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For this wide-ranging proposal, experts on each of the identified dimensions will be needed. Their ongoing engagement is essential to the success of the enterprise. Moreover, it is important to solicit help widely within the social sciences disciplines so that decisions are not monopolized by a few (with perhaps quirky judgments). As a convening body, 18 The Utstein Partnership, a group formed in 1999 by the ministers of international development from the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, and the United Kingdom to formalize their cooperation is an example of this possible approach applied to a different problem.
The U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre assists donor practitioners to more effectively address corruption challenges by providing a variety of online resources. See http://www.
IMPROVING DEMOCRACY ASSISTANCE there are several possibilities, including the professional associations of political science, economics, and sociology (the American Political Science Association, American Economic Association, and American Sociological Association) or a consortium of universities.
This chapter has reviewed the most widely used indicators that measure “democracy” and arrived at these key findings:
• The concept of democracy cannot at present be defined in an authoritative (nonarbitrary) and operational fashion. It is an inherently multidimensional concept, and there is little consensus over its attributes. Definitions range from minimal—a country must choose its leaders through contested elections—to maximal—a country must have universal suffrage, accountable and limited government, sound and fair justice and extensive protection of human rights and political liberties, and economic and social policies that meet popular needs. Moreover, the definition of democracy is itself a moving target; definitions that would have seemed reasonable at one time (such as describing the United States as a democracy in 1900 despite no suffrage for women and few minorities holding office) are no longer considered reasonable today. To obtain a more reliable and credible method of tracking democratic change to guide USAID DG programming, USAID should foster an effort to develop disaggregated sectoral-level measures of democratic governance. This would likely have to involve numerous parties to attain wide acceptance.
• Existing empirical indicators of democracy are flawed. The flaws extend to problems of definition and aggregation, imprecision, measurement errors, poor data coverage, and a lack of convergent validity. These existing measures are useful to identify whether countries are fully democratic, fully autocratic, or somewhere in between. They are not reliable, however, as a guide for tracking modest improvements or declines in democracy within a country over the period of time in which most DG projects operate.
• While the United States, other donor governments, and international agencies that are making decisions about policy in the areas of health or economic assistance are able to draw on extensive databases that are compiled and updated at substantial cost by government or multilateral agencies mandated to collect such data (e.g., World Bank, World Health Organization, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development), no comparable source of data on democracy currently exists.
Data on democracy are instead currently compiled by various individual academics on irregular and shoestring budgets, or by nongovernmental
MEASURING DEMOCRACYorganizations or commercial publishers, using different definitions and indicators of democracy.
These findings lead the committee to make a recommendation that we believe would significantly improve USAID’s (and others’) ability to track countries’ progress and make the type of strategic assessments that will be most helpful for DG programming.
• USAID and other policymakers should explore making a substantial investment in the systematic collection of democracy indicators at a disaggregated, sectoral level—focused on the components of democracy rather than (or in addition to) the overall concept. If they wish to have access to data on democracy and democratization comparable to that relied on by policymakers and foreign assistance agencies in the areas of public health or trade and finance, a substantial government or multilateral effort to improve, develop, and maintain international data on levels and detailed aspects of democracy would be needed. This should not only involve multiple agencies and actors in efforts to initially develop a widely accepted set of sectoral data on democracy and democratic development but should seek to institutionalize the collection and updating of democracy data for a broad clientele, along the lines of the economic, demographic, and trade data collected by the World Bank, United Nations, and International Monetary Fund.
While creating better measures at the sectoral level to track democratic change is a long-term process, there is no need to wait on such measures to determine the impact of USAID’s DG projects. USAID has already compiled an extensive collection of policy-relevant indicators to track specific changes in government institutions or citizen behavior, such as levels of corruption, levels of participation in local and national decision making, quality of elections, professional level of judges or legislators, or the accountability of the chief executive. Since these are, in fact, the policy-relevant outcomes that are most plausibly affected by Dg projects, the committee recommends that measurement of these factors rather than sectoral-level changes be used to determine whether the projects are having a significant impact in the various elements that compose democratic governance.
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