Evidence mapping for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

3ie is working with USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance (DRG Center), and NORC at the University of Chicago to increase knowledge on the global advancement of democracy, human rights and governance. This includes developing an evidence-informed understanding of effective approaches for which it is essential to know what evidence exists and identify critical knowledge gaps.

We are producing evidence gap maps for each of the six work areas led by the DRG Center: rule of law, human rights, civil society, independent media, good governance and political competition.

Evidence mapping for Democracy, Human Rights and Governance

3ie’s evidence gap maps collate the best-available evidence from high-quality impact evaluations and systematic reviews. These can guide development practitioners who seek to commission research, implement interventions or know how to improve the effectiveness of programs. Each of the maps being developed with NORC will also help inform the formulation of questions for the DRG Center’s Learning Agenda that supports building sector-knowledge and evidence base to inform USAID programming.

The framework for each map is developed through consultations with sector experts and key stakeholders. Our study protocol outlines the process we follow and the interventions and outcomes that will be visible. In addition to the interactive map and analysis, we are developing practitioner briefs on select themes


Effective rule of law ensures that laws and the justice institutions, and the actors and processes that support them protect individual rights and are responsive to and inclusive of the needs of all people in society. As estimated 5.1 billion people have no access to effective justice and nearly 60 per cent of existing justice problems remain unresolved (Justice for All: Report of the Task Force on Justice, 2019).

While the international development community has increased programming aimed at promoting justice for all, there is a need to better understand the evidence base underpinning those interventions to help policymakers and practitioners understand which interventions are effective for which outcomes and why.

This map includes interventions focused on strengthening and building linkages between systems, services, and society to improve prevention of and solutions to justice problems. It highlights significant evidence on interventions that aim to prevent and reduce crime and a notable gap on programs focusing on youth in low-and middle-income countries (L&MICs) and women and girls.   

View the EGM | Read protocol


Human rights programming encompasses a vast variety of interventions and is guided by several international and national legal frameworks. Understanding the gaps and the evidence on the effectiveness of these interventions can help inform policymakers and practitioners on where resources are most needed. In this evidence gap map, we look at two sub-sets of human rights: civil and political rights and economic, social and cultural rights.

Within these subsets we look at interventions focused on education and promotion of human rights, reform of legislation, strengthening justice and security, support for human rights defenders, among several others. These interventions are mapped to a variety of outcomes, providing users of the map a broad picture of the existing evidence and gaps.

View the EGM | Read protocol


Civil society organizations, whether formal or informal, play an essential role in maintaining an open society, building up democracy and the rule of law. According to CIVICUS (2020), only three per cent countries have a strong and open civil society space, leaving around 5 billion people with limited access to a narrow, repressed or even closed civic space.

Civil society organizations rely on funding from international and national donors, and an enabling environment to operate in. As these spaces and resources shrink, it is essential to make efficient use of limited resources available.

While there is qualitative and observational evidence on a variety of civil society interventions and outcomes, much of the evidence does not establish impact. This map will improve the access to understanding about the effects of interventions to strengthen civil society in L&MICs such as supporting the capacity or development of organizations working in human rights, business, religion, democracy, environment, labor, media, and independent research, among others.

View the EGM | Read protocol


Depending on the metrics used, between approximately half (Reporters without Borders, 2016) to 13% (BBC Media Action, 2016) of the world’s population has access to an independent media. Interventions aimed at strengthening independent media and free flow of information include interventions that promote or strengthen mediums for citizens to conduct free and open communication, engage with government and civil society, and increase constituency mobilization, and/or oversight of government functions to increase transparency and accountability. While there is limited evidence in terms of impact evaluations or systematic reviews on the effectiveness of such interventions, there are other research sources that can provide insights for practitioners and policymakers.

View the EGM | Read protocol


In addition to the maps on rule of law, human rights, civil society and independent media, 3ie is also working to map the evidence on good governance and political competition and consensus building.

An increasing body of evidence highlights the importance of good governance for development. However, international evidence indicates that nearly one in four survey participants declare having paid a bribe when accessing public services, 57% of participants around the world do not think their government is successfully fighting corruption, and some public services, such as policing, are seen as highly corrupted for 39% of the people in Asia Pacific and 47% in sub-Saharan Africa (Transparency International, 2017).

As donors consider the ability of governments to use and distribute aid effectively, governance and anticorruption represent key priorities for the global aid agenda (Cheney, 2019; World Bank, n.d.-b). For example, OECD DAC official commitments for government and civil society rose from $2.5 billion in 1995, the first year for which data is available, to $12.7 billion in 2019 (OECD, n.d.-a).

The purpose of this map is to determine the distribution of the evidence regarding interventions to strengthen government effectiveness in L&MICs and provide easy access to this literature.

View the EGM |  Read protocol 


A politically competitive society allows citizens the opportunity to form political parties, compete for power through elections and shape the direction of public policy (Strom, 1992). The United Nations Human Rights Office has claimed that free and fair elections are a fundamental concept in the effort to protect and promote human rights, and that every citizen should have the right to vote and stand for office (OHCHR, 2011).

A rise in missions and interventions has increased the need for funding, but the nature of the missions themselves has also changed. Nevertheless, the funding landscape around political competition remains unclear.

While there are a few reviews on the topic of political competition, these do not directly address the impact of political competition interventions. This EGM will help compile and provide easy access to interventions focused on the impact of different but specific aspects of the electoral cycle in L&MICs.

View the EGM | Read Protocol