Botswana Speaks blog

How to Measure a Post-2015 MDG on Good Governance

According to an article published on Global Integrity , there’s been plenty of chatter in recent months about a possible post-2015 Millennium Development Goal on governance following the release of the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The report called out “good governance and effective institutions” as one of 12 “illustrative” goals that nations might consider when adopting new development targets for the post-2015 era. This is potentially big news for transparency and accountability boosters; enshrining good governance in the post-2015 MDG process could provide significant political cover for continued reform efforts while simultaneously unlocking new resources for the work.

A chief risk to the prospect of a good governance goal is the data problem. How would we measure countries’ progress towards “good governance” in a post-2015 framework? Whose data should be used? Is it accurate and robust enough for such an august task? Is it possible to generate quality data on a global scale, regularly, that could be used for tracking?

These questions are generating anxiety in many quarters. But there’s a good answer at hand. Rather than expend time and resources trying to invent “one governance dataset to rule them all,” we should look to better coordinate and ramp up existing data gathering efforts that together, as a mosaic of information, could help to tell us whether countries are making progress towards better (or good enough) governance. That’s our best shot at answering the post-2015 good governance skeptics.

An Improved, If Muddled, Landscape

When Global Integrity first got into the business of measuring governance (specifically, anti-corruption and integrity systems) in 1999, it was a lonely landscape. You had the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), some Freedom House rankings, eventually a more refined CPI in the form of the Worldwide Governance Indicators, and a handful of one-off efforts from various scholars and academics. The explosion of new governance data at the turn of the millennium — anti-corruption data from Global Integrity data and TI’s National Integrity Systems studies, fiscal and budget transparency data from the likes of the International Budget partnership and the PEFA assessments, the Doing Business surveys, and sector-focused data such as the Resource Governance Index and Rule of Law Index — changed the scene dramatically. While none of those tools were prefect, they all advanced the state of the art and moved us towards a place where it was possible to generate solid, accurate primary data on governance and transparency. We managed to move beyond pure perceptions or composite data that often relied on poorly constructed business firm surveys as their source material.

Despite that progress, real challenges remain. All of the above tools suffer from one methodological weakness or another (bias in question selection, poorly anchored score choices, lack of inter-coder reliability, etc.). Country coverage remains sporadic, random, and tends to focus on the same 75-100 “usual suspect” countries while ignoring half of the planet. Most NGO data producers favor covering developing and middle-income countries over the OECD countries for mandate reasons. As a community of data producers our pace of research remains too slow, and while the requisite level of effort to generate these data has diminished somewhat, the work remains hard and too expensive.

Read more on Global Integrity

Original source

Submitted by Nathaniel Heller

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