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Throughout the past two decades, the demand for social science indicators to quantify the performance of various institutions has increased dramatically. These indicators seek to address the concerns of policymaking and public audiences by operationalizing such complex, multi-dimensional concepts as governance, access to justice, corruption, and the rule of law, to name a few.
The increased demand for institutional indicators has led to a proliferation of indices. This special issue of the Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, entirely dedicated to measurement of institutional indicators across countries, represents the outcome of a collaborative effort between the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law (HiiL) and The World Justice Project (WJP). In August 2010, these institutions convened in Washington, DC, a seminar with some of the leading researchers and indicator developers in the fields of governance, corruption, and access to justice. The goal of the seminar was to facilitate an open conversation about the need for, and the limitations of, cross-country institutional indicators. Presentations made at this seminar have been turned into papers for this special issue.
Empirical indicators are widely used in both developing and developed countries to assess the performance of justice systems. Most existing indicator initiatives base their findings on expert surveys, document reviews, administrative data, or public surveys. While each of these data sources is suited to the measurement of particular facets of justice system performance, reliance on just one or two sources of information can introduce systematic bias, distorting the results of assessments. This paper discusses the strengths and weaknesses of each of the commonly used types of indicator data and describes an approach that uses clusters of indicators drawn from multiple sources. This method can reflect the complex and multi-faceted nature of justice systems while including checks on the biases inherent in individual data sources. The paper concludes with a discussion of the strengths and drawbacks of this method compared to approaches more commonly adopted by existing indicator initiatives.
In recent years, The Asia Foundation (The Foundation) has conducted a series of Economic Governance Indexes (EGIs) in countries throughout South and Southeast Asia including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia. EGIs are country-specific diagnostic tools used to assess and rank sub-national units (provinces, states, districts, etc.) on various aspects of their regulatory environments.
This article reviews the basic theoretical and programmatic rationale for the EGI. The overall rationale for this tool stems from the idea that economic governance impacts private sector development – independent of structural endowments such as location, infrastructure, and human capital. Therefore, good economic governance practices explain why some sub-national units out-perform others in spite of having similar initial endowments. EGIs have become an important tool to provide relevant economic governance information to policy makers, business leaders and citizens. Examining the methodological principles underlying the index approach, this article also describes how the three primary EGI methodological elements anticipate potential pitfalls and how they have been addressed within the methodology.
This paper summarizes the methodology of the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) project, and related analytical issues. The WGI has covered over two hundred countries and territories, measuring six dimensions of governance starting in 1996: Voice and Accountability, Political Stability and Absence of Violence/Terrorism, Government Effectiveness, Regulatory Quality, Rule of Law, and Control of Corruption. The aggregate indicators are based on several hundred individual underlying variables, taken from a wide variety of existing data sources. The data reflect the views on governance of survey respondents and public, private, and NGO sector experts worldwide. We also explicitly report margins of error accompanying each country estimate. These reflect the inherent difficulties in measuring governance using any kind of data. We find that even after taking margins of error into account, the WGI permit meaningful cross-country and over-time comparisons. The aggregate indicators, together with the disaggregated underlying source data, are available at <www.govindicators.org>.
Multidimensional measures (composite indicators, indices, ratings, league tables) can effectively underpin the development of data-driven narratives in support to policy. A controversy surrounds the use of these measures. We review some good and bad practices from the recent literature. We then discuss briefly a decalogue to develop a multidimensional measure. We argue in favor of a multi-modeling approach to represent different scenarios in the construction of an aggregate measure prior to drawing recommendations for policy making. Finally, we try to establish a link between the analytic use of well-designed aggregate measures and the development of a robust culture of evaluation of policies based on evidence. An application of these concepts and tools to the Rule of Law index developed by the World Justice Project is given.
The recent demand for new measures of the rule of law confronts several methodological challenges. This article calls for careful attention to fundamental social science ideas of conceptualization and measurement in approaching the rule of law. Efforts to measure complex social phenomena such as the rule of law are challenging, and thus require that researchers and policy makers pay attention to the cautionary rules of social science in their efforts. Violating these basic rules risks producing measures that are not reliable or valid, and could be a bad basis for policymaking. This paper demonstrates some of the pitfalls that rule of law researchers have fallen into and suggests improvements in measurement approaches.
Efforts to measure the rule of law trigger a process of clarifying how the rule of law impacts people's lives. Accountability emerges as a key element of the rule of law. Nowadays, accountability is created through courts and by countless other forums, including the court of public opinion. Legal pluralism is common: the standards for accountability can be norms from local, national and international levels, set by public or private organizations, formal as well as informal. Measuring the status and progress in the field of rule of law would then require investigating what these accountability mechanisms jointly produce, working together and competing with each other. But how can this be established?
Inspired by developments in the health care sector, this paper suggests focusing on specific problems and the way they are resolved. Legal needs studies and crime surveys suggest a classification of problems for which accountability is frequently sought. This can be extended to other areas of governance. These studies also gather data about the incidence of problems and which forums are actually addressed for accountability. Sophisticated client satisfaction surveys now monitor whether this leads to fair and acceptable results. Evidence based treatments for some legal problems are also developing. The rule of law in a country may eventually be measured as the capacity to prevent and resolve the most urgent problems. Interventions can focus on specific, urgent problems, opt for the best available ‘treatments’ and measure progress systematically.
This article reviews the utility of global indices and indicators of judicial performance and quality from the standpoint of those designing and implementing country reforms. It argues that despite the recurrent interest of donors in sponsoring these global systems, they are of limited use for reformers because 1) they operate at too high a level; 2) they consequently fail to capture the types of changes promoted by reform; and 3) they are too easily ‘gamed.’ A more significant drawback however is their likely discouragement of efforts to develop in-country management information systems, or databases on key events in case processing that could be used to generate more reform-specific measures. Donors must bear part of the responsibility here as their financing of court and sector-wide automation has overlooked this need as well.
The link between efficient and well-functioning institutions and the economic development of a country has become the core of the good governance effort. The focus on transparency and accountability as a means of improving those processes stems from a belief that well-designed underlying institutional arrangements for particular governance systems, i.e., rules of the game, along with a strengthening of organizational capacity to achieve mandates, can lead to better governance outcomes. This is particularly true in combination with regular monitoring of performance and publication of findings, so that citizens and policymakers can be in a position to make informed judgments about how these systems are functioning. This paper will begin with a discussion of aggregate indicators of governance, outlining both advantages and drawbacks to broad measurement approaches. It will then introduce a complementary approach to governance measurement that shifts the focus from broad concepts to actual governance mechanisms, but will also caution against simplistic divisions among types of indicators. Following that will be a discussion on the nature of actionability and its relationship to reform efforts, and an explanation of how actionable governance indicators (AGIs) can provide detailed information on the design, capacities, performance, and immediate impacts of governance systems. Finally, the paper will present scenarios in which actionable governance indicators were developed to capture information on: 1) the legal frameworks of income and asset disclosure, and 2) the implementation of disclosure systems. Data from both initiatives will be presented, along with the indicators.
Legal problems and justice needs are similar in different jurisdictions and different locations. Processes for resolving them, as well as rules determining outcomes, however, vary widely. Measuring the price (costs) and quality of such ‘paths to justice’ from the perspective of the user is likely to enhance users' choice, enable comparison and learning, to increase transparency, and to create incentives for improving access to justice. This paper discusses the contours of a methodology for this purpose and of some concrete tools for measuring costs, procedural quality, and outcome quality. Conceptualization of a path to justice, criteria and items included in the measurement framework, as well as different data collection methods, are presented. Experiences from two pilot studies give insight into the challenges that lie ahead, and in the potential uses of the (developing) measurement methodology.
In 2010, the World Bank and the Department for International Development (DFID) funded and orchestrated an initiative to develop a tool to monitor corruption performance in Uganda on an ongoing basis. By basing operations in a local university-based research center and engaging the Inspectorate General of Government to manage the project, the tool is becoming the responsibility of national stakeholders, including the government. The local university research center is working with government to improve government collection of sectoral and functional anti-corruption data. In addition, evidence-based international corruption data has been incorporated into the public discussion on corruption. Donors continue to play an important role – funding the project launch, and providing ongoing guidance and support to engage executive agencies, Parliament, NGOs, and the media. The project has had some positive and unexpected results. While the project remains in early stages, there are signs that this gradual, data-driven approach is deepening the public dialogue on corruption and creating an important consensus for anti-corruption reform.