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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.
Since 2009, with funding from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, (DFID), the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management(PCJ) at the Harvard Kennedy School has been supporting state officials and civil society organizations in Jamaica, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria to develop and use their own indicators to spark, reinforce, and communicate progress toward strategic goals in justice and safety.
In 2010 the PCJ began collaborating with officials in Papua New Guinea(PNG), extending existing efforts in the law and justice sector funded by the Australian Government Aid Program(AusAID). And in 2011 we began working with government officials in Bangladesh, and in 2012 in Ethiopia.
In 2016 the project team developed a series of videos called 'Developing Governance Indicators in Justice and Safety: A Country-Led Approach' to highligh key principles of it's 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. We encourage you to watch the first video, Introduction to Governance Indicators in Justice and Safety.
The aim of the project is 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.
As Christopher Stone argues in Problems of Power in the Design of Indicators of Safety and Justice in the Global South, locally designed and owned indicators also can be aggregated up to a global level, and spread from country to country, eventually creating a coherent, global set of common indicators.
Fourteen months after this project began, a relative of a junior member of the project team was appointed Minister of Home Affairs. The project was designed and implementation had begun before this appointment was made. The Bangladeshi government does not fund this project nor does it have any oversight over the activities of the research team.