The words "World Bank" on a glass building next to a portrait of Christopher H. Stephens, the World Bank Group’s senior vice president and general counsel, and the subject of this interview
Christopher H. Stephens during the 2023 WJP Rule of Law Index Launch, Credit for World Bank image: Skórzewiak -

The World Bank is among the global institutions that use data from the World Justice Project (WJP) Rule of Law Index to advance their work.   

We learned why in a conversation with Christopher H. Stephens, the World Bank Group’s senior vice president and general counsel.  


WJP: Is the rule of law a priority for the World Bank, and why?   

Stephens: The World Bank's mission of facilitating sustainable and inclusive development is inextricably linked to the rule of law, and for at least two reasons:  

First, sustainable development requires national institutions that can enact, implement, and enforce laws fairly, consistently, transparently, and ethically—the essence of the rule of law.  

Second, economic development requires investment, which requires investor confidence in the rules of the game before they put their capital at risk. So, maximizing economic development on an environmentally and socially sustainable basis must be grounded in the rule of law.  


WJP: Why is it important to have good data on rule of law performance?   

Stephens: Rule of law depends on functioning national institutions whose leaders face a wide range of competing priorities and limited resources. And so, they need good reasons to prioritize policies and law reforms that strengthen the rule of law. 

The best rationale for pursuing the rule of law is the morality and humanity of doing so. But in addition to that, data and analytics provide evidence of tangible economic and social benefits that come from a just and civil society based on the rule of law.  

These include increased investment and economic growth, more jobs, higher incomes, and greater tax receipts—which can enable more and better government services that further underpin the rule of law. It’s a virtuous cycle from which everyone benefits.  

So good data creates incentives to strengthen the rule of law.   


WJP: How does the World Bank use data from the WJP Rule of Law Index?  

Stephens: We use the WJP Rule of Law Index as a noted source in the World Governance Indicators because of the close links between the rule of law and governance.   

The WJP Rule of Law Index is also a valuable reference for assessing challenges in countries and how policy dialogue, law reforms, project design and social safeguards might enhance the success of outcomes. It’s also useful in discussions on the strengthening of institutions and policy reforms to enhance developmental outcomes.  


WJP: How important is the quality of the data used in reform efforts?  

Stephens: Before using any data in project evaluation or in the formulation of policy or reforms, stakeholders have to be confident in the reliability of that data.  

The WJP data derives its reliability from the credibility and integrity of its sources, its long experience in preparing the Index and its reputation for high quality, non-biased analyses and fair conclusions.  


WJP: How can countries around the world use WJP Rule of Law Index data to inform their reform efforts?   

Stephens: National governments can use the rule of law data to shape national policy and to devise reforms aimed at specific areas identified as weak in the Index, whether looking at corruption; openness; transparency; order and security; or the fair administration of laws and regulations in the legislative process that accompanies these reforms.   

The ability to identify trends, in particular, is important, so that policy makers can spot which direction they're going and pursue the reforms that are needed to correct any growing deficiencies.  


WJP: Is rule of law progress possible?   

Stephens: Rule of law progress is not only possible, it's mandatory and an essential part of economic and social development. This is why, at the World Bank and particularly the legal department, law and justice services are at the core of our business. 


Learn who else uses the WJP Rule of Law Index

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