Conclusions from Phase I

Working and discussion papers
August 2003
Goran Hyden, Julius Court and Kenneth Mease

This paper presents the conclusions of our effort to undertake systematic and comprehensive governance assessments in 16 developing countries - drawing on the views of local stakeholders. This raised major conceptual and methodological challenges; it was logistically complex and measuring governance is also politically sensitive, although often much less so than we expected. Nevertheless, it was an enormously rewarding exercise. This working paper outlines what we consider to be the principal achievements our first attempt at making sense of the governance concept in an empirical and 'real-world' context.

The first achievement was the ability to develop a comprehensive framework and process-oriented set of indicators for assessing governance at the national level that have been accepted and produced meaningful results in all countries where the study was conducted. The sixteen countries in the study represent over half the world's population.

The second achievement is the success we experienced in the field tests of our approach. Our response rate in the survey was generally good or excellent. The opportunity for qualitative comments in addition to the ratings added considerable value to our study, as did the reports that we receive by each country coordinator on the quality of the data and the contextual factors that may help explain the ratings.

The third achievement, in our view, is our ability to apply the governance concept for analytical usage. The 'rules-in-use' orientation that we have adopted in this study provides not only a more coherent focus but also a better understanding of how governance is a dynamic, yet different, variable from policy-making or policy implementation. We bring to the table the idea that governance relates to regime and thus to the framework of rules within which policy is being made and implemented.

The fourth achievement is a definite sense that our approach is a valuable complement to other studies in the governance and democratization fields. First of all, it adds value to the econometric studies of governance that are being used by the World Bank and many other agencies in this field. Secondly, it provides a challenge to the many studies of democratization that try to measure a set of variables that are problematic in a global perspective because of their particular Western origin.

These achievements notwithstanding, our study was exploratory and meant to spur governance research in the future as much as to provide definite answers to key governance questions.