About Global Governance Report Card

The Global Governance Report Card grades international performance in addressing today's most daunting challenges. It seeks to inspire innovative and effective responses from global and U.S. policymakers to address them.


Today's world is increasingly dominated by transnational challenges that are beyond the capacity of any single nation to resolve. This is true whether the task at hand is combating nuclear proliferation or terrorism, mitigating armed conflict or climate change, or promoting global public health or international financial stability. In each case, progress rests on sustained cooperation among independent nations, whether in formal organizations or temporary coalitions, often in partnership with nonstate actors. Global governance, so conceived, does not imply the creation of a world government—something that would be undesirable even if it were attainable. It means something far more practical, namely: forging collective action among sovereign states and other relevant actors to confront common threats, manage shared risks, and exploit joint opportunities presented by globalization.

The Global Governance Report Card is the first effort to evaluate and grade the performance of multilateral cooperation (encompassing multiple actors and forums outlined below) in addressing six global challenges: nuclear weapons proliferation; transnational terrorism; climate change; armed conflict; financial instability; and threats to global health. Two considerations informed the selection of these issues. First, they are among the most important global challenges confronting humanity in terms of their potential impact on national and individual security, prosperity, and well-being. Second, each issue had already been analyzed extensively in constructing individual components of the Global Governance Monitor, the International Institutions and Global Governance (IIGG) program's award-winning online multimedia initiative.


In the interest of clarity and presentation, the report card was consciously designed to resemble one a student might receive in school. Each report card category assigns an overall grade to international efforts and outcomes in a particular issue area. Below the overall grade, each individual category offers a qualitative assessment of performance in particular subjects or subcomponents (such as "monitoring and enforcing emissions curbs" in the case of climate change), which evaluates progress on core objectives. As with typical report cards (at least in the United States), each report card category includes an overall summary, highlights achievements, describes the current trajectory of efforts, and notes areas for improvement. Bearing in mind our domestic (as well as international) audience, we also include a section devoted to "U.S. performance and leadership." Finally, accompanying each report card is a lengthier backgrounder. These provide greater detail on the progress and setbacks in advancing multilateral cooperation in the precise issue area and extensive justifications for report card evaluations.

The report card covers a five-year period, from the start of 2008 through 2012. The grades from this first reporting period will provide a baseline for forthcoming installments.


Each report card category assesses multilateral cooperation and grades the United States' performance in addressing a particular global challenge. These grades reflect subjective, qualitative evaluations by IIGG staff and experts on progress or setbacks since 2008 in achieving tangible policy objectives. The possible grades for each issue area range from A through F.

Beyond the overall grade, each category of the report card includes qualitative assessments of performance on specific subjects, or subcategories within each issue area, using the following labels:

  • Excellent: superior performance and effort in addressing the issue
  • Good: above average performance and effort in addressing the issue
  • Average: mediocre performance and effort in addressing the issue
  • Poor: below average performance and effort in addressing the issue
  • Incomplete: lack of attention and effort in addressing the issue


Effective multilateral cooperation in addressing major transnational challenges often depends on a select group of actors—including but not limited to the United States and, increasingly, China—with the capacity and will to contribute disproportionately to collective action. Accordingly, each report card category identifies those players—including states, international institutions, and nonstate actors—that have played particularly constructive (or alternatively, obstructive) roles in managing or resolving a specific challenge.

The resulting class evaluation places actors worthy of special mention into one of six categories:

  • Leader: actors that are at the forefront of global efforts, whether by implementing important policies or encouraging or assisting other countries, institutions, or nonstate actors to follow suit
  • Gold Star: actors that have demonstrated notable success in a particular issue area or have launched an exemplary initiative, regardless of their overall performance
  • Most Improved: actors that stepped up their efforts significantly or reformed their strategies and mechanisms for grappling with the issue during the reporting period
  • Laggard: actors that made disappointing progress in advancing global objectives, or that only took necessary steps late in the review period after initial resistance
  • Truant: actors that are important to tackling a global challenge but that have remained on the sidelines
  • Detention: actors that have blatantly refused to cooperate with other countries and international institutions to combat the challenge, or that have consistently acted to exacerbate the problem


  • In constructing the Global Governance Report Card, IIGG adopted a primarily qualitative methodology. (The report card is thus not an index, in which a numerical score would be computed from quantifiable indicators.) The program took this approach given the dearth of universally accepted quantitative indicators to measure progress in global governance in the respective issue areas, and in view of the powerful role often played by intangible, qualitative factors, such as political leadership. Where quantitative measurements are available and relevant, they are incorporated.
  • Report card grades and assessments, as well as the class evaluations, reflect subjective judgments regarding how important global actors have performed in making progress toward critical but realistic objectives (and their subcategories) in each issue area since 2008. In making these judgments, IIGG relied heavily on the input and recommendations from fifty noted experts, listed below.
  • In determining the overall grade assigned to international cooperation in a particular issue area, the report card takes into account assessments of performance across several issue subcomponents but do not weigh each equally, recognizing that they are not always of equivalent importance to the overall objective. For example, curbing emissions and promoting low carbon development may be more important to mitigating climate change than utilizing carbon sinks.
  • The report card does make allowance for effort, as opposed to simply outcomes. This is necessary, inasmuch as initiatives launched between 2008 and 2012 may not reach fruition for years. For example, the report card on armed conflict credits the United Nations' (UN) Department of Peacekeeping Operations for initiating strategies to better coordinate field operations. At the same time, however, the report card places more weight on the implementation of agreed-upon policies and the quality of efforts to move toward stated long-term goals.
  • The report card backgrounders provide additional context and justifications for the assignment of letter grades to actors involved in each of the issue areas, including the United States. The backgrounders also assess international performance in particular subcategories and class evaluation designations.
  • Grades and assessments for the next installment of the report cards will reflect improvements or setbacks since 2012.


There is a widespread perception that contemporary multilateral efforts are falling well short of what is needed to meet today's global challenges. Certainly, there is no shortage of obstacles to effective international cooperation. One is an absence of leadership. After a period of unquestioned primacy, the United States is experiencing relative (though not absolute) decline, as global power diffuses to the developing world. Many traditional U.S. partners, including Europe and Japan, are economically stagnant and politically self-absorbed, contributing to the global leadership vacuum. For their own part, today's emerging powers are typically more focused on internal development—and enjoying the privileges of enhanced status—than in shouldering larger global burdens. In the absence of leadership, international institutions created in earlier eras are struggling to adapt to new threats and power distributions. Large treaty-based organizations like the UN or the World Trade Organization are often stymied by consensus-based decision-making, while more circumscribed ad hoc bodies, like the Group of Twenty nations (G20) lack the legitimacy of universal institutions. Finally, nation-states are struggling to leverage the contributions of the private sector for the provision of global "goods" and the mitigation of global "bads."

Despite these daunting impediments, multilateral cooperation and institutional reform can and does occur. This is particularly true in moments of crisis, when previous policies have failed abjectly. The global financial system provides a case in point. Following the shock of the global credit crisis, countries and institutions responded with commendable solidarity, adopting a set of measures that were mutually beneficial. The G20, elevated to the leader level as the premier forum for multilateral economic coordination, orchestrated parallel interest rate cuts and a large fiscal stimulus, helping prevent the world from spiraling into a second Great Depression. The crisis also revitalized the once moribund International Monetary Fund (IMF), which expanded its mandate and increased its war chest. Countries also made laudable progress on global financial regulation by agreeing to higher capital requirements for large crossborder financial institutions and transforming the feckless Financial Stability Forum into a larger and more effective Financial Stability Board. To be sure, not all promised reforms have been faithfully implemented. For example, despite promising to update the governance structures of the IMF and World Bank, the changes (i.e., the composition of their executive boards, the allocation of voting quotas, and the selection process for senior leadership) do not reflect geopolitical and economic realities. These shortcomings explain why—as outlined in the Global Finance Report Card—global financial governance merited a B for the period 2008 to 2012. On the other hand, had countries retreated into economic nationalism and refused entirely to cooperate to mitigate the financial crisis, they would have earned an F.


In compiling the Global Governance Report Card, IIGG solicited input from fifty experts, from both within and outside the Council on Foreign Relations. These contributions were invaluable, especially given the scope of the undertaking and the complexity of the cooperation challenges presented by each issue area. These expert opinions helped inform the overall grades given to the relevant actors and to the United States; the assessments of international performance across subcategories of collective action; the assignment of countries, institutions, and nonstate actors to the class evaluation; and the drafting of the backgrounders that accompany the report cards. Needless to say, the experts did not always agree with one another, nor with the analysis and judgments of the IIGG director and his team. Final decisions regarding grades, assessments, the class evaluation, and backgrounders were made by Dr. Stewart Patrick.

IIGG would like to thank the following individuals for offering their time and expertise to this effort (instutional affiliations are provided for identification purposes only and do not indicate endorsements):

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

  • Joseph Cirrincione, Ploughshares
  • Charles D. Ferguson, Federation of American Scientists
  • Christopher Ford, Hudson Institute
  • Jon B. Wofstahl, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
  • Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations

Armed Conflict:

  • Shep Forman, Center on International Cooperation, New York University
  • Alison Giffen, Future of Peace Operations Program, Stimson Center
  • Richard Gowan, Center on International Cooperation, New York University
  • Ian Johnstone, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University
  • Bruce Jones, Center on International Cooperation, New York University
  • Robert Lamb, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Paul B. Stares, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Paul Williams, George Washington University
  • Micah Zenko, Council on Foreign Relations


  • James Forest, U.S. Military Academy
  • Bruce Hoffman, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University
  • Matt Levitt, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
  • Alistair Millar, Center on Global Counterterrorism Cooperation
  • Marisa Porges, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  • Celina Realuyo, Center for Security Studies, Georgetown University, and CBR Global Advisors LLC
  • Pir Shah, Council on Foreign Relations

Climate Change:

  • Joshua Busby, University of Texas, Austin
  • Maria Ivanova, University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Michael Levi, Council on Foreign Relations
  • David Runnalls, Centre for International Governance Innovation
  • Michael Wolosin, Climate Advisers

Public Health:

  • Katherine Bliss, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Jean-Paul Chretien, U.S. Navy Medical Corps
  • Harley Feldbaum, National Security Council
  • David Fidler, University of Indiana
  • Laurie Garrett, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Yanzhong Huang, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Rebeecca Katz, George Washington University
  • Kelley Lee, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
  • J. Steven Morrison, Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Devi Sridhar, University of Oxford


  • Whitney Debevoise, Arnold & Porter LLP
  • Sebastian Mallaby, Council on Foreign Relations
  • Douglas Rediker, New America Foundation

Generalist Reviewers from the European Union Institute for Strategic Studies:

  • William W. Burke-White, University of Pennsylvania Law School
  • Mathew Burrows, National Intelligence Council
  • Alvaro de Vasconcelos, Institute for Security Studies
  • Y. Atila Eralp, Middle East Technical University
  • Gelson Fonseca Jr. Permanent Mission of Brazil to the United Nations
  • Radha Kumar, Delhi Policy Group
  • Luis Peral, European Union
  • Maria Joao Rodrigues, Universite Libre de Bruxelles
  • Mario Telo, Universite Libre de Bruxelles
  • Makarim Wibisono, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Nations
  • Hoda Youssef, Princeton University

Personally, I would also like to thank my terrific IIGG staff, present and past, for their tireless efforts to produce the report card and its accompanying backgrounders. I owe an enormous debt to IIGG Associate Director Farah Thaler, to Program Coordinators Isabella Bennett and Alexandra Kerr, and to Research Associates Emma Welch, Andrew Reddie, Ryan Kaminski, and Jeffrey Wright. Kaysie Brown offered invaluable advice as a consultant to the project. The CFR Publications staff, including Patricia Dorff, Lia Norton, and Ashley Bregman, provided careful editorial support. Andrei Henry worked with our colleagues at Threespot to ensure a polished final product. I also thank CFR Director of Studies James M. Lindsay for his editorial input, and CFR President Richard N. Haass for his enthusiasm for this project from its inception.

My final thanks go to the board of the Robina Foundation, which has funded the IIGG program since its establishment five years ago. Neither the Global Governance Report Cards nor any other of the many IIGG meetings, products, and initiatives would have been possible without this generous and ongoing financial support. We are grateful for this trust.

I welcome your comments on the Global Governance Report Cards. Please write to us at iiggstudies@cfr.org.

Stewart Patrick, Senior Fellow and Director of the International Institutions and Global Governance Program, Council on Foreign Relations

To learn more about the IIGG program, visit www.cfr.org/iigg.