2010/2

Indicators as a Technology of Global Governance

Kevin E. Davis, Benedict Kingsbury, Sally Engle Merry
New York University School of Law

 

The use of indicators is a prominent feature of contemporary global governance.  Indicators are produced by organizations ranging from public actors such as the World Bank or the US State Department, to NGOs such as Freedom House, to hybrid entities such as the Global Fund, to private sector political risk rating agencies.  They are used to compare and rank states for purposes as varied as deciding how to allocate foreign aid or investment and whether states have complied with their treaty obligations.  This article defines the concept of an “indicator”, describes how indicators have recently been used in global governance, and identifies various ways in which the use of indicators has the potential to alter the nature of global governance.  Particular attention is paid to how reliance on indicators affects the authority and contestability of decisions.  The United Nations Human Development Index and the World Bank Doing Business indicators are analyzed as case studies.

 

NOTE: This paper was revised in August 2011.  For the revised version, click here.

 

Original 2010 version:

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