Measuring (Global) Governance. The Potential, the Practical, and the Problematic Assessment of Governance within and beyond the State

Gaby Umbach

For nearly three decades now, governance, and especially 'good' governance, echoes around the world as 'the' panacea for successful state performance, efficient public affairs management, proper organization of state-citizen relations, and more recently also for human well-being itself (Bovaird and Loffler 2003, p. 318ff.; Peters 2012, p. 19). In this extensive perspective, governance is assessed to form the basis for the well-functioning and good organization of the state rooted in transparent administrative practice, sustainable state structures, high capacity levels and low levels of corruption. More recently, it is even brought into play as a guarantor of peace and a remedy against terror (Prince Hassan bin Talal 2015).

While featuring prominently within the political and academic debate since the 1990s (Arndt 2008), measuring governance at whatever level of the global multilevel political system represents a difficult, if not quasi-impossible endeavour. Therefore, while doing so, both academics and practitioners more often than not are forced to focus on assessing most different aspects and parts of an over-conceptualized, but incoherently defined, 'elephant'.

This chapter takes the problematic measurement of governance as its starting point and examines existing approaches to define and measure governance, 'good' governance, and 'global' governance. It explains what possibly can be measured, what practically is measured, and what problematically lays beyond the boundaries of existing governance measurement tools.

In doing so, it pays particular attention to key conceptual and methodological concerns of the overall endeavour to quantify and/or qualify governance. The chapter focuses on differences in measurement of governance, 'good' governance, and 'global' governance as manifestations of the same conceptual origin. It seeks to show that, although originating in the same conceptual realm, the various manifestations of governance are different in character and necessarily bring about different measurement demands and approaches.

The chapter analyses governance as a multidimensional phenomenon and multifaceted concept of political and institutional practice around the globe that, being not measurable per se, requires complex aggregations of indicators and statistical data to capture its most diverse characteristics. These aggregations themselves in turn open another problematic field given that, as constructed approximations to reality, they not only measure, but at the same time frame the reality they are set out to measure.

The assessment of governance and governance measures within this chapter is guided by three questions: a) What is the governance reality to be measured? b) What is actually measured by governance measures? and c) What is difficult to be measured by these tools? Responses to these questions shall provide insight into existing definitions and conceptualizations of governance; into practice and aims of measuring governance; and into shortcomings of the measurement practices in place. With this focus, the chapter zooms in on the conceptual quality of governance and its related measurement tools; their relevance and use as well as on key methodological issues involved in measuring governance, 'good' governance and 'global' governance.

With this analysis, the chapter touches upon key questions related to the execution of public authority within modern multilevel policymaking. It focuses especially on the use of governance measures to assess compliance with international paradigms and norms; the assessment of policymaking and decision-making in globalized politics; as well as aspects of political steering, regulation, epistemic community-building, policy-learning, and knowledgesharing in modern governance structures.

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