South-south research consortium looks at the use of governance indicators

How are governance indicators actually used to strengthen democratic governance at the country level? A research consortium of African think tanks is now set to explore this question. Looking at Ghana, Mozambique and Rwanda, the consortium will explore specific cases of how governance indicators and evidence are used to influence policy. It is expected that answers will provide guidance to national stakeholders and donors alike on how best to strengthen national capacity for assessing governance reforms.

The research project calls for more attention to the use of governance indicators: Which national actors are using indicators successfully in pushing for democratic reform? There have been concerted efforts to increase the supply and quality of governance statistics over the past decade including the Third Roundtable on Managing for Development Results in 2007. The work of Paris 21, Metagora and the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building (TFSCB) also focuses on the capacity for supplying statistics, including on governance issues. There have not, however, been equal efforts to strengthening the usage and application of statistical information.

By and large externally-driven governance assessments are not used by domestic actors to hold Governments to account. This is not because of a lack of political demand for reform from citizens at the country level. Rather, it is suggested that external assessments, such as donor assessments, lack ownership. These indicators are primarily used in negotiations between donors and the executive branch of the recipient country. For other national actors, such as parliament and civil society, these indicators are typically viewed as less relevant.

Similarly, indicators aligned with national policy processes that lack ownership seem to suffer the same fate. In countries where national development plans and poverty reduction strategy papers are not adequately owned, indicators aligned to these strategies fail to be used effectively by national actorsfor demanding reform and accountability.

The starting point for the consortium is therefore an understanding of the roles and political incentives of various national institutions and organisations, and how governance statistics can be used strategically in a national context to effectively push for reform. Based on a political economy analysis, recommendations to donors and national actors will be developed. Recommendations will seek to provide guidance on how country-led approaches to governance assessments can be strengthened to increase usage.

The country studies will provide examples of how governance evidence is used effectively by parliamentarians in legislation and or oversight, by civil society for advocacy, and by Government in monitoring of national plans. The use of APRM indicators will also be looked at, in addition to other country specific examples.

The consortium is led by the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA) and include the  Institute for Democratic Governance (IDEG) in Ghana, Institute for Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) in Rwanda and the Centre for Studies on Democracy and Development (CEDE) in Mozambique. The Consortium is supported by the European Commission (EC) and UNDP in partnership.