Towards a valid and viable measurement of SDG target 16.7

My chapter in: SDG16 Data Initiative. Global Report 2020, New York, 32-37

The UN Member States have set ten specific targets for Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 16 , the promotion of just, peaceful and inclusive societies. Of these targets, target 16.7 aims at ensuring “responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels”. Among the 17 SDGs and the 169 targets defined to achieve the Goals, target 16.7 may be viewed as a key target because it focuses on political decision-making, which is a crucial prerequisite for all of the desirable policy outcomes defined in SDG 16 and in the other SDGs. This chapter discusses the official indicators for monitoring target 16.7 and argues that the Global State of Democracy Indices – a set of democracy measures developed by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) – can function as valid proxy indicators. read more

Czechoslovakia, Czech and Slovak Republic

State Formation and Administrative-Territorial Organization

Forthc. in Handbook of European Regions 1870-2010, ed. by J. M. Henneberg, Cham, Switzerland: Springer Nature

My contribution to a fascinating new handbook explores how administrative-territorial divisions in the Czech and Slovak Republics are rooted in historical processes of state formation.

Author: J. Pieper

Compared to most West European nation states, Czechoslovakia was established lately. It emerged from the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy after the First World War and existed until 1992, interrupted by the German annexation and the creation of an independent Slovak state between 1938 and 1945. The Czechoslovak state was composed of the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic, two territories with distinct historical identities. read more

Advising Regional and Federal Studies

In June 2018, I was invited to join the Editorial Advisory Board of Regional and Federal Studies, one of the leading journals exploring territorial politics, federalism and regionalism. The journal carefully reviews, selects and publishes high-quality articles dealing with various aspects of regionalism and federalism crossing substantive, thematic, geographical, theoretical, and methodological boundaries.

The journal’s content spans federalism and multi-level government, decentralization in the developing world, post-conflict federal power-sharing arrangements, minority nationalist movements, and many other topics dealing with divided political authority and territorial diversity. Although the journal’s roots are in the study of Western European multi-level government, RFS has expanded its profile to incorporate regionalism, federalism and decentralization in the developing world and in the Americas. 

I have always appreciated this journal and look forward to strengthening the expertise available to RFS editors, providing strategic guidance and promoting the journal further.

Challenges to Strategic Government

A case study of Montenegro, presentation at the Transylvanian International Conference in Public Administration, Cluj-Napoca, 2 November 2017

Cluj-Napoca panorama

The European Union encourages and expects its prospective new member states to establish systems of medium-term strategic planning. A meaningful strategic planning process that involves informed choices of priorities and changing existing practices of policymaking is, however, difficult to institutionalize. The chapter sequence of EU accession negotiations pre-defines a policy agenda, leaving little scope for endogenously determined policy priorities. Commitments taken in cooperations with other external donors / actors require tailored strategic planning activities that tend to occur in parallel, emerging from line ministries and usually without prior coordination between departments. Existing routines of planning and budgeting need to be reorganized and adapted which also implies redefining the roles played by coordinating institutions. Ministers and their political advisors need to be convinced and familiarized with the new planning process, which is often associated with changing institutional culture.

In my talk, I discussed these challenges by drawing on information collected during various consultations with civil servants in the Government of Montenegro. Montenegro constitutes a crucial case because it is considered to be a frontrunner among the Western Balkan EU accession candidates. Like other Southeast European countries, Montenegro lacks administrative capacity due to the small size of its public administration and tightening fiscal constraints due to its growing public debt.

See also:

Medium-term strategic planning

Performance Monitoring for Montenegro

Core Executives in Central Europe

Handbook of East European Politics, ed. by P. Kopecký and A. Fagan, London: Routledge

Core executives have become increasingly important political actors and arenas due to several interlinked developments affecting both states and societies. Modernisation has weakened the ties between political parties and voters, making parties more dependent on state resources and, in particular, access to government. Since the political process has become more dominated by media communication, political controversy tends to be framed between chief executives and rival political leaders. Global economic integration has narrowed the policy discretion of nation states and fostered the spread of non-majoritarian institutions entrusted with regulatory functions. These trends have been associated with the growing weight of policy output as a source of legitimacy, in contrast to “input legitimacy” derived from democratic elections. Among the three branches of state power, executives control most of the tools available to influence policy outputs and the interventions of both domestic and international regulatory agencies. The crisis and politicisation of European integration have further enhanced the salience of national (chief) executives compared to national legislatures and supranational institutions. As a result, many of the choices characterising politics and policymaking are now made or shaped at the centres of executives.

This chapter discusses the ‘core executive’ both as an empirical field of actors, institutions, and behavioural practices at the centres of Central European governments and as a theoretical concept formulated to study this field. The term ‘core executive’ was initially proposed by Dunleavy and Rhodes (1990) to describe the centre of the British government from a functional perspective. The core executive comprises ‘all those organizations and procedures which coordinate central government policies, and act as final arbiters of conflict between different parts of the government machine’ (Rhodes, 1995, 12, Dunleavy and Rhodes, 1990). In the United Kingdom, these functions are performed by ‘the complex web of institutions, networks and practices surrounding the prime minister, cabinet, cabinet committees and their official counterparts, less formalised ministerial ‘clubs’ or meetings, bilateral negotiations and interdepartmental committees’, including the coordinating departments at the centre of government (Rhodes, 1995, 12). The notion of a core executive represents a conceptual innovation insofar as it

(1) focuses on neutral functions rather than specific institutions like the prime minister or cabinet which may convey normative connotations and cultural bias;

(2) goes beyond a formal institutional analysis to investigate the empirical practice and resources of policy coordination, including both its political and administrative dimensions; and

(3) reflects the fragmented network of institutions that emerged from neoliberal reforms of government and substituted the traditional framework of cabinet government.

Replacing hierarchic, Weberian models of central government by market mechanisms, negotiations, and networks as modes of governance, these reforms are viewed as part of a broader ‘hollowing-out of the state’, a process that has also been driven by growing international interdependencies, the privatisation of public services and devolution (Rhodes, 1994). As a consequence, the spatial metaphor ‘core’ seems more appropriate than ‘top’, and heads or centres of government now appear to be more aptly characterised by their coordination and arbitration functions than by ‘instructing’ or ‘ordering’. The notion of political power underlying the concept of the core executive is relational and contingent (Rhodes and Tiernan, 2015, Elgie, 2011): in order to achieve their goals, prime ministers and core political actors depend on other actors and must exchange resources such as authority, expertise or money with them (Rhodes, 1997, 203).

Apart from these assumptions, the concept of the core executive initially did not bear any implications for the likely or desirable distribution of power, the prevalent modes of governance, or the roles of political actors in central government. This indeterminacy has facilitated its diffusion from the original British context to other Westminster systems as well as to continental European and even to presidential systems of government (Helms, 2005, Weller et al., 1997). However, the ‘essential malleability of the term “core executive” is [also] the reason why its use has become de rigueur. It is a wonderfully convenient term. The result, though, is that the universe of “core executive studies” includes a great deal of work that could, quite happily, use a different term and have no less analytical purchase.’(Elgie, 2011, 72)

The remainder of this chapter distinguishes two paradigms that have shaped core executive studies focusing on Central Europe and reflect the recent history of the region: transition and Europeanisation. A third paradigm of ‘executive governance’ is suggested as a perspective for future work. The main argument of the chapter is that the trend towards centralised executive authority in several Central European countries suggests complementing the analysis of institutional arrangements with a broader analysis of governance. Such an approach would relate institutions to policies and their outcomes, highlighting possible drawbacks of centralisation and trade-offs between different functions or policy objectives.

(c) Martin Brusis. A map of executive governance in OECD and EU member states, based on the Sustainable Governance Indicators dataset

Dunleavy, P. and R. A. W. Rhodes (1990) ‘Core Executive Studies in Britain’, Public Administration, 68(1), pp. 3-28.

Elgie, R. (2011) ‘Core Executive Studies Two Decades On’, Public Administration, 89(1), pp. 64-77.

Helms, L. (2005) Presidents, Prime Minister and Chancellors. Executive Leadership in Western Democracies. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Rhodes, R. A. (1995) ‘From Prime Ministerial Power to Core Executive’, in Rhodes, R.A. & P. Dunleavy (eds) Prime Minister, Cabinet and Core Executive. London: Macmillan, pp. 11-37.

Rhodes, R. A. (1994) ‘The Hollowing Out of the State: The Changing Nature of the Public Service in Britain’, The Political Quarterly, 65(2), pp. 138-151.

Rhodes, R. A. (1997) ‘”Shackling the Leader?”: Coherence, Capacity and the Hollow Crown’, in Weller, P., H. Bakvis & R.A. Rhodes (eds) The Hollow Crown. Countervailing Trends in Core Executives Transforming Government. Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Macmillan, pp. 198-223.

Rhodes, R. A. and A. Tiernan (2015) ‘Executive Governance and its Puzzles’, in Massey, A. & K. Miller (eds) International Handbook of Public Administration and Governance. Chelmsford: Edward Elgar, pp. 81-103.

Weller, P., H. Bakvis and R. A. Rhodes (eds) (1997) The Hollow Crown. Countervailing Trends in Core Executives. Houndsmill, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Medium-Term Strategic Planning

A workshop by SIGMA and Montenegro’s Ministry of European Affairs, Podgorica 11-12 May 2017

To step up its EU accession preparations, the newly elected government of Montenegro has established a new Ministry of European Affairs (MEP) since November 2016. In May 2017, the Ministry organized a government-wide workshop on the coordination of strategic planning together with SIGMA, the joint program created by the OECD and the EU to strengthen public management.

The purpose of the workshop was to discuss the requirements and coordination of strategic plans, to link strategy documents and medium-term budget planning and to define goals and indicators for monitoring and reporting. Apart from MEP, senior civil servants from the Secretariat of the Government, the Ministry of Finance and key line ministries attended the workshop. SIGMA experts included practitioners from Estonia, Latvia and Hungary.

In my presentations, I identified possible links between strategic planning and the budget process and gave an overview on approaches and options of performance measurement. One outcome of the workshop was a clearer rationale for a sector structure of medium-term strategic policy planning.

Sectors can be viewed as an intermediary level between the institutional setup / organizational design of government and the goal orientation or functional logic of public policies. The definition and delineation of sectors reflects the medium- and longterm policy priorities of the government, while being sufficiently broad to enable a flexible definition and readjustment of policy goals.

Sectors can structure and support inter-ministerial cooperation below the cabinet level. Such a cooperation is particularly important for Montenegro because the current government consists of a relatively large number of ministerial portfolios that is likely to reduce the effectiveness of deliberation within the full cabinet of ministers. Moreover, general administrative capacity limits also strongly suggest inter-ministerial cooperation.

We proposed to define seven sectors taking into account the structures of ministry portfolios and the most important medium-term planning documents: Democracy and governance; financial / fiscal governance; transport and energy infrastructure; economic development and environment; science, education and culture; employment, social inclusion and health; euroatlantic integration.

Performance Monitoring for Montenegro

Government of Montenegro: Cabinet Meeting

Montenegro belongs to a group of income-poor, small and young Southeast and East European democracies interested in joining the EU. To master the challenges of accession and membership, these states have to create a modern and effective public administration. However, experience has shown that externally imposed accession conditions and regulatory alignment do not sufficiently prepare new EU member states to overcome culturally ingrained practices of corruption and clientelism. Accession-driven administrative reforms yield sustainable effects only if they are complemented by stronger domestic public accountability.

The proposed project seeks to improve this accountability by establishing a system of indicators that enable the public to monitor the performance of central government in Montenegro. The indicators will be designed to map inputs, outputs and outcomes of government activities. They will provide data on financial and human resources employed by ministries, on the management of these resources and on the impacts of public policies. By generating objective, reliable and detailed empirical evidence on government performance, the proposed monitoring system will (1) empower parliament, citizens, civil society organizations and media to better assess and debate the quality of public governance and (2) support political representatives and senior officials in identifying and addressing shortcomings.

The project will be realized in cooperation with a Montenegrin think tank, the Center for Democratic Transition, and the General Secretariat of Montenegro’s Government.

Download: CDT_PolicyBrief_en

Paths and Constraints of Subnational Government Mobilization in East-Central Europe

Article in: Regional and Federal Studies 24 3 2014, 301-319.


The article studies the impact of enlargement on subnational governments in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. It compares the resources and political constellations of subnational governments and analyzes how these variables interact with Europeanization to influence domestic intergovernmental relations, the management of Structural Funds and the EU relations of subnational governments. The article argues that stronger regional governments (in Poland and the Czech Republic) have been able to resist attempts to centralize intergovernmental relations. Decentralizing reforms occurred where incumbent governing parties dominated subnational government (Poland). Under ‘vertically divided’ government (Czech Republic), subnational governments sought unmediated access to EU institutions.

Federalism and Governance Winter School

A lecture series on ethno-regional diversity and political integration in Central and Eastern Europe, European Academy Bozen/Bolzano, Winter School Federalism and Governance, 12 February 2014

(c) Martin Brusis
(c) Martin Brusis


• Does ethno-regional diversity still matter in Central and Eastern Europe
• How have CEE regions emerged?
• Why have the state socialist federations collapsed?
• What approaches exist to integrate ethno-regional diversity?
• Why have CEE states reformed their territorial organization?
• How does European integration affect regionalization in CEE?

Quality of Democracy and the “Sustainable Governance Indicators”

Relating the Sustainable Governance Indicators
to the Quality of Democracy

Paper for the Workshop “Measuring Democracy”. IPSA Research Committee on the Quality of Democracy, DVPW-Arbeitskreis Demokratieforschung, Frankfurt/Main, 29 September – 1 October 2013

The Sustainable Governance Indicators (SGI) are a set of 147 detailed items and two aggregated indices that measure the quality of democracy (QoD), policy performance and executive governance in OECD member states. Two editions have been published since 2009 by the Bertelsmann Foundation, an NGO based in Germany. The SGI consist of qualitative expert assessments, country reports and data retrieved from official statistics. As the name suggests, the SGI have been designed to measure the quality of governance, a concept that overlaps with concepts of democracy or QoD, but has its distinct origins, ideational references and discourse communities.

One motive for their creation has been to complement the Foundation’s so-called Transformation Index that is limited to assessing democracy and market economy in the developing world, post-socialist countries and emerging markets. Since the label “Transformation” and the underlying concepts refer to reforms aimed at establishing democracy and market economy, a simple transfer of these concepts to countries considered as “established” democracies and market economies would have raised many problems. It was therefore decided to use the label “Governance” in the SGI project. Apart from the appeal of an internationally more familiar term (and renowned predecessor projects such as the Worldwide Governance Indicators), the label was also chosen to convey a more specific meaning since it refers to the interaction between governments and their political and societal environment. This focus on “executive governance” has been seen as an important added value of the entire project since the governing activities in and by (core) executives constituted a white spot in an increasingly crowded field of cross-nationally comparative indices and datasets.

The present paper does not further explore the SGI’s conceptual background in debates about the quality of governance and government. Rather, it explains the design of the SGI by situating it in the debate on QoD. This debate has been concerned with theoretically grounded concepts able to adequately differentiate among democracies. It has been driven by the global diffusion of democracy that has made differences between individual democracies more visible and has revealed shortcoming of existing measures of democracy which often do not sufficiently distinguish among so-called established democracies.

The paper identifies two conceptual strategies scholars have chosen to evaluate QoD: enhancing the concept of democracy or defining a separate concept of democratic quality. More demanding, “thicker” conceptualizations of democracy must demonstrate that including or excluding additional attributes neither stretches the concept nor introduces voluntarism. Conceptualizations of democratic quality are expected to anchor the underlying idea of quality in the theory of democracy. In the first three sections, these conceptualizations are discussed and integrated into a composite concept that combines the notion of a constitutional democracy with measures of governmental accountability, responsiveness and performance. The paper claims that the SGI, by reflecting this composite concept, provide a valid measure for QoD. In the following sections, the concept is further disaggregated into dimensions, categories and items that enable a measurement based both on indicators from official statistics and expert ratings. The SGI measurement and aggregation procedures are explained and the validity of the measurement is examined.