fbpx Indicators in Development: Safety and Justice | Harvard Kennedy School

The world is brimming with indicators of justice and safety. From statistics on recorded crime and rates of victimization to estimates of the global burden of armed violence and compound indices of governance and the rule of law, national governments, civil society organizations, and development agencies are busily charting the world of justice and safety. Some indicators are conceived in London, Geneva, Paris, and New York, and radiate outward. A small but growing number of indicators are born in the developing world.

Between 2009 and 2016, with funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management supported state officials and civil society organizations in Jamaica, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia to develop and use their own indicators to spark, reinforce, and communicate progress toward strategic goals in justice and safety. Between 2010 and 2013 PCJ collaborated with officials in Papua New Guinea, extending existing efforts in the law and justice sector with funding from the Australian Government Aid Program (AusAID).

The aim of the project was to equip government and civil society organizations with the skills and experience to design their own indicators, routinely assess those indicators, and use them to drive meaningful reform in the justice sector. Building this capacity is a long-term undertaking, for the desire for indicators and the skill in their construction must permeate the organizational culture in governmental and non‐governmental bodies. It is also a fluid process: indicators serve ambitions, policies, governments, and staffs that inevitably change over time.

The prototype indicators developed in this project are different from the indicators in international systems created in the Global North for use in the Global South. They start by finding successes, however modest, and strengthen norms and standards that emerge in the course of reviewing local practices. They also perform different kinds of development work: They support domestic ambitions for justice and safety, reinforce management operations in government, and align the work of individual agencies with sector-wide goals. At the same time, these and other examples of country-led indicator development complement the growing number of globally conceived indicator projects by grounding the measurement culture of international development in local customs, and by articulating domestic sources of legitimacy for the standards implicit in the norms in global indicator projects.

In addition to a number of more discrete research reports, in 2016 the project team developed a comprehensive toolkit and a series of videos called 'Developing Governance Indicators in Justice and Safety: A Country-Led Approach' to highlight key principles of its team's approach through practical examples from Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, and Jamaica, in addition to experience gained from related projects in Papua New Guinea, China, and Turkey.

NB--This is an abridged version of the Indicators in Development website that was created for the new HKS website which was rolled out in 2017. Please click here for an archived version of the unabridged original website, which unfortunately contains a few broken links that we are not able to edit.