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Christian Friis Bach

Bach's Blog

The Executive Secretary's Blog

The good country

I look forward to celebrating Christmas with my family in Denmark because it is a nice time to be together and also because Christmas is the time of the year when we remind each other to do good deeds and act as good friends, good family members and good citizens. This is something all major religions of the world teach us. And this message seems more important now than for a very long time.

The world is experiencing a spiral of negative events. It is plagued by significant tensions, severe conflicts and by lack of trust and solidarity. Key politicians in the world and even state leaders, talk about withdrawing from international and regional agreements, from the United Nations, from regional and international conventions and courts. All over the world we hear world leaders talking about the need to put “their country first”. Too few are talking about putting “the world first”. When it comes to international cooperation, the red warning lights are flashing still stronger.

We are at a crucial point in time. Because solutions cannot be found at national level only. We are facing rising inequality, a climate crisis, conflicts, terror, migration and refugee flows. There is a need for significantly stronger international cooperation. And there is need for a significant defense of the international cooperation that we have already.

Some of the terrorist groups have as their stated goal, "to scare and terrorize until all neighbors fear each other." There are worrying signs that it works. There are more hateful words and actions among neighbors. There are more tensions and less cooperation between neighboring countries. But terror must not succeed. Our strongest defense is to be good neighbors and show that we stand together, work together and trust each other.

I do not want to preach although I am a believer. But I do believe that the good can unite us and be our strength. Svend Brinkman, a Danish Professor of Psychology, has wisely said that the crucial question is: How can you be a good person? He even says that all other questions, in a way, are subordinate to that question. For me, the same is true for a country. The crucial question should be: How can a country become a good country? A country that contributes to a better world. It is a crucial question.

Some scientists are trying to answer that question. An index compiled by international political advisor Simon Anholt ranks countries according to how "good" they are. Anholt argues, based on polls around the world, that being a "good country" is crucial for a country's reputation, influence and ultimately economic success. To do well as a country, a country should be a good country.

This is a positive conclusion, but I maintain that it is important for a country to be a good country, even if this does not in the short run translate into visible benefits and serve its self-interests. Being a good country carries a value in itself.

However, being a good country requires a sustained effort. It does not happen by itself, as history has shown us. It will require a sustained effort to break the negative spiral we are in, to build trust between people and countries and to find common and good solutions to the world's major challenges.

With the Sustainable Development Goals, we have found common solutions. The 17 goals, 169 targets and 230 indicators are a comprehensive vision for how we can solve the significant challenges facing the world. They are our best hope for a better world. They describe a vision for the good country.

Christmas in Denmark is also a time for good wishes. I wish that all countries of the world will implement the Sustainable Development Goals. This will ensure a crucial, necessary and sustainable transformation of the world. This will make the world a much better place to live in. And remember, the goals are not for the other countries, or for next year. They are for everyone, and they are for today.


I wish you all a peaceful and prosperous new year.


If you wonder why the animal accompanying my blog is a cow, it is because cows are fascinating animals; the cows of our host country, Switzerland, are famous for their quality; and because I am still a farmer, and miss the cows I had in Denmark. Now I got one back.