Ideas for post 2015 governance indicators: Focus on state capability (or governance) gaps

Written by Matthew Andrews, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School:

“Last week I was at the Overseas Development Institute and was asked about my thoughts on post-2015 governance indicators. I wrote about this earlier in the year, but let me catch up on the conversation here. I think that if we must have governance indicators we should capture key indicators of state capability that are not normative but are rather practical—and where this capability seems particularly lacking in developing countries, given gaps in performance that are visible and undermine governance (which I define as ‘the exercise of authority by governments on behalf of citizens).

I am particularly interested in indicators that reflect improved governance (such that they have appropriate construct validity). Note that I am not proposing measures of governance—indicators indicate (they don’t measure).

Here are some ideas.

First, road deaths. These are peculiarly high in developing countries and signal a significant gap in the capability of states. Look at the map below from the World Health Organization (WHO), and you will see that road deaths per 100,000 are generally three times higher in developing countries (especially in Africa). This is a major governance gap. States are given authority to ensure road safety and if they don’t do this no one else will; Government must work in this area. In all countries. The reasons for gaps are hard to identify from the outset, given that road safety has many dimensions. But the dimensions all involve states. Think of the vital role governments play in the construction of the roads, regulation of roads, motor vehicles, pedestrian behavior, and more. Think of the role government agencies play in implementing these regulations; police, courts, drivers’ license bureaus, and more. And this is an area where development demands greater state capability.”

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