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Global performance indicators (GPIs), such as ratings and rankings, permeate nearly every type of human activity, internationally and nationally, across public and private spheres. While some indicators aim to attract media readership or brand the creator's organization, others increasingly seek to influence political practices and policies. The Power of Global Performance Indicators goes beyond the basic questions of methodological validity explored by others to launch a fresh debate about power in the modern age, exploring the ultimate questions concerning real-world consequences of GPIs, both intended and unintended. From business regulation to terrorism, education to foreign aid, Kelley and Simmons demonstrate how GPIs provoke bureaucracies, shape policy agendas, and influence outputs through their influence of third parties such as donors and market actors and, potentially, even broader global authority structures.
In recent decades, IGOs, NGOs, private firms and even states have begun to regularly package and distribute information on the relative performance of states. From the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index to the Financial Action Task Force blacklist, global performance indicators (GPIs) are increasingly deployed to influence governance globally. We argue that GPIs derive influence from their ability to frame issues, extend the authority of the creator, and — most importantly — to invoke recurrent comparison that stimulates governments' concerns for their own and their country's reputation. Their public and ongoing ratings and rankings of states are particularly adept at capturing attention not only at elite policy levels but also among other domestic and transnational actors. GPIs thus raise new questions for research on politics and governance globally. What are the social and political effects of this form of information on discourse, policies and behavior? What types of actors can effectively wield GPIs and on what types of issues? In this symposium introduction, we define GPIs, describe their rise, and theorize and discuss these questions in light of the findings of the symposium contributions.
We argue that the World Bank has successfully marshaled the Ease of Doing Business (EDB) Index to amass considerable influence over business regulations worldwide. The Ease of Doing is a global performance indicator (GPI), and GPIs—especially those that rate and rank states against one another—are intended to package information to influence the views of an audience important to the target, such as foreign investors or voters, thus generating pressures that induce a change in the target's behavior. The World Bank has succeeded in shaping the global regulatory environment even though the bank has no explicit mandate over regulatory policy and despite questions about EDB accuracy and required policy tradeoffs. We show that the EDB has a dominating market share among business climate indicators. We then use media analyses and observational data to show that EDB has motivated state regulatory shifts. States respond to being publicly ranked and some restructure bureaucracies accordingly. Next we explore plausible influence channels for the EDB ranking and use an experiment involving US portfolio managers to build on existing economics research and examine whether the rankings influence investor sentiment within the experiment. Using a case study of India's multiyear interagency effort to rise in the EDB rankings, as well as its decision to create subnational EDB rankings, we bring the strands of the argument together by showing how politicians see the ranking as affecting domestic politics, altering investor sentiment, and engaging bureaucratic reputation. Overall, a wide variety of evidence converges to illustrate the pressures through which the World Bank has used state rankings to achieve its vision of regulatory reform.
In the past few decades new laws criminalizing certain transnational activities have proliferated: from money laundering, corruption, and insider trading to trafficking in weapons and drugs. Human trafficking is one example. We argue that criminalization of trafficking in persons has diffused in large part because of the way the issue has been framed: primarily as a problem of organized crime rather than predominantly an egregious human rights abuse. Framing human trafficking as an organized crime practice empowers states to confront cross-border human movements viewed as potentially threatening. We show that the diffusion of criminalization is explained by road networks that reflect potential vulnerabilities to the diversion of transnational crime. We interpret our results as evidence of the importance of context and issue framing, which in turn affects perceptions of vulnerability to neighbors' policy choices. In doing so, we unify diffusion studies of liberalization with the spread of prohibition regimes to explain the globalization of aspects of criminal law.
Whether and how violence can be controlled to spare innocent lives is a central issue in international relations. The most ambitious effort to date has been the International Criminal Court (ICC), designed to enhance security and safety by preventing egregious human rights abuses and deterring international crimes. We offer the first systematic assessment of the ICC's deterrent effects for both state and nonstate actors. Although no institution can deter all actors, the ICC can deter some governments and those rebel groups that seek legitimacy. We find support for this conditional impact of the ICC cross-nationally. Our work has implications for the study of international relations and institutions, and supports the violence-reducing role of pursuing justice in international affairs.
The modern human rights movement is at a critical juncture in its history. It has been nearly seventy years since the creation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and some of the oldest and most active human rights organizations have been operating around the world for about forty years. More than twenty years have passed since the end of the cold war, and the time when people spoke in triumphal terms of the global success of Western values is now a fading memory. International human rights are ensconced as firmly as ever in international law and institutions, but what about the future of the “human rights movement”?
The regime for international investment is extraordinary in public international law and controversial in many regions of the world. This article explores two aspects of this set of rules: its decentralization and the unusual powers it gives to private actors to invoke dispute settlement. Decentralization has contributed to a competitive environment for ratification of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and has elevated the importance of dyadic bargaining power in the formation of the regime. Governments of developing countries are more likely to enter into BITs and tie their hands more tightly when they are in a weak bargaining position, which in turn is associated with economic downturns of the domestic economy. Once committed, investors have sued governments with surprising regularity, arguably contributing disproportionately to legal awards that favor the private corporate actors who have the power to convene the dispute settlement system. States have begun to push back, revising their obligations and attempting to annul arbitral awards. One of the conclusions is that it is important not only to consider whether BITs attract capital—which has been the focus of nearly all the empirical research on BIT effects—but also to investigate the governance consequences of the international investment regime generally.
Human rights researchers have discovered quantitative indicators and methods. As a result, for better or for worse, human rights research has joined the mainstream approach to social science research in the past decade. The systematic comparison of specific hypotheses, followed by controlled hypothesis testing using a range of indicators of rights now easily accessible in carefully constructed, well-vetted, widely and freely available datasets, is becoming an important mode for studying human rights. This has allowed both rights advocates as well as rights skeptics to plumb their conceptions of the causes and consequences of the international human rights regime.
The dedicated efforts of scholars, organizations and rights advocates to produce comparable, consistent and carefully constructed indicators for various aspects of human rights realizations has been a boon to research. Used carefully, critically and with an appreciation for its inherent limits, quantitative research has the potential to check whether understandings generated from case studies can be generalized. It can also suggest systematic ways in which our “theories” might be amended or conditioned. The purpose of this chapter is to review the relatively recent (and mostly quantitative) research in precisely this spirit. My focus is primarily on the arguments advanced over a decade ago in what at that time was one of the most carefully executed and theoretically motivated explorations of the relationship between international human rights norms and actual practices: the “spiral model” developed by Thomas Risse, Stephen Ropp and Kathryn Sikkink in The Power of Human Rights (1999; PoHR in the following). The first section sets out in brief the original elements of PoHR’s theory of how international human rights norms have practical effects on human rights practices. The second section compares the theoretical assumptions and causal claims of the spiral model with the last decade’s cascade of quantitative research. PoHR was fairly explicit about the conditions under which they expected human rights norms to influence outcomes, and the specific mechanisms through which normative change could take place.