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About this book

This volume brings together both academic and institutional perspectives to examine the production, use and contestation of indicators in global governance. It provides a unique and comprehensive guide to the latest research in the study of indicators and their use in global governance and policy making. The editors provide a guide to the recent vast body of literature and practice on measuring governance and measurement as governance at the global level, and present a state-of-the-art analysis of social science research on indicators at both the transnational and the global level. The Handbook brings together scholars from a variety of disciplines and perspectives, as well as policy-makers from international organisations and non-government organisations working in the field. This volume will be a valuable resource for students and academics in the fields of public policy, administration and management, international relations, political science, law, and globalisation, as well as policy makers and practitioners.

Table of Contents


1. Introduction: Of Numbers and Narratives—Indicators in Global Governance and the Rise of a Reflexive Indicator Culture

There is a pervasive sense in which we seem to be living under a new avalanche of numbers, and in particular an avalanche of indicators beyond the state and purporting to create knowledge on a global scale. As much as our indicator culture engenders a “faith in numbers”, the very expansion of the power of numbers and their role in (global) governance over the last 20 years has brought with it a heightened sense that quantification, indicators, and rankings are a way of doing politics that must be engaged with from within and without the specific disciplinary knowledge (such as statistics and econometrics) that underwrite their claims to objectivity. The chapters collected in this Handbook aim to capture the contemporary indicator culture, with all its discordant and contrasting orientations. The present introductory chapter considers three main dimensions. First, no chapter in the Handbook adopts a naively metrological understanding of indicators as simply “measuring” reality. Second, the normativity of measurement is a consistent theme of the contributions by both scholars and practitioners. Third, despite their popularity and seeming capacity to shape debates, the power of indicators remains highly contextual and dependent on how they are enrolled in particular, situated, networks of actors and influence.
Nehal Bhuta, Debora Valentina Malito, Gaby Umbach

Conceptualising and Contextualising Indicators as Instruments of (Global) Governance


2. Good Governance: Measuring the Performance of Governments

Precise measurements of governance as a whole, and of governance separated into its component parts, permit researchers and policy-makers to separate good performers from bad performers, regionally and globally. Carefully and painstakingly measuring governance by the outcome method can show whether regimes are delivering necessary and desirable governmentally provided performance results to their citizens. This concept of governance enables an existing government, civil society, or donors to appreciate which parts of an overall system are working well and which poorly. Critical decisions can thus be made that can, in the best of circumstances, improve living conditions for the inhabitants of the developing world.
Robert I. Rotberg

3. How International Rankings Constitute and Limit Our Understanding of Global Governance Challenges: The Case of Corruption

This chapter investigates the analytically distorting effects sustained by international corruption rankings of treating corruption as a phenomenon bounded within national units. It questions the resulting understanding that corruption is disproportionately a problem of the developing world, characterised by direct unmediated transfers between bribe-givers and bribe-takers. Instead, the chapter offers a more transnational networked perspective on corruption, premised on the importance of professional intermediaries in facilitating illicit finance, the blurring of legal and illegal capital flows, and the globalisation of the individual via multiple claims of residence and citizenship. These trends are evidenced by a survey of the main components of the relevant transnational networks (shell companies, foreign real estate, and investor citizenship programmes). The chapter also includes a vignette study of the transnational dimensions of corruption involving Chinese individuals and the corresponding response of the Chinese government in internationalising its law enforcement strategies.
Alexander Cooley

4. Measuring Governance As If Institutions Matter: A Proposal

Given governance is still a hazy concept, the chapter goes back to the fundamentals that enable collective action trying to understand good governance as the result of quality institutions shaping social interaction in the public realm. Going beyond available indicators, the chapter wants to provide some sound criteria for measuring the quality of institutions and, by doing so, to investigate governance. At this aim, the chapter, first, presents the criteria that should define the quality of institutions; second, provides empirical evidence of the explanatory capacity of the suggested criteria; and, third, provides some practical procedures and examples that can be useful to transform the analytical approach into governance indicators. The chapter concludes with some policy implications drawn from the analysis.
José Antonio Alonso, Carlos Garcimartín

5. The Creative Disorder of Measuring Governance and Stateness

Measures of governance and stateness have grown substantially in number over the recent decade and gained greater importance in building public discourses and orienting decision-making. Yet there seems to be little agreement on what exactly these measures represent. This paper claims that the proliferation of metrics can only be understood against the conceptual hybridity and indeterminacy in which the notions of governance and stateness have in recent decades become increasingly entangled. In sum, the nébuleuse of governance metrics reflects the nébuleuse of governing actors and structures informing this process. To frame this “creative disorder”, the first part of the chapter introduces the current debate on measuring governance and stateness. It then explores the semantic fields of the two concepts, while the third one provides an overview on existing measures and methodological questions. The fourth part explores normative demands and policy prescriptions linked to this production. The fifth section analyses in depth three different measures: The Rule of Law Index (RoLI), the Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGIs), and the State Fragility Index (SFI). The sixth part concludes by summarising the relevance of exploring both conceptual and normative challenges in production of these measures.
Debora Valentina Malito

6. Sustainability, Sustainability Assessment, and the Place of Fiscal Sustainability

Although the societal discourse on sustainable development has become more and more prominent and agenda setting, the scholarly work on it is still highly diverse. This is why the chapter steps back first to position the topic within the broader scientific discourse on sustainable development. An outline of the most influential sustainability conceptions is given to get options for discussing fiscal sustainability. As “sustainable” is understood as an evaluative term for development, the chapter takes account of methodological foundations for sustainability assessment as a second step. The chapter finally argues that fiscal sustainability should be treated as a part of the broader sustainability discourse as it is about “ensuring the state’s action and reaction potential”. However, it deals with an instrumental, not an intrinsic, good.
Paul Burger

7. Measuring Governance: Revisiting the Uses of Corruption and Transparency Indicators

Over the past two decades, there has been significant progress in the development of indices that are used to measure the quality of governance, including important dimensions such as corruption and transparency. This chapter looks at the indicators most commonly used by development practitioners, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) and the World Governance Indicators (WGIs), as well as some of the more recent indices. It reviews the purposes that such indicators typically serve and the conceptual and methodological challenges that surround their use. It discusses their historical evolution and the ways in which such indicators should (and should not) be used. The chapter concludes by noting that, while there are inherent constraints on the degree of precision that can be expected from such indices, more traditional approaches, such as the CPI and the WGIs, provide a rough and cost-effective first approximation that can be used to assess the severity of problems. Newer second-generation analytical tools, such as the Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability (PEFA) assessments, can provide more nuanced and granular information about specific government functions. Taken together, these indices provide practitioners with a useful platform on which to begin developing reform action plans—with the understanding that specific programmes will always need to be highly contextual and tailored to specific political and bureaucratic environments to be effective.
Robert P. Beschel

Making Measures


8. Understanding Governance and Corruption Using Survey Data: A Novel Approach and Its Applications in Policy and Research

Cross-country evidence has shown the negative impact of poor governance and corruption on citizens and business people. Researchers and practitioners, however, need more disaggregated data for policy design, implementation, and monitoring. This chapter introduces an alternative methodology that allows institutions to be measured in a more disaggregated way using survey data to create indicators at the agency and sub-national levels. The experiential data used also allows the evaluation of the degree of implementation of regulations within public agencies rather than their quality. The chapter discusses two research applications that have shed light on the links between the quality of institutions, service delivery, and corruption. It also provides an overview of selected cases where these indicators have supported policy-makers in the design of governance reforms.
Francesca Recanatini

9. Government at a Glance: A Dashboard Approach to Indicators

This chapter presents the OECD Government at a Glance (G@G) project and its approach to measuring the performance of public administrations across OECD member countries. It argues that the lack of consensus about and the complexity of conceptualising what represents “good governance” require a dashboard approach to indicator development rather than large aggregated measures. Using a set of key criteria, it assesses the relevance (understood here as the extent to which indicators are action worthy, actionable, and behavioural) and robustness (in terms of validity and reliability) of the indicators presented every 2 years in the G@G publication. Although this assessment reveals that not all the indicators meet the highest standards of relevance and robustness, the work carried out by the OECD Secretariat in collaboration with working parties and expert groups aims to improve the quality of all the measures presented in G@G over the years, in particular by increasingly using OECD instruments (principles, recommendations, charters) as a solid theoretical basis for indicator development to inform public sector reforms in member countries.
Guillaume Lafortune, Santiago Gonzalez, Zsuzsanna Lonti

10. The European Commission’s Fiscal Sustainability Indicators and Their Use in the EU’s Integrated Cycle of Economic Policy Coordination

The chapter presents a discussion on the indicators used by the European Commission to assess fiscal sustainability in EU Member States. In the context of the European Commission’s multi-dimensional approach to fiscal sustainability analysis, the fiscal sustainability indicators S0, S1 and S2 are designed to allow for the early identification of sustainability challenges over the short, medium and long term, so as to support the devise of appropriate policy responses. The chapter provides an analysis of the genesis of the indicators, detailing the reasons for their introduction and modification towards their current definition. A concrete example of their use in policy analysis is provided, together with a broader explanation of how these tools provide input to the EU’s integrated cycle of economic policy coordination.
Katia Berti

11. Measuring the Rule of Law: The World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index

This chapter describes the process through which the World Justice Project created the methodology for the WJP Rule of Law Index, a quantitative tool designed to provide a comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice. It highlights the process of developing each of the Index’s composite indicators and explores the broader contextual, methodological, and political issues that were taken into consideration. Finally, to provide insights into the way that the use of these indicators has impacted the understanding of the rule of law, it will detail how stakeholders have responded to the Index and its findings.
Alyssa Dougherty, Amy Gryskiewicz, Alejandro Ponce

12. Measuring the Opposite of Corruption: The Evolution of Governance Indicators at Global Integrity

This chapter explains why Global Integrity, an independent non-profit organisation best known for its Global Integrity Report, started working on indicator-based integrity assessments, how its approach and methodology have evolved over the last decade and the linkages to broader developments in the field of governance measurement. In addition, the chapter lays out the reasons why Global Integrity has revised its organisational strategy and the resulting implications for on-going and future data projects. The authors—the former and current directors of research at Global Integrity—walk readers through three main stages in this evolution. The first stage involves Global Integrity’s origins and the gap that the Global Integrity Report came to fill in the governance measurement field in the 2000s. In the second stage, Global Integrity iteratively enhanced its methodology and refocused its aim, effectively shifting from a traditional expert assessment to a “fact-based expert analysis”, and expanded into new regional and sector assessments. In the third stage, Global Integrity’s growing concerns about the overall impact of its data resulted in the organisation re-evaluating its theory of change and revising some of its core assumptions about how governance reform happens and how measurements can contribute. This has resulted in an effort to better understand and support the use and usefulness of data at the country level and to rethink the role that external “best-practice” benchmarks play vis-à-vis locally defined “best-fit” benchmarks, re-orienting the organisation towards exploring how adaptive learning can contribute to supporting domestic stakeholders in driving governance reform.
Hazel Feigenblatt, Johannes Tonn

13. Developing an Indicator of Fiscal Sustainability for Africa

The experience of extreme macroeconomic instability in Africa has its origin in the inability to control fiscal dynamics and the effect that this has had on the overall policy stance. African countries are heavily dependent on volatile revenues (from aid, oil, exports, a small tax base) to finance their relatively huge total expenditure, making their budget vulnerable to fiscal shocks. This poses a serious threat both to the sustainability of the continent’s budget and to its macroeconomic stability. Oil and commodity windfalls and aid surges induce government spending that is difficult to retrench when these sources of revenue experience negative shocks, distorting government budget allocation patterns, cohesion, and stability, and increase deficits and debt stock that has often created an unfavourable environment for monetary policy. In the presence of such a highly volatile environment, current figures for revenues, expenditures, and the fiscal balances will convey a rather misleading picture of the underlying fiscal situation. Developing fiscal indicators which may provide a more reliable picture of the underlying sustainability of current fiscal policy is of paramount important. In 2004, Nigeria introduced an oil-price-based rule to deal with the revenue volatility challenge. The aim of the rule is to smooth government expenditure. The oil-price rule is designed to benchmark overall fiscal performance and the sustainability of public finances. In this chapter, we analyse the case of Nigeria’s post-2004 data to guide the development of fiscal sustainability indicators in economies with highly uncertain fiscal revenues such as Africa. In particular, we look at whether the oil-price-based rule is able to adequately address the macroeconomic conditions that affect fiscal sustainability in Africa.
Moses Obinyeluaku

14. Moving Beyond Traditional Indicators of Fiscal Sustainability: Examples from Locally Chosen Indicators

This chapter examines fiscal sustainability in the context of sustainable development and the capital stocks that are critical to maintaining economic capacity. New indicators consistent with sustainable development are presented, drawing from local indicator projects around the world. While the ratio of national debt to national income (debt/GNI) is often used as a measure of fiscal sustainability, reliance on a single indicator raises the potential for selection bias. Since goals and indicators affect the conceptual framework within which policy is developed, an incorrect or incomplete indicator can interfere with adequately maintaining economic capacity or economic activity. A more comprehensive set of indicators would show the link between future spending needs and investment made in the present.
Daphne T. Greenwood

Applying Measures: The Use and the Impact of Indicators as Instruments of (Global) Governance


15. Corruption Indicators in Local Political Landscapes: Reflections from Albania

Recent work by an interdisciplinary community of scholars has brought attention to the politics and economics of the production and deployment of indicators on a wide range of issues—from human rights and the rule of law to health care and climate change. Working alongside this literature, this chapter looks into the production and circulation of corruption indicators as powerful sources of expertise and as means of global and local governance. The focus of the chapter is a corruption indicator produced in Albania, a country that over the past 25 years has depended on international development aid and has eagerly (but to this day unsuccessfully) tried to join the European Union. The chapter traces the production and circulation of this indicator among a heterogeneous network of actors—governmental bodies, international organisations, local research centres, and global consultants—and its intended and unintended uses by various political actors on the ground. More specifically, the chapter traces the uses of this indicator as a source of expertise in discussions and decision-making around key court cases of alleged high-level corruption and on the ongoing judicial reform.
Smoki Musaraj

16. Activism Through Numbers? The Corruption Perception Index and the Use of Indicators by Civil Society Organisations

How is civil society activism affected by the use of indicators? This chapter studies one of the best-known civil society efforts at quantification: The Corruption Perception Index (CPI), developed by Transparency International (TI). It argues that indicators open new avenues of activism and persuasion for civil society organisations, while at the same time imposing important costs that may, on occasion, balance the scales against their use.
René Urueña

17. Measuring Corruption in India: Work in Slow Progress

While corruption has been thrust to the centre stage in India in recent years, no government institution has been entrusted the responsibility for measuring corruption or its effects. While civil society has focussed on the larger context of accountability in service delivery, their approach has been typically focussed narrowly on individual sectors or services. As India’s legal frameworks for tackling corruption are in a state of transition, it would be timely to translate the relatively higher energy in the evaluation of service delivery efforts into a more pointed effort to track corruption. The challenge is to develop a range of survey methodologies to measure corruption and build capacities to undertake these reliable measurements and record the changes over time in the character and nature of corruption in India.
T. R. Raghunandan

18. Ranking Countries for Good Governance Using Public Opinion Surveys

A large majority of the well-known governance indicators are based on the opinions of external experts. However, they do not fully capture how citizens perceive the governance environment and outcomes in their countries. This chapter discusses the advantages of a uniform and consistent framework for measuring governance quality across countries and over time based on evaluations by citizens, and the related challenges. We implement this framework in practice using data from the World Values Survey and provide a worldwide ranking of countries based on how citizens perceive the governance quality in their own countries. We further discuss how to correct the resulting citizen-centric governance indicators (CGI) for biases that could potentially be present in public opinion surveys, and the possible use of these indicators in policy-making.
Maksym Ivanyna, Anwar Shah

19. Analysing the Use of Sustainability Indicators

Teasing apart the “use” of sustainability indicators (SIs) is a challenging field of study, and one that is still relatively underexplored. A recent EU-funded research project entitled “Policy Influence of Indicators” (POINT) had this as part of its focus, but there is still much space that needs to be explored. Analysing the “use” or indeed “influence” of SIs in policy and other contexts is challenging for a number of reasons, not least of which is the difficulty in separating out any impact of SIs from the myriad of other influences that may be at play. A further concern is the meaning of “use”, a term that can be highly malleable. As a first step towards an empirically based analysis, one could look at the reporting of an SI by the media, a group that can be presumed to have some influence over the general public and indeed civil servants, politicians and so on. This is, however, a complex two-way relationship, as the media is, in turn, influenced by these same groups, but it seems reasonable to assume that if the media “uses” an SI in its reporting, then that is a measure of “success”, even if a limited one. Hence, the aim of the research reported in this chapter is to explore the use of SIs by global newspapers and to see whether SIs linked to fiscal sustainability are more prominent in this regard. The results suggest that many factors are at play in the “use” of SIs in the press (as measured by both the number of articles and the diversity of reporting), and these are discussed along with lessons for SI developers.
Stephen Morse

20. Sustainability of Public Debt: A Dangerous Obsession?

Public debt sustainability has become a major concern since 2010. The Great Recession has indeed pushed public debt to historically high levels in peacetime. Doubts have been raised about the risk of insolvency for some governments in the euro area (notably Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain) triggering a rise in sovereign debt yields. Relying on indicators to gauge the ability of governments to meet their obligations is therefore crucial. Currently, the most widely used indicators to assess public debt sustainability are based on the intertemporal budget constraint of the government. The debt-dynamic relation provides an accounting view of sustainability, which is discussed in the first part of this chapter. It is emphasised that the construction of these indicators of sustainability critically hinges on hypotheses regarding the interest rate and the long-term growth. However, there is considerable uncertainty on these variables, as is stressed in the second part. On the one hand, interest rate on debt may be highly volatile in the short run, and governments may face a liquidity squeeze. During panics, it is hard to disentangle liquidity problems from solvency problems. On the other hand, a choice must be made about the GDP growth rate. It may be low in the short run in times of crisis, reducing sustainability, while it is subject to more uncertainty in the long run, depending on present and future policy changes. Moreover, it raises endogeneity issues, which are discussed in the third part. Consolidation is one option, but it may worsen debt sustainability if fiscal multipliers are high and if hysteresis effects of consolidation are significant. Assessing fiscal sustainability is therefore a tricky issue as the indicators used to assess it are fragile. Hence, policy-makers should not give too much importance to them. The fact remains that most European countries have to cope with high public debt and the risk of “unsustainability”. This may require alternative policy options. Monetary policy can play a role, and coordination between monetary policy and fiscal policy should be enhanced.
Christophe Blot

21. Measuring the World: Indicators, Human Rights, and Global Governance

Indicators are rapidly multiplying as tools for assessing and promoting a variety of social justice and reform strategies around the world. There are rule of law indicators, indicators of violence against women, and indicators of economic development, among many others. Indicators are widely used at the national level and are increasingly important in global governance. There are increasing demands for “evidence-based” funding for non-governmental organizations and that the results of civil society organizations to be quantifiable and measurable. The reliance on simplified numerical representations of complex phenomena began in strategies of national governance and economic analysis and has recently migrated to the regulation of non-governmental organizations and human rights. The turn to indicators in the field of global governance introduces a new form of knowledge production with implications for relations of power between rich and poor nations and governments and civil society. The deployment of statistical measures tends to replace political debate with technical expertise. The growing reliance on indicators provides an example of the dissemination of the corporate form of thinking and governance into broader social spheres.
Sally Engle Merry

22. Conclusions: Knowing and Governing

Measuring is a way of doing politics. Scholars and practitioners, who contributed to this Handbook, agreed that measuring mattered because of its instrumentality in governing. They however came to contrasting conclusions about the way forward and the volume therefore reflected this variety of discordant interpretations. Some contributions contested the effectiveness of the existing indicator culture and addressed methodological solutions inspired by standards of scientific objectivity, like a focus on performance indicators or institutional quality dimensions, improved techniques, internal validity, and reliability. Others were critical about the contemporary indicator culture because of normative premises, as well as intended and unintended consequences, ranging from the creation of distorted ontologies of the real, and the instrumental, conceptual hybridity in serving the pervasiveness of the neo-liberal paradigm of governance and the simplification of social complexity, over the external interference in the legitimacy of domestic policy decision-making, to the dissemination of corporate governance mechanisms. Many contributors proposed solutions that in their view better suited the decentralisation of governance. Their chapters did not demand pure mechanical objectivity but rather a better transformation of politics into metrics through locally embedded, disaggregated, micro-level, country-specific data and systems of knowledge creation.
Debora Valentina Malito, Nehal Bhuta, Gaby Umbach


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