On the Power of ‘the Single Figure’: Exploring UNDP & WB’s Approaches to Governance Assessments

Anna Sofie Kryger-Rump

Student thesis: Master thesis


This study explores the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and World Bank’s (WB) approaches to governance assessment (GA) by indicators through the perspective of governmentality. It becomes clear that the two organisations, in line with the traditional donors, in general, have many purposes with their approaches to GA that is not only employed as a means of power in itself, it is also authoritatively supported by the (still) powerful tool of aid. Yet, by exploring the problematizations, representations and interventions of these organisations, some overall trends appear. Hence, not only do the approaches follow two dominating black-boxed assumptions within this field; viz. ‘(good) governance matters crucially for development outcomes’ and ‘evidence in the form of statistical and numerical indicators matter for governance’, they are also framed within a rights-based discourse, loaded with positive concepts that has dominated the international development policies since the millennium. However, the latter exist together with another dominating discourse about results-based management, effectiveness and cost-efficiency, which has become strengthened since the latest financial crisis. Thus, not only are the discursive approaches of UNDP and WB strongly influenced by these trends, they also frame the scope of action of the GAs. As will be shown, this not only create paradoxes and dilemmas, both within and between their approaches, it also transform the GAs into symbolic kinds of ‘signalling devices’.

EducationsMSc in International Business and Politics, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2013
Number of pages89