Why a Governance SDG is Essential

Written by Martin S Edwards, director of the Centre for UN and Global Governance Studies at Seton Hall University (SHU) on the SHU blog.

“Last week Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund For Peace released their annualFragile States Index. This could not have come at a better time. With the discussions regarding the Sustainable Development Goals still in flux as the zero draft of the SDGs is revised, the findings from the Fragile States Index make plainly clear that a while economic benchmarks are important, we will not solve the development problem without greater attention to governance. Goal 16, which calls for creating (among other things) “inclusive societies and effective and capable institutions” is an integral part of human betterment. We cannot have more sustainable growth globally without more capable states.

The actual rankings have already been covered elsewhere (see here here and here) and the methodology of the study is discussed here. The overall index is comprised of twelve indicators and many sub-indicators. I’ll focus on the three that are most related to governance: state legitimacy (corruption and political participation), public services (how well does the government provide public goods), and human rights (how free are the people in the country). Ascertaining whether these three measures “go together” tell us about what governance looks like in the world. There are three key findings from this report that underscore the need for a governance SDG:

  • Legitimate states are more capable states

Each of these indicators is coded on a ten-point scale, with higher scores indicating bigger problems. The data suggest that those states that have greater deficiencies in legitimacy are those that are less able to provide public services. The bivariate correlation between these two measures is .765, which is highly statistically significant. The average score on public services for the 18 countries with legitimacy scores of 9 or higher was 8.31.”

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