Measuring the Good Governance State: A Legal Reconstruction of the World Bank’s “Country Policy and Institutional Assessment”

Measuring the Good Governance State: A Legal Reconstruction of the World Bank’s “Country Policy and Institutional Assessment”


The paper presents a legal critique of and framework for the “Country Policy and Institutional Assessment” (CPIA), the indicator system used by the World Bank to evaluate the governance performance of its borrowers and to allocate aid to its poorest members. The CPIA is becoming increasingly legalized and raises important questions for legal research: Namely, what role does the CPIA play in the exercise of public authority by the World Bank as an international institution? Secondly, what is the existing legal framework for potentially powerful rating exercises like the CPIA, and should this framework be developed further along the lines of Global Administrative Law or “public” law thinking? And finally, what is the appropriate role of “technocratic” instruments such as indicators in the politics of global redistribution?
The main argument is that the CPIA is a promising tool to make development more effective, but that it also represents a powerful exercise of international public authority which requires an appropriate public law framework. This framework already exists in part within the administrative law of development cooperation, which enables us to transform certain concerns about the CPIA’s effectiveness and legitimacy into legal arguments. However, this framework remains deficient and must be further developed, for which the paper makes some concrete suggestions.
The paper proceeds in three major steps: It first develops an analytical and regulatory framework for instruments of “governance by information” used in development cooperation. It then applies this framework to the CPIA, analyzing its genealogy, contents and effects, as well as existing mechanisms of participation, reason-giving, transparency, and review. The third part evaluates the CPIA’s existing legal regime against the principles of development cooperation law, namely development-orientation and efficacy as well as collective and individual autonomy. The conclusion reflects on how this framework potentially captures the tensions between democratic politics and expert-driven, technocratic instruments like indicators.

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Michael Riegner

Michael Riegner is Research fellow at Justus Liebig University, Gießen. He is also visiting scholar at Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law, Heidelberg. He is member of the Schumpeter research group on “Law and Governance of Development Cooperation”.