The 17 best-governed countries in the world

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The Legatum Institute, a policy research group, has released its annual "Global Prosperity Index," a major survey that ranks countries based on factors including national wealth, education levels, and safety.

One key factor the survey considers is governance, which is broken down into three categories: effective governance, democracy and political participation, and the rule of law. Legatum measured these variables by considering things like voter turnout, legislative independence, and the number of women in parliament.

While European countries dominate the list, there is also room for a handful of countries on the other side of the Atlantic.

Take a look at the countries that made the top of the list.

17. Japan — Japan is the only Asian country to make it into top 17 countries for governance. It functions under a constitutional monarchy where the Emperor serves mainly ceremonial duties.

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(Wikimedia)

16. Belgium — As well as being as the headquarters of the EU and NATO, Belgium is ranked as one of the best-governed countries on Earth. It functions under a federal political system, whereby regions have significant powers.

15. Austria — The German-speaking country is a non-mover, having come 15th in Legatum's last index. It is due to elect a new president in December.

14. Ireland — Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The parliament is referred to as the Oireachtas and is headed by an elected leader known as the Taoiseach.

13. Australia — Australia is one of the few non-European states to make the top 17. It has dropped three places since last year's rankings.

12. Iceland —with a population of just over 320,000 people, the Nordic island nation is in Legatum's top 17 countries for governance for the second year running.

11. United Kingdom — One of the oldest democracies in the world, the United Kingdom just misses out on the top 10. Members of Parliament meet at Westminster, London.

10. Germany — The west European state is a major power-broker in the European Union and ranks highly for governance as an independent entity too. It also ranked highly for economic quality and natural environment.

9. Canada — The country in the northern half of North America makes the list, while its neighbour the USA does not. Canada is currently led by liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

8. Luxembourg — Famous among other things for being a tax haven, Luxembourg scores highly in the governance index. It comes first for personal freedom and health, making it one of the highest-scoring on the overall index.

7. Denmark — Denmark comes high up the list, although behind several of its Scandinavian counterparts. Its national parliament is called the Folketing, which translates as 'the people's thing.'

6. Switzerland — The federal European republic comes first on the list for education, but also ranks highly for governance. Its parliament has two chambers, and all 246 members of both houses' chambers are directly elected by the people.

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(Wikipedia / CC 3.0)

5. Sweden —Sweden has fallen one place since last year's index but still ranks as one of the best-governed countries on Earth.

4. Netherlands —The small western European country comes high up the list. The Hague, where its parliament sits, is home to over 150 international organisations, including the International Criminal Court.

3. Norway — The Scandinavian nation ranks higher in governance than in any other sub-index. Its parliament building, where Prime Minister Erna Solberg currently leads, 'the Stortinget,' translates as 'the great thing' or 'the great council.'

2. New Zealand — The island nation in the Pacific Ocean is runner-up for the second year in a row. It also ranked highly for its open market, freedom, and strong sense of society.

1. Finland — Perhaps unsurprisingly, a Nordic state tops the list. Finland tops the list, climbing four places from last year's index. The country's current prime minister is Juha Sipilä.

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(Wikipedia / CC 3.0)

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