A measurement revolution has taken place in the fields of governance, justice, and the rule of law. Not only have the quality and amount of available data exponentially increased in the past two decades, but more importantly, the knowledge about precisely how to effectively use these data to advance reform in the field has greatly improved. This paper offers a brief account of progress made and lessons learned during the past two decades in the rapidly growing field of rule of law measurement, and offers some suggestions about remaining shortcomings and the path forward.

Systematic cross-country data about political systems, governance, and the rule of law was very scarce two decades ago. Analysis at the global, regional, and national levels was largely based on purely anecdotal evidence, or a few crude indicators. In contrast, there are over one hundred systems of measurement in this field today. These tools are based on rigorously collected data at the country level or across countries. While there is enormous variation in the intrinsic quality of these measurements, data are no longer scarce. Some of these measurements are built upon systematic analysis of qualitative information, others on highly sophisticated aggregation of existing indices, and yet others on massive quantitative data collection efforts in particular regions or around the world. Some of the most salient improvements of the past decade in cross country indicators include the work of the World Bank, Transparency International, Freedom House, CEPEJ, Global Integrity, HiiL-TISCO, The Economist Intelligence Unit, the AfroBarometer, the World Economic Forum, ABA-ROLI, the OECD, IDLO, the Vera Institute of Justice, and The World Justice Project. A variety of UN entities have also contributed to this process. This measurement revolution resembles in some degree the phenomenal transformations that took place in the fields of economics and public health one hundred years ago.

This measurement revolution in the field of governance and the rule of law has a number of implications for everybody, from multilateral organisations, donor agencies, governments, the business community, and civil society. Better data leads to better planning and evaluation of government programmes and institutional reform; better targeting of donor resources; more accurate assessment of political risk by the business community; and increased ability of civil society organisations to hold governments accountable to their citizens.

Read more on the rule of law measurement revolution here

This essay is part of the Innovations in the Rule of Law Report produced by the WJP and the Hiil. The report highlights innovations and insights through a series of concise papers by key experts and organisations in the area of rule of law. For more information, please visit the reports page here.

Juan Carlos Botero, Alejandro Ponce, Joel Martinez, Christine Pratt The World Justice Project
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