The increasing realisation that governance quality is a fundamental element of long-run development has led to its consideration as a desirable development goal in its own right. To contribute to such a process, this article provides a framework to set, measure and monitor governance goals in the post-2015 development agenda. First, we assess whether existing cross-national measures on governance quality can be exploited to measure and monitor aspects of legal, bureaucratic and administrative quality. Such a ‘quick fix’ approach to measuring governance quality is fraught with challenges. The current practice of measurement is still subject to the short country coverage of most available measures, issues of comparability and legitimacy, as well as methodological shortcomings. Second, we argue that, in the long run, measuring and monitoring governance quality may require reconceptualising ‘good governance’ and designing internationally shared measures that are routinely provided by national statistical offices (but, international groups should also continue to make their independent measures). Finally, we consider the different approaches to setting governance goals, arguing in favour of a combination of national target setting and minimum standard with continuous improvement.
Short-term, the task of measuring and monitoring governance goals is quite challenging and one should be mindful that existing indices are subject to short country coverage, issues of comparability and legitimacy, as well as methodological shortcomings. Hence, the interpretation of changes in governance in the future may be challenged both technically and politically.
Longer-term, since the idea of ‘good governance’ can be highly controversial, one should reflect on which dimensions and measures should be included. One approach is to consider the intrinsic value of good governance, which would give precedence to measures capturing state-society relations and accountability. The alternative is considering the instrumental value of governance. In this case, the focus should be on state capacity; and measures of state administrative and legal capability would be a desirable starting point.
For setting governance goals, we recommend minimum global standards set for fixed dates, but all countries also to pursue improved measures on an annual basis line of argument.
Policy makers should be aware of the two main tasks involved in this exercise. Short-term, the setting of credible international targets that can contribute to improved governance. Longer-term, the setting in motion of processes that will create governance measurement as a routinised function in all national statistical offices (the creation of a professional cadre, the setting of international standards for example).