Governance has become a central concern in development policy debates. It is widely recognised that without better governance development progress will not be possible in many countries. At the same time, governance is a broad term, comprising a range of capacities, ‘rules of the game’, policies and actual practices.
Donors have increasingly sought to assess the governance situation of countries to which they are providing aid, for several reasons. One regards the question of allocating aid. As the Sachs report and other research suggest, aid is likely to be better used and development is more likely to happen in well governed countries. Another question of relevance to donors is how to ‘tailor’ their activities and support the specific situation of a country (what aid modalities? what kinds of activities?) Furthermore, recognising the importance of governance for developmental progress, donors have sought to support improvements in governance through specific activities, ranging from support for public administrations, to anti-corruption, to support for democratisation and the protection of human rights.
Governance assessments are a crucial input for these types of policies. There has been a recent proliferation of governance assessment tools and of governance-related indices. These use different approaches, but most are completely or largely external to the country for which the assessment is carried out. Furthermore, many governance indices and assessments are closely tied to (particular) donor agencies; this can present problems of credibility and legitimacy. It is clear that governance is an area where the Paris Declaration demand for greater country ownership of the development agenda is challenging to realise.
The WGA is different. It is a survey of ‘well informed persons’ (WIPs) in a country, systematically covering a number of relevant groups and led by a local researcher. The survey captures a wide range of indicators/specific questions related to the overall concept of governance, covering key arenas and issues. The WGA survey has been carried out twice so far, in 2001 and in 2006.