03/05/2013 10:43 am ET Updated May 05, 2013

Open and Accountable Government for All: A Key Goal for Global Development

Last week's blog post discussed the importance of incorporating the goal of combating discrimination and inequality into the post-2015 global development agenda. This post discusses the significance of another goal: open and accountable government for all.

Scholars, practitioners, and policymakers agree that open and accountable government is a crucial aspect of socioeconomic development. This emerging consensus is reflected by the overwhelming international participation in the new global Open Government Partnership (OGP), as well as by the commitments to transparency and accountability that have been included in a range of global statements over the past decade, including G-20 declarations in Seoul 2010 and Pittsburgh 2009 and the 2005 Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

Although open and accountable government may seem an abstract and immeasurable goal, it is indeed feasible to assess performance on these critical governance issues.

Over the past 15 years a number of global efforts have emerged to track and quantify governance practices through both cross-nationally comparable and country-owned measures. These efforts include the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index; the Corruption Perceptions Index from Transparency International; the AfroBarometer/LatinoBarometro, a series of national public attitude surveys on democracy and governance in Africa and Latin America; and the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism.

In terms of important advances in cross-national measures, the World Justice Project's Rule of Law Index assesses countries' performance across nine areas of good governance, including aspects of transparency and accountability, based on survey assessments of the general public and local legal experts. The Corruption Perceptions Index by Transparency International and the AfroBarometer/LatinoBarometro indices likewise assess perceived levels of corruption within countries as seen by expert respondents and the general public. By gathering the informed views of relevant stakeholders through surveys of firms, public officials, and individuals, these data reveal clear levels and trends regarding the actual conditions of transparency and corruption within countries.

Country-owned indicators that better reflect the specific challenges and particular conditions faced by each country are not as common as cross-country measurements for transparency and corruption, but are equally important. The most robust country-owned indicators for this goal are now being developed by the OGP's Independent Reporting Mechanism. OGP participant countries create country action plans, including measures of progress and performance, based on inputs from a range of sources including civil society, technical experts, and government self-evaluation. An international experts panel produces annual independent reports for each OGP country that could be incorporated for measuring open and accountable government.

Taken together, cross-country comparable and country-owned governance measures now make it possible to set real goals and targets to realize open and accountable government for all.

The next post in this series will examine the importance of including the goal of the rule of law and access to justice for all in the post-2015 global development framework.

This post is part five of an eight-part series the author is writing on post-2015 Millennium Development Goals.

This piece originally appeared on the Council on Foreign Relations Development Channel.