Critique of Governance Assessment Applications

Posted on 19 August, 2010 – 2:20 PM

GRDC Helpdesk Research Report by Sumedh Rao, Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, July 2010. 16 pages. Available as pdf

Query:  Identify the key literature that critiques the use and application of governance assessments.  Enquirer: DFID

1. Overview
2. General critiques
3. Critiques of measurement
4. Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI)
5. African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM)
6. Other assessments
7. Donor Guidance
8. Initiatives for improving assessments

Including a bibliography of 39 annotated references

1. Overview

Governance  assessments  are  based  on  subjective  indicators  (or  measures),  objective indicators or a combination of  the  two, known as composite  indicators. Composite  indicators are  the most popular and are used by  international organisations, donors,  investors and  the media  (Arndt,  2008).  Of  these  the  most  popular  seems  to  be  the  World  Bank‘s  World Governance  Indicators  (WGIs).  Transparency  International‘s  Corruption  Perceptions  Index (CPI) and  the World Bank/International Finance Corporation‘s Doing Business  Indicators are also  in common use but  less so by  international organisations and donors. These  indicators
face  several  limitations  but  general  reliance  on  a  small  set  of  indicators  has  led  to  greater international  acceptance  and  further  reliance  on  these  indicators.  Many  critics  cite  the numerous failings of indicators and the way such failings or inaccuracies are routinely ignored by those who use them.

The  main  use  of  the  indicators  by  international  organisation  and  donors  is  to  incentivise developing nations  to  improve  their governance and  to  improve  the allocation of aid.   There will  thus  continue  to  be  a  demand  for  summary measurements which  can  be  used  across space and  time. At  the same  time  there  is a  growing  resistance by developing countries  to
indicators  that  are  developed  and  used  by ‘outsiders‘.  New  forms  of  assessments  are increasingly country-led, and  in some cases continent-led such as  the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM).

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