IRPA Working Papers

Irpa Working Paper No. 2012/5 – Maria Angelica Prada Uribe

Development through data? A case study on the World Bank’s performance indicators and their impact on development in the Global South


The use of indicators in development cooperation has increased as a result of two main phenomena, the constant obsession to determine aid effectiveness and the establishment of quantifiable goals such as the Millennium Development Goals. More recently development indicators have been used to measure States‟ performance in order to determine the distribution of aid, thus addressing simultaneously the problems of aid effectiveness and aid allocation. By using indicators the donor community has managed to give an aura of objectivity and transparency to its decisions and to the model of development that is expected to be implemented by States in the South. However, in reality indicators are concealing the determined development common sense promoted by the donor, which is neither true nor objective since development knowledge remains contested.
As previous scholarship has noted, indicators have two effects, a knowledge effect and a governance effect. A close analysis of the genealogy of the International Development Association‟s (IDA) Performance Based Allocation System reveals these effects, as a purportedly objective knowledge of development is produced by the indicator, and this knowledge influences the policies and regulations of receiving States. The structure and content of the indicator also has the effect of laying blame for underdevelopment on the receiving State. As this paper argues, the IDA‟s indicator mainly embodies a particular brand of development theory, an economic theory from a hegemonic worldview, and incorporates other social, human and governance concerns.

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Maria Angelica Prada Uribe
Maria Angelica Prada is a Research Fellow and Coordinator of the International Law Master at Universidad de los Andes, which she is currently pursuing. She has been a teaching assistant for the Legislation and Public Policy, Public International Law, International Economic Law and Comparative Law courses. She is currently a Researcher for the first component of the “Global Administrative Law Network” Project, funded by the International Development Research Centre. She has also worked as an intern at the International Legal Office of the Colombian Ministry of Commerce.