Country-Led Indicators

In North America and Western Europe, the design and use of indicators for justice and safety is a domestic affair, with national governments using their own indicators to shape local policing and justice services. In the Global South, the design and use of justice indicators has been led by bilateral development agencies, international financial institutions, and agencies within the United Nations (UN) family, with domestic officials and civil society leaders on the receiving end of development.

Faced with the proliferation of international indicator systems as well as rising expectations for their impact on national governance, leaders of justice institutions in developing countries find it difficult to select and use measures that match domestic priorities. Participants at the First Annual Workshop on Indicators at Harvard in March 2008 described some of these challenges and asked for assistance in building up the capacity to develop their own indicators. They wanted to develop indicators that help manage these competing pressures, ensuring that justice systems attend to local needs and build confidence in national government while meeting international obligations.

Since 2009 a the Harvard team has been helping government officials and civil society leaders use existing systems of information to build indicators for ambitions that express local aspirations for justice and safety. Wrapping around these ambitions an iterative process of indicator development, we help officials first design and test prototype measures and then harness them to current management processes. In Jamaica, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Papua New Guinea, justice officials are pursuing different goals, but all of them are developing indicators that provoke learning about justice systems, mobilize resources toward the achievement of strategic objectives, and communicate progress to the public.

Strengthening the capacity of local officials to design and use such indicators is a long-term undertaking, with pauses and advances and detours that accompany all development assistance. But even incremental increases in domestic capacity to design and use indicator should help balance the growing number of internationally conceived systems for measuring the rule of law and safety and justice. The skills required to develop indicators for domestic justice systems are fungible: They can be applied to the demands of measurement that accompany global measures of justice and safety.

To encourage greater complementarity in the field of indicator development, as well as a shared vocabulary among its practitioners and more frequent testing of each others’ measures, we convene a three-day workshop at Harvard each year that brings together national project participants, their colleagues in the respective DFID and AusAID country offices, and other experts developing international indicators of justice and safety. You can learn more about the workshops here.

Andres Rengifo, Jamaica findings July 2010

Andres Rengifo (HKS) discussing hit rate indicator in Jamaica July, 2010