What is Governance? And How to Measure It?

Francis Fukuyama released a new paper titled “What is Governance?” for the Center for Global Development as part of an effort to “better measure governance.” Before governance can be improved, however, Fukuyama suggests that a better conceptualization of what constitutes good governance must be developed. Not only does good governance need to be more clearly defined, but systems for evaluating governance need to be refined as well. Fukuyama explores these issues both in this paper and on a broader scale as part of his work on The Governance Project

His new paper outlines the current gaps in the study of state functions and the varying definitions of governance at play. Traditionally, there are at least four broad approaches to measuring and evaluating governance quality; they include: procedural measures, input measures, output measures and measures of bureaucratic autonomy. Fukuyama, however, finds these approaches lacking. “If we accept the fact that quality of government is a mixture capacity and autonomy, and that governments are themselves complex collections of organizations, then it becomes clear that existing measures of governance are highly inadequate,” he explains. Instead of the current methods, we should be monitoring governance through the following criteria, according to his findings:

  1. Procedural measures, such as the Weberian criteria of bureaucratic modernity;
  2. Capacity measures, which include both resources and degree of professionalization;
  3. Output measures;
  4. Measures of bureaucratic autonomy.

Furthermore, the paper rejects output measures and proposes “a two-dimensional framework of using capacity and autonomy as a measure of executive branch quality. Such framework explains the conundrum of why low-income countries are advised to reduce bureaucratic autonomy while high-income ones seek to increase it.” Exploring the strength and weaknesses of governance systems and analytical frameworks will allow researchers to determine not only problems, but similarities in governance structures and functionality.

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