, Ethical Leadership and Property Rights are Strong Indicators of Overall Performance
Crisis preparedness, crisis response, closing inequalities – as the data shows, good governance is correlated with all of them. But what does the data suggest are the capabilities that are the most highly correlated with overall good governance? Answering that requires diving into the CGGI’s 35 indicators, of which 26 are focused on government capabilities, and nine on outcomes. As found in the CGGI 2022, three indicators remain the most strongly correlated with a country’s overall CGGI score: Rule of Law, Ethical Leadership (previously known as the Anti-Corruption indicator) and Property Rights.
That such a finding holds true amid such turbulent times is, itself, a finding – a reminder of how fundamentally these three capabilities underpin government functions and public service delivery.
Good Governance Can Defray Impacts on Social Mobility From Crises
Among all nine outcomes measured in the 2023 CGGI Helping People Rise pillar, Social Mobility enjoys the highest correlation to government capabilities, or the average score of the Index’s 26 capability indicators. The CGGI defines social mobility as “the extent to which socio-economic circumstances at birth influence a person’s future status and prosperity.” There is no single-sentence answer to “What does good government look like in practice?” but our findings suggest that social mobility is an important part of the conversation.
While all nine outcomes – which span education and healthcare, personal safety and income inequality – are important, social mobility implies an investment in people’s futures and their aspirations for a better life. It can be difficult to draw clear lines, year-on-year, between good government and social mobility7, but there can be little doubt that countries that invest in good governance in the long term are likelier to improve their social mobility. It will remain a vital issue for governments, as lower wages and lost opportunities brought on by the pandemic have created long-term repercussions for social mobility.
Good Governance Is Crucial in a Crisis, the Calm, and in Between
The data presents a clear picture: good governance matters hugely in times of crisis (let alone a polycrisis). In their ability to prepare and respond, good governments enjoy a measurable advantage. But, of course, good governance matters hugely in calmer times as well. The capabilities and skills that effective governments rely on in times of crisis are often the products of decisions made well before any crisis strikes – unrehearsed often means unprepared. And the actions and behaviours that helped a country navigate a crisis are likely to be useful long after the crisis abates. So, while the particulars of good governance may change in a crisis, the principles that underpin it remain.
- World Economic Forum. (2023). The Global Risks Report 2023. 18th Edition. In World Economic Forum. World Economic Forum. https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Global_Risks_Report_2023.pdf
- Haken, N. et al.(2022). Fragile States Index Annual Report 2022. In Fragile States Index. https://fragilestatesindex.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/07/22-FSI-Report-Final.pdf Note: We recognise that CGGI and FSI may share underlying indicators that measure similar factors. After an in-depth comparison between all CGGI indicators and FSI indicators, we concluded that eleven CGGI indicators may have some overlap with FSI. After removing these eleven common indicators from CGGI, we found that the correlation between the CGGI and FSI remains high. The new CGGI-FSI correlation dropped by a very insignificant margin (from -0.928 to -0.914).
- INFORM GRI 2022: Index for Risk Management. European Commission 2022. https://drmkc.jrc.ec.europa.eu/inform-index.
- Pörtner, H.-O., & Roberts, D. C. et al. (2022). Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. In IPCC. https://report.ipcc.ch/ar6/wg2/IPCC_AR6_WGII_FullReport.pdf
- Walker, J., Martin, M., Seery, E., Abdo, N., Kamande, A., & Lawson, M. (2022). The Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2022. In Oxfam Policy and Practice. https://policy-practice.oxfam.org/resources/the-commitment-to-reducing-inequality-index-2022-621419/
- Chancel, L., Piketty, T., Saez, E., & Zucman, G. et al. (2022). World Inequality Report 2022. In World Inequality Lab. https://wir2022.wid.world/www-site/uploads/2021/12/WorldInequalityReport2022_Full_Report.pdf
- A more comprehensive analysis of the relationship between good government and social mobility would require data that is far beyond the current temporal coverage of the CGGI.