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Thursday, October 20, 2016

The dangers of using standard performance indicators in development projects

by Greg Armstrong

[Updated October 2018]

International aid agencies sometimes try to use standard performance indicators to make aggregation of agency-level results  easier, but there are real dangers in using these at the project level as Sara Holzapfel  explains in her detailed report The Role of Indicators in Development Cooperation

Level of Complexity:  Complex
Length:  236 pages (the full version, 38 pages for an earlier discussion paper)
Languages: English
Primarily Useful for: Agency-level RBM experts
Most Useful:  Comparisons of how aid agencies use standard indicators at different results levels - particularly Appendix A5, p. 205-233.
Limitations:  Realistically, there are no quick answers on how to aggregate project-level results without using standard indicators

Many of us have encountered development projects where, in the attempt to demonstrate agency-wide accountability for results  the aid agency designing the project has moved away from project-specific results indicators which measure capacity development, policy change or changes in implementation, and attempted to use agency-level standard indicators at the project level.  

As Sara Holzapfel notes in her detailed assessment of how aid agencies use standard performance indicators, published by the: German Development Institute  this trend has arisen both from a concern with accountability and a real interest in whether development programmes contribute to agreed upon goals.

“Amid rising criticism of aid effectiveness coupled with tight budgets in many traditional donor countries at a time of economic crisis, donor agencies are under pressure to deliver more value for money and to provide evidence of the positive effects of development cooperation. In response to these pressures, more and more development agencies are adopting agency results frameworks for monitoring and managing their progress in pursuing their strategic objectives and for reporting on performance.”

Even where there is apparent, substantial progress on broad, long-term indicators, such as the millennium development goals  questions still remain about whether the indicators for these goals, themselves, can tell us anything about whether development interventions contribute effectively to long term results, whether the indicators describe progress against problems effectively  and as a 2014 report on MDG targets and indicators for human development and human rights published in the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities noted 

“The unintended consequences revealed in the Project cannot merely be ascribed to the goals and targets having been selected or implemented badly, as is sometimes claimed. They are more fundamental structural issues arising from the nature of quantification and the nested structure of goals, targets and indicators that the MDGs created.”

Standard and custom development indicators

In her 2014 paper, Sara Holzapfel describes the difference between standard (or common) and what she refers to as “custom indicators” this way:
“In this study, an indicator is said to be a custom indicator if it is tailored to describe a specific phenomenon or to estimate a distinct change in unique circumstances. Standard indicators, by contrast, are indicators that have a common definition, method of measurement and interpretation. They produce data that can be aggregated and compared across interventions, countries or regions. Due to their characteristics, custom indicators may be said to be particularly useful for monitoring the performance of individual interventions, whereas standard indicators serve primarily to report on results at an aggregate level and to inform decision-making.”  [p. 3]

Standard indicators in strategic planning

The study also usefully puts the whole issue of the utility of standard indicators in the context of where they are used – including discussion of  the use of standard indicators for strategic planning

  • Using indicators to assess countries’ relative needs for assistance,
  • Using indicators to assess relative country performance towards development results, 
  • Using indicators to formulatie aid agency strategies and plans, determining where to put aid money – by country, region and sector
Standard indicators for long-term results might be relevant for individual agency performance at the country level, or, as this study suggests, to assist aid agencies and national governments in decisions about where resources should go.  And, Hozapfel’s  study suggests, standard indicators are also useful for aid agencies at the lowest level of the results chain, to measure inputs and completion of activities – things often referred to as Outputs.  This would include things like numbers of schools built, number of teachers or health workers trained.

Comparisons of Donor Agency Indicators

A table comparing indicators for water and sanitation outputs for the 7 donor agencies
Comparison of donor agency indicators

For those interested in the details of the kinds of indicators different agencies use for different types of results, this report has a series of very useful annexes.  Among the most useful:

  • Table A4, pages 187-204, provides examples of indicators for country-level results for poverty reduction, health, education, governance, infrastructure, agriculture and food security, finance, regional integration and conflict, used by The World Bank, The Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Interamerican Development Bank, DfID and UNDP.

  • Table A5, pages 205 - 233, provides examples of Output and Outcome indicators for energy and climate change, transport, water and sanitation, agriculture, irrigation and food security, education, health, finance, humanitarian assistance, land and property rights, private sector development and employment, institutional development and governance, from, again The World Bank, ADB, AfDB, IDB, and DfID, but also from the Millennium Challenge Corporation and AusAid,.
Table showing examples of international aid donor agencies' use of standard indicators
Click to enlarge
An interesting and curious variation here, is that the German aid agencies are not included in this  survey, although the study was published by German Development Institute.  This is unfortunate, because GIZ for one, plays an important international role in support of governance reform and other topics, as other agencies such as GAC appear to be less visible in support in geographic areas such as Southeast Asia.  A footnote tells us that this is because, as of 2014: 

The experiences of German development cooperation agencies will not be discussed here since their initiatives undertaken to aggregate results at the agency-level are still in a piloting phase. For example, the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) have only recently started piloting standard indicators for agency-level performance measurement..." 

Nevertheless, a table on page 186 summarizes the German aid agencies' experience to that date, with standard indicators:

Table summarizing GIZ and KfW experience with standard results indicators
Click to enlarge

Standard indicators for short term completed activities

While there are some useful indicators here, as the report points out, one potential problem could be that aid agencies know it will be difficult to aggregate longer-term capacity development results, and they could therefore focus too much on what is countable – short-term delivery of products or completed activities (outputs, as some agencies call them) rather than real changes or results.

Indicators in real life

In my experience reviewing agency-wide  and country programme indicators the closer we get to examining project-level results – not just completed activities, but real changes, the middle of the results chain,  the less likely it is that standard indicators will help us understand progress on the necessary foundation results of capacity development,  and changes in attitude,  policy , and implementation behaviour.  

There are cases where using indicators for Millennium Development Goals or, the subsequent Sustainable Development Goals might be possible at a meaningful project level ( the prevalence of underweight children under five years of age, for example, in a limited geographic area).  But most of the time the indicators which work at the national or international level over a ten or 15 year period such the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector, or carbon dioxide emissions per capita will be too broad to help define achievable local results or to adequately describe results for individual projects working in a limited geographic area, over a short period of time – 5 to 10 years, for example.  

There are too many intervening steps in a genuinely useful logic model or theory of change, between what problems are defined and what initiatives taken at the local level, for broad, standard indicators to be useful guides to action or evaluation, if applied to different conditions, and different projects.

In many of these projects the focus is on improving the capacity of change agents (teachers, agricultural agents, health workers or police, for example)   to work with the population which will, we hope, have its lives changed for the better, over time and what we need are locally relevant indicators on these topics.

Losing ownership on indicators and data collection

If we listen to most aid agencies’  espoused theory  of how indicators are developed, we are supposed to be developing performance indicators with the partner agencies, change agents, and those affected by the projects, not imposing indicators – or results for that matter – from the top down.  

But where even the most knowledgeable and well –meaning experts may come to a consensus about what is needed in the very long term to measure results, they will not be familiar enough with conditions, problems, needs or projects on the ground in the hundreds, thousands of places where real development work takes place.  And where indicators are imposed on people, they often show little enthusiasm for data collection.

Top-Down vs Bottom-Up indicators

It comes down to this:  Indicators which can accurately measure progress towards results at the individual project most probably will not be identical to programme-wide, agency-wide, or world-wide international indicators.  By forcing such indicators upon people working at a country, programme or project level, we are in danger of making the indicators meaningless for real results where people actually work – in projects, in schools, in individual government agencies, or in villages.  

This top-down approach to indicators is ultimately undermining the credibility of results-based management for the most important people in the system – they people who have to make it work in real life, not in an international conference room.

The alternative is to accept the fact that broad indicators will only be useful in the very long term, that useful logic models and theories of change which are developed at the field level, will produce indicators which will be relevant to the people who need to use them, and therefore more likely to see actual data collection.  They will also be more likely to actually be used in the design and management of development activities.  

If we want broad country programme or agency-wide indicators on results, we should be starting the analysis with what the development professionals on the ground tell us will work, and be useful to them.

The bottom line:

Sara Holzapfel’s analysis of standard and custom indicators is a useful reminder of the complexity of trying to apply standard international indicators across projects and a valuable compilation of indicators from different agencies.


Greg Armstrong is a Results-Based Management specialist who focuses on the use of clear language in RBM training, and in the creation of usable planning, monitoring and reporting frameworks.  For links to more Results-Based Management Handbooks and Guides, go to the RBM Training website

Friday, February 12, 2016

Governance Assessments and Governance Indicators – The Governance of Forests Initiative Indicator Guidance Manual

[Updated August 2019]

Don’t let the title mislead you - The Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) Indicator Framework and the accompanying Guidance Manual published  in 2013 by the World Resources Institute are practical tools not just for those working on environmental governance, but for anyone developing indicators for the design, management or monitoring of governance  projects or programmes in any sector.
The Governance of Forests Initiative website

Level of Difficulty: Moderate to Complex
Length: 295 pages - or downloadable as 7 discrete files by component
Languages:  English
Primarily Useful For: Indicator workshop facilitators, project or programme managers
Most Useful:  Guidance on data collection for 596 indicators
Limitations: These are not cut and paste indicators.  The Guide provides examples of issues to be considered in data collection, but users will need to do their own work to adapt indicators to specific contexts


Developing indicators for governance projects and programmes– whether democratic governance in general, or governance in specific sectors such as natural resources or the environment -  always requires careful discussion and debate among those designing and managing projects, and their partners and stakeholders.  .

There are usually very few shortcuts we can take in working through what potential indicators are at the same time both technically and politically valid, and practical enough to actually have collectable data.  In my experience on both environmental governance and democratic governance projects, it is necessary often to start from scratch on each unique project, clarifying assumptions about what the results mean to different groups, and what is likely to be practical in terms of data collection.  Doe projects on transparency, democratic governance, and accountability it is often counterproductive to simply adopt standard global indicators used to compare country performance on governance, and try to use them to describe specific capacity development needs of individual governance projects.

Useful publications from the World Resources Institute 

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover, belatedly, the World Resources Institute and its publications, particularly those on The Governance of Forests Initiative.  The WRI states that while it ensures that its publications meet academic standards, “We also ensure that all of our publications are timely, fit for audience, and rooted in a strategic plan for achieving positive change in the world.”  Based on my reading of the indicator guidance manual, this is certainly fit for the audience of people I work with – people designing, managing , monitoring ,evaluating, and affected by governance projects – in forestry, natural resources management or any other sector.

Practical governance indicator guidance

There are dozens of reports and guides on governance issues and governance indicators on the WRI website, but after sorting through many of them, what I found the most useful for facilitators of indicator development workshops for people working in the field on governance projects in a wide range of sectors is the series of publications on indicators for assessing forest governance.  These were field tested over several years in Cameroon, Indonesia and Brazil, before publication.

For those wanting just an overview of the process of assessing governance, the 68-page Assessing Forest Governance: The Governance of Forests Initiative Indicator Framework might be of interest.  It is, however, somewhat mislabeled I think, on the publications download page  as a “full report”.

There are numerous alternatives for downloading the indicator framework and reports, a summary or individual chapters at the WRI website.

page showing the alternatives for different documents in the Governance of Forests Initiative Indicator Framework
Governance of Forest Initiatives Indicator framework download alternatives
[click to enlarge

The 295-page Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) Guidance Manual: A Guide to Using the GFI Indicator Framework , written by Lauren Williams, Jessica Breitfeller and  Celine Lim, while not as pretty as the framework itself, contains, as far as I could see, both the report, and much more detailed discussion of the practical issues involved in actually using the indicators, or adapting them to project or community specific contexts. It is this document which I think will be of greatest use to people who need not just to develop governance indicators, but to specify how they will be defined and how data will be collected.

This Guidance manual is divided into two parts – an introductory section on how to conduct governance assessments, and detailed guides to collecting data on 596 indicators in part 2.  

While I think the whole Guide is worth downloading as one coherent document, the website also,  for those with limited bandwidth, interest or patience, provides links to 7 sections with theme-specific indicators which can be downloaded separately. The rest of this post describes what is in those sections, and in the Guide to using the indicator framework.

How to conduct a governance assessment

Principles of good governance

 This 35-page introductory Part 1 of the guide discusses the principles of good governance for which it is proposing indicators, including transparency, participation, accountability, coordination and “capacity”, and four forestry themes with which they will be matched in indicator development.  

Example of a theme - land tenure and the types of subthemes and indicators discussed in the report
Matching Governance Themes and Indicators
[Click to enlarge}

Those themes are forest tenure, land use, forest management, forest revenues.  But the Guide also recognizes the need for indicators on cross-cutting governance institutions and cross-cutting governance issues of relevance to any sector.

General Governance Indicators

Those readers most interested not in issues of forestry or resource management, but on governance in general, can skip to the bottom of this review and the links to the Guide’s 168 indicators on cross-cutting governance institutions (the legislature, courts, executive agencies, civil society organizations and the private sector)  and cross-cutting governance issues, such as public participation in decision making, access to information, public financial management and anti-corruption.  

But, having reviewed all of these indicators, I think many of the 400 forest-specific indicators could well be adapted, or provide the starting point for indicator discussions in other sectors.  So, it could be worth your time to take a look at all of them.

Designing a governance assessment

Once we have agreed on valid governance indicators, there is the question of how we can actually apply them to assess progress on governance.  Part 1  of the Guide discusses also governance assessment research methods - how to design and plan for a governance assessment, setting realistic objectives, narrowing the scope of the assessment, determining the scale on which the assessment will be conducted (national, local, comparative, case studies), adapting indicators to local conditions and needs, recruiting data collection teams, selecting research methods, compiling and analyzing data, and good practices for communicating results.

Adapting standard governance indicators

The discussion which was the most important for me, because it recurs repeatedly at the project level, focused on  the need and desirability of adapting the indicators in the Guide, and perhaps developing completely new indicators applicable to the specific context – a country, a community or a project, being assessed.

Decisions about whether to tailor indicators depend on the assessment objectives, audience, and resources available. Researchers may tailor the indicators themselves or launch a process that involves external actors. The latter approach can be particularly useful if capacity-building, creating dialogue, or generating early “buy-in” from target audiences are key elements of the assessment strategy. Multistakeholder engagement in planning can strengthen support for the assessment process, improve the design, and establish a user base for the results. It can also facilitate implementation by creating indicators that are easier to apply to national or local circumstances. [p. 18]

One of the biggest errors  I have seen project managers – or donor agencies for that matter –make is to try to force broad standard indicators onto assessment of results at a local project level.

This Guide, however, provides an overview of a very large number of indicators which might be applicable, both to environmental management and to governance in general, some of which might be useful, with adaptation and perhaps reinvention, at the project level.

Detailed Indicator Guidance

In Part 2, in 6 sections, the Guide does not simply list nearly 600 indicators, but provides detailed guidance on defining indicators, targeting specific issues of quality for each indicator, and, with indicator worksheets, provides a template for data collection, and possible scoring of responses.

Yet, once again, the authors emphasize the need to adapt research methods, data sources, terminology to local contexts, and to put conclusions drawn from the data in context.

And even with this guidance, substantial work will be needed to tailor the methods and targets to the individual country, or project context.

For example, the GFI Indicator Guide provides this guidance on what researchers need to do when collecting information on one of several indicators on public disclosure of information.

Example of guidance on how to collect and analyze governance indicator data
Details of governance indicator data collection and analysis
[click to enlarge]

And, the Guide provides a template for researchers to explain their rating of performance against the indicator

GFI Template for explaining a governance indicator rating
[Click to enlarge

But if we want to be more specific on scoring, on this indicator, or any other, whether it is for forest management, the environment, or any other topic, we could also list our own criteria for ranking transparency. The technical note on the WRI’s Environmental Democracy Index written by Jesse Worker and Lalanath de Silva (another useful document) provides some detailed examples of the details we could use for ranking performance on this, or any other governance indicator.

Example of the criteria to be used for ranking two governance indicators on access to information
Example of criteria for scoring performance on a governance indicator
[click to enlarge}

My point – and I think, that of the authors of the GFI indicator guide – is that while this Guide provides suggestions on useful indicators, the details still need to be worked out for each project, programme and context.

Adapting an indicator to the local context: An example on legislative transparency

The Guide suggests 5 indicators on legislative rules of procedure (p. 214).  One of these is:
Transparency. Rules of procedure require timely and proactive public disclosure of information on proposed legislation and the legislative calendar.
It then provides this guidance on data collection:
Rules should identify a comprehensive list of the information that must be disclosed, including rules of procedure, the legislative calendar, and draft legislation. Rules should also indicate a specific time frame for disclosure that provides the public with sufficient notice to attend or provide input into legislative debate.
As an example of what this adaptation of a governance indicator  to the local context means in practice, in one legislative reform project on which I worked several years ago, after much discussion, one of the indicators chosen for to demonstrate increased transparency of the legislative process was:

"Development of a legislative calendar for Parliament by the leadership and senior management" Baseline data for the indicator was that no legislative calendar or agenda had ever been used, and this obviously put the Opposition parties, the private sector, and civil society who might want to study and comment on proposed legislation, at a disadvantage.

The project managers had to specify how they would collect data to verify that the agenda was developed.  Later in the project they reported on the progress against the indicator:

  • Legislative Agenda of the National Assembly and the Senate received by 5 (named) civil society organizations, and two donor agencies,as reported by these organizations 
  • Legislative Agenda published in the local Newspaper (date and page) and broadcast on the Radio and 7 TV stations
  • The 2005 and 2006 legislative calendars were communicated to international organizations and Embassies
  • The 2005 and 2006 legislative calendars were put on the National Assembly and Senate’s websites

A second indicator dealt with whether the agenda had actually been used in practice: "Legislation is debated and voted on according to a public agenda".  Baseline data for this indicator, obviously, was "There was no public agenda and no time for public consultation on legislation."

Eventually, after a couple of years of activities - taking both executive branch and legislative leaders to see how legislative agendas are used in other countries, workshops and conferences on best practices, and how these could be adapted to the local context the project managers collected data on implementation and reported it this way:
  •  Actual: Examples of legislation debated and/or voted on in the National Assembly and Senate  according to a public legislative agenda include: Domestic Violence Draft Law, Senate Election Law, amendment to the National Election Committee Law, and Commercial Enterprise Law.
  • 3 active civil society organizations (named) reported in their newsletters that parliamentarians consulted with them and took their recommendations into account in the draft laws on anti-corruption and domestic violence and the amendment to the national election committee law.
So, while we might get some ideas about the types of governance indicators we can use from the GFI  Guide, it will still be necessary for project managers and monitors to spell out the details on data collection, and then do the work.

An Extensive List of Governance Indicators 

Below is an overview of the scope of the indicators provided in the Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) Guidance Manual: A Guide to Using the GFI Indicator Framework.  Each of these can be downloaded separately, or all together in one file. 

Forest Tenure Indicators 

The section on Forest Tenure Indicators [p. 30-85] provides 119  indicators and guidance on data collection and assessment on four themes – forest ownership and use rights, tenure dispute resolution, state forests and concession allocation.

44 indicators on Forest Ownership and Use Rights  (p. 44-57) including

  • 4 indicators on legal recognition of forest tenure rights
  • 6  indicators on legal support and protection of forest tenure rights
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for adjudication of forest tenure rights
  • 6 indicators on how forest tenure adjudication actually works in practice
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for administration of forest tenure rights (titling, permits, surveying, etc.)
  • 6 indicators to assess how the administration of forest tenure works in practice (compliance, service standards, discrimination, accessibility, timeliness and accountability)
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness of information management about forest tenure rights
  • 4 indicators on support for rights-holders to exercise their rights
  • 5 indicators on the extent to which forest tenure rights are recognized and protected in practice

19  indicators on Tenure Dispute Resolution including (p. 58-65)

  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for dispute resolution bodies
  • 5 indicators on the capacity of dispute resolution bodies to resolve disputes in a timely and fair manner
  • 5 indicators on the accessibility of dispute resolution services
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness of dispute resolution bodies
23 indicators on State Forest Ownership (p. 66-73) including
  • 6 indicators on the legal basis for designating state forests
  • 6 indicators on the extent to which decisions to designate (or re-designate) state forests are transparent and accountable in practice
  • 6 indicators on the legal basis for expropriation
  • 5 indicators on how expropriation works in practice

33 indicators on Concession Allocation for forest exploitation or conversion (p. 74-85) including
  • 6 indicators on the legal basis for allocating concessions in state forests
  • 5 indicators on concession allocation in practice
  • 6 indicators on the quality of concession contracts
  • 5 indicators on the social and environmental requirements of concessions
  • 5 indicators on compliance with social and environmental requirements in concession contracts
  • 6 indicators on the management of information about concessions

The Guide’s provides  89  Land Use Indicators and guidance on data collection and assessment on p. 86-124] on land use planning, land use plan implementation, sectoral land use, and forest classification.

29 indicators on Land Use Planning (p. 87-98) including

  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for land use planning
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for social and environmental considerations in land use planning
  • 5 indicators on the capacity of land use planning agencies
  • 4 indicators on the coordination of land use planning
  • 6 indicators on community participation in land use planning
  • 6 indicators on the quality of land use plans

14 indicators on the Implementation of Land Use Plans (p. 99-104) including

  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for implementing land use plans
  • 5 indicators on how land use plans are implemented in practice
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness of monitoring and enforcement of land use plans

31 indicators on Sectoral Land Use (p. 105-118) including

  • 5 indicators on strategic social and environmental assessment of potential impacts in sector planning
  • 5 indicators on the quality of sector plans
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for environmental and social impact assessments (ESIAs) of sector projects
  • 5 indicators on the legal basis for implementing and enforcing environmental and social impact assessments
  • 6 indicators on the implementation and enforcement of environmental and social impact assessments in practice
  • 6 indicators on the Monitoring of social and environmental impacts of sectoral land use

15 indicators on Forest Classification (p. 119-124)  including

  • 6 indicators on the legal basis for forest classification
  • 4 indicators on the information basis for forest classification
  • 5 indicators on the appropriateness of forest classification

The Guide provides 147 Forest Management indicators and guidance on data collection and assessment, on the legal and policy framework for forest management, forest strategies and plans, monitoring forests, forest management practice, and forest law enforcement.

31 indicators on Forest Legal and Policy Framework (p.126-137)  including

  • 6 indicators on national objectives for forest management and conservation
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for reviewing forest policies and laws
  • 6 indicators on the legal basis for forest management planning
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for harvesting forest products
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for community participation in forest management
  • 7 indicators on the legal basis for biodiversity and conservation

22 indicators on Forest Strategies and Plans (p. 138-145) including

  • 4 indicators on the existence of forest strategies and plans
  • 6 indicators on the quality of forest strategies and plans
  • 6 indicators on the extent to which forest strategies and plans create economic incentives for sustainable forest management
  • 6 indicators on the actual implementation of forest strategies and plans

 24 Forest Monitoring indicators  (p/ 146-155) including

  • 5 indicators on the extent to which forest inventories are conducted
  • 5 indicators on effective monitoring of forest cover changes
  • 4 indicators on monitoring of social, environmental and economic dimensions of forests
  • 4 indicators on monitoring and control of forest fires and other natural disturbances
  • 6 indicators on the effectiveness of forest information systems

32 indicators on Forest Management Practices (p. 156-167)  including

  • 5 indicators on the quality of forest management plans
  • 6 indicators on the capacity of forest managers to develop and implement forest management plans
  • 5 indicators on the administration of harvesting licenses and permits
  • 4 indicators on community participation in forest management
  • 6 indicators on the implementation of formal community-based forest management
  • 6 indicators on the management of protected areas

38 indicators on Forest Law Enforcement (p. 168-181)  including

  • 5 indicators on the legal basis for forest-related offenses and penalties
  • 5 indicators on the legal basis for forest law enforcement
  • 5 indicators on the capacity of law enforcement bodies to enforce forest laws
  • 6 indicators on the monitoring of forest management operations
  • 6 indicators on the monitoring of timber supply chains
  • 6 indicators on the prosecution of forest crimes
  • 5 indicators on the application of penalties
The guide provides  72  forest revenue indicators and guidance on data collection and assessment on administration of forest charges, distribution of forest revenue, sharing of benefits from forests, and budgeting.

40 indicators on Forest Charge Administration (p.183-192)  including

  • 5 indicators on the legal basis for forest charges
  • 6 indicators on transparency and inclusiveness of review processes and revision of forest charges
  • 4 indicators on the appropriateness of the types and levels of forest charges
  • 5 indicators on measures to promote compliance with forest charges
  • 4 indicators on the capacity of relevant agencies to collect forest charges in a transparent and accountable manner
  • 6 indicators on the legal basis for the distribution of forest revenues
  • 4 indicators on the effectiveness and transparency of implementation of the forest revenue distribution arrangements
  • 6 indicators on the management of funds that receive forest revenue allocations

14 indicators on Forest Benefit Sharing (p. 199-204) including

  • 4 indicators on the extent to which the legal framework promotes equitable sharing of benefits from forest management with local communities
  • 5 indicators on the inclusiveness and transparency of the design of benefit sharing arrangements
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness and fairness of implementation of benefit sharing arrangements

18 indicators on the Forestry Management Budgeting (p. 205-212).   

All  of these indicators are broad enough that they could be included as cross-cutting governance indicators, in the final section of the Guide.  This section includes
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness and transparency of the national budget process
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness of legislative oversight of the budget process
  • 4 indicators on the extent to which the forest agency budget is based on comprehensive and high quality information (criteria which could apply to any sector)
  • 4 indicators on whether the budget is adequate to fund the agency’s roles and responsibilities
Section 5 of the Guide provides 88 indicators and guidance on data collection and assessment on the performance of cross-cutting governance institutions including the legislature, judicial system, executive agencies, the private sector, and civil society.    This section is relevant to anyone working on governance, in any sector.  In practice, as Part 1 of the guide points out, the indicators (and of course the baseline and targets if these are being used to monitor improvements) would need to be made more specific to the context of the institutions in specific countries.

 19 Legislative indicators (p. 214-221) including

  • 6 indicators on the transparency of legislative rules and procedures
  • 5 indicators on the extent to which legislative proceedings are open and transparent in practice
  • 4 indicators on the capacity of legislators on forest issues (and all of the indicators could be used to assess capacity of legislators – and their staff – in other sectors)
  • 4 indicators on the transparency and justification of legislative decisions

 18 Judiciary system indicators (p. 222-229)

  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for the judicial system
  • 5 indicators on accessibility of the judicial system
  • 5 indicators on the independence of the judicial system
  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for judicial review

 19 indicators on Executive Agencies (p. 230-237) including

  • 4 indicators on clarity of roles and responsibilities for executive agencies specified in the legal framework
  • 5 indicators on human resources policies of executive agencies
  • 5 indicators on performance monitoring within executive agencies
  • 5 indicators on independent oversight of executive agencies

 10 Private Sector governance indicators (p. 238-243)  including

  • 3 indicators on the legal basis for corporate financial transparency
  • 3 indicators on corporate compliance with financial transparency requirements
  • 4 indicators on corporate social and environmental practices

22 Civil Society indicators (p. 244-253) including

  • 4 indicators on the extent to which the legal framework supports an active and independent civil society
  • 4 indicators on civil society capacity to engage on forest issues
  • 5 indicators on the extent and ways in which civil society organizations actually attempt to influence decision making
  • 4 indicators on the extent to which civil society organizations generate independent information and analysis about forests
  • 5 indicators on the extent of news media coverage of forest issues

Indicators for Cross-cutting Governance Issues (p. 254-288) 

Section 6 of the Guide provides 81 indicators and guidance on data collection and assessment on issues such as public participation, access to information,  public financial management, anti-corruption and conflict of interest.

21 Public Participation indicators (p. 255—262) including 

  • 5 indicators on the legal basis for public participation in government decision-making
  • 4 indicators on the extent to which government agencies have the capacity to facilitate public participation in decision making
  • 6 indicators on the extent to which rule and regulations on public participation are effectively implemented in practice
  • 6 indicators on the extent to which there are permanent platforms or mechanisms for ongoing public participation in decision making

16 Access to Information indicators (p. 263—268) including

  • 6 indicators on the extent to which the legal system guarantees public access to information about forests
  • 6 indicators on the transparency of government decision-making and information disclosure in practice
  • 4 indicators on the extent to which government information is actually accessible and made usable to the public

20 Financial Transparency and Accountability indicators (p. 269-278) including

  • 4 indicators on the extent to which the legal framework promotes responsible public financial management
  • 5 indicators on the financial disclosure practices of public agencies
  • 5 indicators on the effectiveness of internal financial audit systems
  • 6 indicators on the extent and effectiveness of external financial audit systems

24 Anticorruption indicators (p. 279-288) including

  • 4 indicators on the legal basis for combatting corruption
  • 5 indicators on the quality of anticorruption institutions
  • 4 indicators on the effectiveness of mechanisms for receiving and investigating corruption reports
  • 5 indicators on the existence of conflict of interest laws
  • 6 indicators on the implementation and enforcement of conflict of interest laws and regulations

The bottom line:  The Governance of Forests Initiative (GFI) Guidance Manual is a carefully written and widely useful guide to the development of indicators of relevance to any governance subject. You won’t be able to just copy and paste these indicators into most project performance measurement frameworks, but they will provide examples that could be adapted, with a little intellectual effort and discussion with stakeholders, to specific project contexts.   I plan to keep this guide close to me as a reference for future indicator development workshops.

Further Reading

Other WRI topics of interest include


Greg Armstrong is a Results-Based Management specialist who focuses on the use of clear language in RBM training, and in the creation of usable planning, monitoring and reporting frameworks.  For links to more Results-Based Management Handbooks and Guides, go to the RBM Training website

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