International Models of Justice System Performance II

My last blog noted three promising international models of justice system performance measurement and management: (1) the EU Justice Scoreboard, (2) the Global Measures of Court Performance, and (3) the CourTools.  All three, more or less, aim for harmonization and consistent use of a common set of justice sector performance measures. There are, of course, differences among them, but it is their commonality that is potentially transformative for justice systems around the globe.

What distinguishes these three models from international global governance initiatives like the World Justice Project’s WJP Rule of Law Index™ and the American Bar Association’s Judicial Reform Index, as well as myriad program evaluations of justice and rule of law projects, is that they promote an approach to performance measurement and management that:
  • is essentially a bottom-up instead of a top-down strategy grounded in the local ambitions of justice institutions and justice systems exercising their legitimate authority;
  • relies on performance data collected and compiled by countries and their justice institutions themselves instead of international bodies and associated third parties whose indicators of justice may be seen as based on questionable goals (e.g., those of international donors) and other relatively weak sources of authority and legitimacy;
  • is based on institution-led or country-led measure development that is voluntary, facilitated but not dictated by the models; and,
  • aims for use of performance data by the countries’ justice system officials themselves to improve the governance and operations of the local justice sector.
Consistency or harmonization of justice performance measures across entire justice institutions or systems is not just an aspiration of little practical consequence if it is not achieved.  A country may find its performance in justice, rule of law, and safety measured by dozens of competing measures crafted by many different actors with various relationships with the country’s justice system. “The result,” as one development aid official put it to Harvard University criminal justice scholar Christopher Stone, “is that many developing countries are littered with the carcasses of failed indicators projects – the consultant paid and gone, and those charged with administering justice increasingly cynical about time wasted on measurement when there is real work to be done.”

My reading of Stone, who is now President of the Open Society Foundations, is that he would agree that the general approach of the three international models of performance measurement and management is not only possible and practical but has, in his words, the “potential to engage citizens and domestic leaders enthusiastically in a creative and democratic construction of justice.”  
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