Measuring effectiveness

Crosscutting Themes / Measuring effectiveness /

Measuring effectiveness

DPKO Assessment Team Members Arrive at Prison Facility in Dili, Timor-Leste.

The ability to capture progress and identify setbacks in the development of laws, and security and justice institutions and processes is critical to strengthening the rule of law in a country. Government officials and other stakeholders require appropriate information about the functioning of these systems and the individuals who are in contact with them in order to effectively address gaps and weaknesses in the rule of law of the country, and review the effectiveness of efforts to address them.

The amount of United Nations on-the-ground rule of law activity at the national level has expanded steadily, while meaningful learning about the effectiveness of assistance has not kept apace. The rule of law field is driven by ambitious goal setting and high expectations of delivery. This has often led to overly ambitious programming expected to achieve major impact in unrealistically short timeframes. The lack of information and analysis on the rule of law in countries remains an obstacle to effective programming development, to ensuring greater coherence of international rule of law assistance and to the efforts to monitor and evaluate the impact of both UN and other initiatives.

Different tools exist to measure rule of law development and the effectiveness of assistance provided to this end. Public surveys can be used to capture peoples’ perception of the institutions and processes that uphold the rule of law, such as responsiveness of police or corruption within the judiciary. Performance indicators measure progress towards a defined result. They are a tool for tracking progress in key areas of human rights, governance, and the rule of law.

Indicators provide a common way of measuring and presenting information that reveals whether standards, including those derived from international human rights instruments, are being met. For example, juvenile justice indicators aim to answer crucial questions for policy-makers, such as the number of detained children, child deaths in detention, and contact with parents and family. Indicators use data from one or several sources, for instance public surveys or administrative data. They can serve to assist governments in better targeting national reform efforts on the basis of appropriate empirical data and analysis, and to track progress over time. In some cases, the information is aggregated into single-score indices, which have developed on specific issues such as corruption or press freedom. They are primarily designed to rank countries and allow for comparisons over time and place. Various existing indexes measure aspects of rule of law development.

A critical means of assessing impact on the programmatic level is by utilizing results-based planning and programming. Monitoring and evaluation seeks to determine the impact of individual rule of law programmes, using pre-defined objectives, outputs and performance indicators. The review of programmes provides an opportunity to gather lessons learned to inform future policy-making and programmatic interventions.

Legal system monitoring can also provide systematic, ongoing analysis of the functioning of national justice and security systems to give both national and international decision makers the accurate and specific information needed to develop strategies based on clearly identified needs, challenges and obstacles. It involves on-going assessment, observation and monitoring of the legal and justice system, including the treatment of like cases, over time. The most notable example of a dedicated and structured UN legal systems monitoring programme is the UN mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina's Justice System Assessment Programme (JSAP), which was specifically mandated by the Security Council and terminated in 2002. United Nations Mission in Liberia's (UNMIL) Legal and Judicial Systems Support Division currently has a dedicated Monitoring Unit. In Afghanistan, the Legal System Observation Project (LSOP) was a joint pilot initiative of limited duration between UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan's (UNAMA) Rule of Law and Human Rights Units in 2007, to enable trial observation by a select team of trained court monitors working in accordance with a standardized case reporting format and a monitoring guidance manual. Other notable examples include the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) legal systems monitoring projects in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.


The Secretary-General has expressed his commitment to empirical analysis and assessment of the effectiveness of the Organization’s rule of law activities to demonstrate their tangible impact. The UN is thus focusing its attention on measuring effectiveness of its support to strengthening the rule of law.