Policy Practice Brief 6 – What Makes A Good Governance Indicator?

January 2011, Gareth Williams


The rise to prominence of good governance as a key development concern has been marked by an increasing interest in measurement and the production of a huge range of governance indicators. When used carefully such indicators provide a valuable source of information on governance conditions and trends. However, when used carelessly they can misinform and mislead. The purpose of this brief is to make sense of the different types of governance indicator and how they are used and misused. It warns against the commission of ‘seven deadly sins’ representing the most common pitfalls. The paper puts forward guidelines to ensure a more careful use and interpretation of governance indicators, and highlights the need for providers of indicators to be subject to greater transparency, scrutiny, evaluation and peer review. From the perspective of political economy analysis the challenge is to make the indicators more relevant to understanding the underlying political processes that are the key drivers of better governance.

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