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Introduction: The Power of Global Performance Indicators

  • Judith G. Kelley and Beth A. Simmons

Abstract

In recent decades, IGOs, NGOs, private firms and even states have begun to regularly package and distribute information on the relative performance of states. From the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index to the Financial Action Task Force blacklist, global performance indicators (GPIs) are increasingly deployed to influence governance globally. We argue that GPIs derive influence from their ability to frame issues, extend the authority of the creator, and — most importantly — to invoke recurrent comparison that stimulates governments' concerns for their own and their country's reputation. Their public and ongoing ratings and rankings of states are particularly adept at capturing attention not only at elite policy levels but also among other domestic and transnational actors. GPIs thus raise new questions for research on politics and governance globally. What are the social and political effects of this form of information on discourse, policies and behavior? What types of actors can effectively wield GPIs and on what types of issues? In this symposium introduction, we define GPIs, describe their rise, and theorize and discuss these questions in light of the findings of the symposium contributions.

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