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Grading the World On Our Biggest Problems

Author: Stewart M. Patrick, Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program
April 22, 2013
cnn.com

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As Mayor of New York, the late Edward Koch famously asked constituents, "How'm I doing?" He got an earful. But he valued the instant feedback and even adjusted occasionally. As we commemorate Earth Day, we might ask the same question of ourselves – but on a planetary scale. When it comes to addressing the world's gravest ills, how are we doing?

Not so well. That is the big takeaway from the first Global Governance Report Card, released today by the Council on Foreign Relations. Designed in the old grade school style, Report Card grades the international community and the United States on how they are responding to six big challenges: global warming, nuclear proliferation, violent conflict, global health, transnational terrorism, and financial instability. The grades, available online, reflect input from fifty prominent experts.

Beyond assigning letter grades for each of the six "subject areas," the Report Card evaluates performance in specific sub-categories. Thus for climate change, it evaluates global progress in critical objectives like curbing emissions or using carbon sinks. It also singles out countries or organizations deserving praise as class "leaders," as "most improved," or worthy of a "gold star." Finally, it calls out actors who undermine global solutions, labeling them "laggards," "truants," or (in the case of North Korea on the nuclear issue) "in detention."

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