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Governance assessment toolbox for education and health MDGs

Posted date: 
Thu, 09/30/2010
The idea for this Toolbox arose from a simple observation: measurement influences action. If equity, accountability and transparency in the provision of health care and education are not being measured, it is unlikely that society will take strong action to reduce the growing disparities concealed by national averages.
Indeed, there is strong evidence that poor governance is one of the overarching reasons for the shortfall on the MDGs, yet there is very little guidance available for diagnosing in a systematic manner the multiple types of governance obstacles that hinder MDG achievements.
This toolbox aims to fill this gap by providing a set of assessment tools for diagnosing and monitoring a range of governance problems that are specific to the health and education MDGs, including patterns of abuse of power such as discriminatory policies in the provision of social services, political clientelism, or state capture by economic elites.
The starting point for this governance analysis of MDG progress is an illustration of how national statistics do not only reveal; they also conceal. Some call it the ‘fallacy of the mean’; others refer to the ‘tyranny of averages’. Disaggregated data confirms that social indicators vary considerably across groups and/or regions within countries. Monitoring must bring this to the fore.
Many governance assessment tools rely heavily on expert opinion or perception surveys. Although these methods may indeed be effective for measuring some governance issues such as corruption, this toolbox introduces a wide range of methods drawing mainly from objective data sources (such as budget allocations, teachers’ test scores, census data, data collected from on-site visits to schools/clinics, etc.). Relying on objective data is particularly important when conducting such politically sensitive assessments, to increase the legitimacy and credibility of the assessment.
Most of the tools included in this toolbox are simple methods that lend themselves to be displayed in visual forms, thus maximizing their advocacy potential. It is hoped that this feature will be appreciated by our targeted audience, which consists of national policymakers looking for innovative ways to use existing data sources for more evidence-based planning and decision-making, and national oversight institutions, media & civil society actors wanting to monitor the efforts of governments in following through on their MDG commitments.