Assessing the Assessors: The World Justice Project's "Rule of Law Index"

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 16:00
Location: Seminarsaal 20 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Helen HARTNELL, Golden Gate University, USA
Established in 2006 on the initiative of the then-President of the American Bar Association, the World Justice Project (WJP) claims to be an “independent, multi-disciplinary organization” that works to advance the rule of law around the world. The WJP initially set out to prepare an annual quantitative assessment tool. The first WJP Rule of Law Index (2010) assessed the ‘rule of law’ in 35 countries, while the 2015 Index provides comprehensive data from 102 countries. The empirical research presented in the WJP’s indexes is sophisticated, both conceptually and methodologically, and offers much food for thought. Conceptually, the WJP assesses more than 40 factors across eight “primary” rule of law indicators which are “derived from internationally accepted standards.” The WJP focuses on “how the rule of law is experienced in practical, everyday situations by ordinary people around the world.” Findings are cross-referenced according to income and region, which facilitates comparison and makes it possible to identify systematic variations among the indicators.

Methodologically, the WJP uses original survey data drawn from households and from legal experts in each country. The WJP pursues “multidisciplinary collaboration” with dozens of legal and non-legal civil society groups.

The WJP Index is not limited to quality of justice issues, but its indicators include differentiated examination of the civil, criminal, and regulatory contexts, alongside consideration of broader ‘rule of law’ themes such as absence of corruption, the extent to which government is constrained (inter alia by the judiciary), order and security, the openness of government, and the protection of fundamental rights. My paper will critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index, as well as its potential contribution to the ‘quality of justice’ agenda.