New Zealand holds 6th place on Rule of Law Index

2 June 2015

New Zealand ranks 6th of the 102 countries surveyed for the 2015 Rule of Law Index published today. This place is unchanged on the 2014 survey although there was minor deterioration in a number of the component elements. Australia slipped from 8th to 10th in the rankings.

The index is as part of the World Justice Project (WJP) (together with the Open Government Index). “It provides original, impartial data on how the rule of law is experienced by the general public in 102 countries around the globe.”

This year data from over 100,000 household and 2,400 expert surveys provides a measure how the rule of law is experienced in everyday situations around the world. Forty four indicators are grouped into eight categories:

  • Constraints on Government Powers
  • Absence of Corruption
  • Open Government
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Order and Security
  • Regulatory Enforcement
  • Civil Justice
  • Criminal Justice.

The WJP Rule of Law Index is described as the most comprehensive index of its kind  relying solely on primary data including a cross section of 1,000 respondents per country.

 2015                       Rule of Law Index                                   2014

1 Denmark   1
2 Norway 2
3 Sweden 3
4 Finland 4
5 Netherlands 5
6 New Zealand 6
7 Austria 7
8 Germany 9
9 Singapore 10
10 Australia 8
11 Korea 14
112 United Kingdom 13

The elements making up the New Zealand rank show a deterioration in four of the elements, an improvement in one and no change in the other three.

New Zealand  ranking on Rule of Law Elements                                      2015                     2014

Constraints on Government Powers 8 4
Absence of Corruption 6 3
Open Government 2 2
Fundamental Rights 9 7
Order and Security 15 11
Regulatory Enforcement 5 5
Civil Justice 9 9
Criminal Justice 8 12

New Zealand again rates well on Rule of Law index – but who cares?

2 April 2014

New Zealand now ranks 6th on the Rule of Law Index published by the World Justice Project last month (comparing 99 countries). It was placed 4th on the 2011 Index (which compared 66 countries) – the 2012-13 Index did not include overall rankings.

Neither New Zealand media nor interest groups have shown much interest in this Index which measures adherence to the Rule of Law through 47 indicators organised around eight themes –

  • constraints on government powers
  • absence of corruption
  • open government
  • fundamental rights
  • order and security
  • regulatory enforcement
  • civil justice, and
  • criminal justice.

Transparency International (NZ) which champions the rule of law as an overarching component of the National Integrity System made no reference to the Index findings in its proposals for strengthening the NIS, released a fortnight after the Index was published. Transparency International (NZ) proposals were heavy on promoting open government, but the Index rated New Zealand as globally the second best for its open government focus, better than its third place ranking for the absence of corruption.

The Office of the Auditor General website makes no mention of the Rule of Law Index although the six Worldwide Governance Indicators, of which one is the rule of law, are measures for determining its statement of intent goal of trusted state services. (But then again the OAG site has not recognised the Worldwide Governance Indicators report published in September 2013 either.)

The Rule of Law Index places New Zealand in the top ten globally in six of the eight dimensions measured. ‘Criminal justice’ and ‘order and security’ are the more poorly rated dimensions. Compared with most, New Zealand has a healthy abundance of the foundational premises for the Rule of Law –

  • accountability under law
  • clear and publicised law, applied evenly, which protects rights
  • legislative and enforcement processes that are fair and accessible
  • accessible and timely justice.


Bill Gates is a substantial sponsor of the World Justice Project.


World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index 2014

  1. Denmark
  2. Norway
  3. Sweden
  4. Finland
  5. Netherlands
  6. New Zealand
  7. Austria
  8. Australia
  9. Germany
  10. Singapore




High Rule of Law Index ratings maintained

15 June 2011

The Rule of Law Index was published this week as part of the World Justice Project. The index is a way of measuring the reality of the rule of law as experienced by ordinary members in the participating countries.  It is outcome focused (eg absence of corruption rather than the number of police officers).  And New Zealand measures up well – as it has since the first index was released in 2008.  This year New Zealand is in the top 4 places on seven of the eight factors (and 52 sub factors) which make up the index.

A Washington Post article reports …”New Zealand was ranked the least-corrupt nation of 66 examined ….while the U.S. finished an unremarkable 17th. The ranking is another feather in New Zealand’s cap, after the country tied for 1st in…the Transparency International 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index.”

When comparing the sixty six participating countries New Zealand was assessed as follows;

Limited government powers          2nd

Absence of corruption                       1st

Order and security                             11th   (At 10th, only on this factor does Australia rate better than NZ)

Fundamental rights                            3rd

Open government                               2nd

Regulatory enforcement                  3rd

Access to civil justice                        4th

Effective criminal justice                 3rd

The absence of corruption in the judiciary, the military and the police is tarnished somewhat by a perception that the executive branch has lower standards than other parts of government. New Zealand is assessed as strong on protecting the freedom of opinion and expression, for processes on sanctioning misconduct by officials and for the lawful transition of power to successive governments.

The poor evaluation of law and order is a reflection of comparatively low scores for effective control of crime, effectiveness in limiting civil conflict and the extent to which people resort to violence to redress grievances.

New Zealand was given only average ratings for the accessibility, affordability, delay-free and non discriminatory character of civil justice. The effectiveness of the correctional system was also substantially below the rating given to most other subfactors.

Africa has huge rule of law disparities – Ibrahim Index

20 October 2013

The rule of rule has deteriorated in Africa over the last 12 months.  That is one of the findings of the Ibrahim Index, published in mid October each year.  Having little direct relevance to New Zealand, the index assesses development in Africa.  The 52 countries covered this year exclude both Sudan and South Sudan as insufficient data was available.  Ironically Mo Ibrahim, a philanthropist who established the Index, is Sudanese.

The index marks countries for their progress in four categories: human development, participation and human rights, sustainable economic opportunity, and safety and the rule of law.

“There were no surprises at the top – and bottom – ranked countries overall. At the upper end of the scale, Mauritius was followed by Botswana, Cape Verde and Seychelles. These four countries have shared the four top slots, in various positions, since the index was launched….

Somalia was the poorest performing country overall and in all four categories, a position it has held for the past seven years. Second from bottom was the Democratic Republic of the Congo, followed by Eritrea and then the Central African Republic.

Liberia, Angola, Sierra Leone, Rwanda and Burundi have made the biggest improvements since 2000, while Madagascar, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Somalia and Libya have deteriorated the most over that period.”

The rule of law and safety category (which measures judicial process, accountability and transparency, corruption, social unrest, violent crime, conflict and refugees) had marks ranging from Botswana at 88.9% to Somalia at 4.9%. Mali and Egypt both had substantial deteriorations in the quality of their rule of law.

The Ibrahim Foundation has not awarded its Ibrahim Prize for a fourth time in the last seven years.The award is for a democratically elected former African leader who on stepping down from office shows excellence in a continuing commitment to good government.

New Zealand still the most free country according to the Human Freedom Index

25 November 2021

Yesterday, the Prime Minister announced measures and timelines for facilitating the return to New Zealand of more citizens, and others with residence rights, who find themselves unable to travel home because of the unavailability of Managed Isolation and Quarantine placements. She also gave indications of easing restrictions on foreign travellers sometime from May 2022. The anguish of families divided by Covid-19 may moderate. However, the changes outlined appear to have worsened the angst of the tourist industry and the coalition of interests which sees little but disadvantage in closed borders. A uniting aphorism being that Auckland now with hundreds afflicted by Covid-19 and isolating (or not) at home makes the city more unsafe than most of Australia and that the Delta variant is more likely to be spread beyond current confines with the Christmas exodus from Auckland than would occur with double vaxxed and triple swabbed Australian tourists.

 In some circles, referring to New Zealand as a Hermit Kingdom speedily polarises. The inference is that supporters of Government policy are content with shutting out the World and closing down the most populous part of the country. And by inference they don’t want a renewed focus on economic growth – generated by tourism and foreign students – and are resisting the freedom to shop, travel, and to commute to their workplace. They don’t want to revitalise our connections to the World, for New Zealand to trade its way through the massive national debt incurred to cope with Covid 19, (and to help rescue Air New Zealand!). The insinuation being that the Prime Minister has created a climate of fear regarding Covid-19, and many have been convinced that she will keep them safe.

There is an irony in the implication that many New Zealanders don’t want their freedom.

The Human Freedom Index 2021 has been released by the Cato and Fraser Institutes and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (which have impeccable free market credentials!). What is measured is a social concept that recognises the dignity of individuals. That individuals should be able to do things that will not be prevented by other forces or that will result in punishment. Human freedom is seen as playing a huge role in human progress.

The latest Human Freedom Index presents the state of human freedom of 162 countries based on a broad measure that encompasses, economic, civil, and personal freedom.

Among the 76 indicators of freedom claimed to be using the most recent data available, are:

  • Rule of Law
  • Security and Safety
  • Identity and Relationships
  • Size of Government
  • Legal System and Property Rights
  • Access to Sound Money
  • Freedom to Trade Internationally
  • Expression and Information
  • Religion
  • Movement
  • Association, Assembly, and Civil Society

The Human Freedom Index places each country on a scale of 0 to 10, where a score of 10 represents the most personal freedom and the most economic freedom. Each country’s human freedom index is an average of the two.

Personal freedom is the freedom of an individual to have freedom of opinion and expression, freedom to come and go, equality before the courts, and security of private property. Economic freedom consists of personal choice, freedom to compete in markets, protection of person and property, voluntary exchange, and allowing people to prosper without intervention from the government or economic authority.

(However  a serious  concern must arise about the currency of the data when the people of Hong Kong are rated as the third most free.) The three peoples rated as the most free were the same in 2020 and in 2021.

New Zealanders, about half of whom appear unconcerned about being isolated from the pandemic afflicted World, score highest on the Human Freedom Index. That has been the rating since 2017-18.

The following are the World’s 12 Freest countries

CountryFreedom Rank Personal Freedom IndexEconomic Freedom IndexHuman Freedom Index
New Zealand19.278.58.88
Hong Kong38.78.918.81

Why are we not interested in the Open Government Index?

7 April 2015

This time last year a post about the rule of law reflected on the release by the World Justice Project of the Rule of Law Index. The post was titled “New Zealand again rates well in Rule of Law Index – but who cares?”  And New Zealand was placed 6th at that time.  Two weeks ago the World Justice Project published the Open Government Index.  New Zealand is ranked second of the 102 countries included  – the runner-up to Sweden as the country best adhering to the characteristics of open government – but that result stimulated even fewer articles in the New Zealand media about the World Justice Project than last year.

The agencies that could be anticipated acknowledging this recognition and which echo media announcements of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index when published each year – also perhaps feel that Open Government ratings are less newsworthy.   Although the New Zealand Open Government Action Plan targets being ranked in the top ten places on the Index there has been no reference to the Index result on either the SSC website or on the open government website .

New Zealand is well regarded for its commitment to the good government implications of open government despite being a late – and possibly reluctant – applicant for membership of the Open Government Partnership. But then Australia which is also in the top ten is an even more reluctant participant in the 4th tranche of the OGP.


Open Government Index

1 Sweden
2 New Zealand
3 Norway
4 Denmark
5 Netherlands
6 Finland
7 Canada
8 United Kingdom
9 Australia
10 Korea

What this may confirm is that the substantial contributions which the Gates Foundation makes to the Rule of Law Project, are not conditioned on high profile promotion of the Index and its funders.

The Open Government Index scores participating countries on four dimensions:

  • Publicised laws and government data ( New Zealand  ranked 1st )
  • Right to information        ( New Zealand ranked 2nd )
  • Civic participation        ( New Zealand ranked 6th )
  • Complaint mechanisms  (New Zealand ranked 6th )

Why are we not excited about again topping the Corruption Perception Index?

3 December 2013

Another year gone. Another year when New Zealand has been rated as having the world’s least corrupt public administration.  This year Denmark is up there with us. Last year Finland was there also. In each of the last six years New Zealand has ranked among the least corrupt.  Since the survey began in 1995 our public sector has always ranked among the five least corrupt.  Perhaps that is why most of us are not particularly moved by the occasion.

At the Institute of Public Administration (IPANZ) end of year function this evening (at which David Farrar, Mark Unsworth and  Linda Clark shared their entertaining assessments on the year in politics)  four people commented to me on the absence of blog posts recently ( and one person who I thought would comment said nothing)  but only one person commented on the publication today of the results of the 2013  Transparency International Corruption Perception Index.  The CPI is the validation of good government. It is an assessment of perception, but the perception of the experts making the assessment is close to reality.  New Zealand’s public administration can be proud of the fact that by international standards, it continues to be seen as largely corruption-free. Good government is based on public trust and confidence. The CPI confirms that New Zealanders can be confident that their public officials are trustworthy and (with remarkably few exceptions) are imbued with the spirit of service as required by the State Sector Act.

It is interesting to see how countries move in and out of the least corrupt rankings. Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Singapore have also been positioned at times alongside New Zealand. It is interesting to characterise these highest ranking countries. They are small,  developed, democratic, largely egalitarian economies, with a strong focus on the rule of law. New Zealand however is a much less homogenous society than the Scandinavian countries that are similarly well ranked (and Singapore, which is the best of class in Asia).

This year’s placings are not dissimilar to previous years – although Iceland continues to slide.

2013 2012
New Zealand 1 1
Denmark 1 1
Finland 3 1
Sweden 4 4
Norway 5 7
Singapore 5 5
Switzerland 7 6
Netherlands 8 9
Australia 9 7
Canada 9 9

( And the reason for the hiatus in postings is that my laptop has packed up on me!)

Added robustness in NZ lawmaking

25 July 2013

Enhanced rule of law measures to ensure that future New Zealand legislation “ is robust and consistent with good legislative practice” come into force next week. A  disclosure statement will be a key feature of new legislative proposals considered by Parliament. This requirement will itself be codified, but in the interim administrative processes are specified in a Cabinet Circular.

The Circular sets out the requirement that any Cabinet Committee paper seeking new legislation must state what is intended as the final content of the Bill. The explanatory note of a Bill when Introduced is to have a hyperlink to a disclosure statement published on the Parliamentary Counsel Office website. The Department responsible for the Bill is to ensure the disclosure statement includes:

  • General Policy Statement  of what the proposed law seeks to achieve, and how those objectives will be met.
  • Background Material and Policy Information  that indicates policy issues incorporated in the proposed law.
  • Testing of Legislative Content  identifying how quality assurance has been carried out on the proposed law.
  • Significant Legislative Features  including any unusual provisions in the proposal.

The disclosure statement must be finalised with PCO no later than two working days prior to the intended introduction of the Bill. MPs will get hard copies of the disclosure statement when the Bill is distributed.

The Treasury which has administrative responsibility for the scheme, will monitor and refine processes pending empowering legislation.

The World Justice Project evaluates the quality of the Rule of Law in all jurisdictions by scoring 44 sub-factors. These include “Government Powers limited by legislation” as part of Accountable Government, and “Laws are publicised” as part of Open Government and Regulatory Enforcement.  The disclosure statement that will now accompany New Zealand legislation should have a positive impact on these measures when the 2013 Rule of Law Index is published later this year.

Of the 97 countries listed on the 2012 Index, New Zealand ranked 6th for Accountable Government and 4th for Open Government and Regulatory Enforcement.

Is the rule of law holding up in NZ?

5 July 2013

Results of the annual Rule of Law Index will be explored next week as part of the World Justice Forum at The Hague.

New Zealand has rated among countries showing greatest respect for the rule of law in each year since the World Justice Project began. However a concern for New Zealand is that its ranking slipped markedly last year compared with the two previous Indices (although there were 98 participating jurisdictions last year compared with 66 in the previous year).  Nevertheless the Index summary from last year described New Zealand as standing out  “…as the best performer in the region. Its judicial system is accessible, independent, and effective, and government agencies and courts are efficient and free of corruption….”

Ironically this week’s High Court  judgment on the regulations facilitating the Government’s smoke- free prisons’ policy concluded that the regulations were ultra vires. The regulation making power did not enable a prohibition on smoking and, though the list of prisoner privileges was prescribed by regulation, a privilege could not be taken from that list by regulation.

Because prohibitions on smoking and on the possession of tobacco have now been enacted in remedial legislation, the prohibition on smoking in prisons will continue.  The Court felt that there was need for a declaration that the Regulations were invalid as that may be the only remedy.

The ranking of New Zealand in this year’s Index will perhaps confirm whether aspects of public administration that capture media headlines are indicative of declining standards, or whether, in the international scheme of things, New Zealand remains among the World’s best in maintaining the rule of law.

New Zealand standards slipping in Rule of Law survey

3 December 2012

The 2012 World Justice Project’s Rule of Law survey results were published last week.  In many ways this survey is the most comprehensive collation of measures which indicate the quality of government in the countries surveyed – there are 98 jurisdictions in the 2012 survey.   It does not have the profile of the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index (the 2012 CPI will be available in New Zealand on Thursday) but has a broad range of sector assessments which enable more meaningful international comparisons.

The subfactors displayed in graphic form (see the link below) highlight by how much New Zealand falls below international good practice on a number of the measures.

The survey evaluates the way countries give effect to the “four universal principles” of the rule of law. These principles are’

  1. Accountable Government:  The government and its officials and agents are accountable under the law.
  2. Security and Fundamental Rights:  The laws are clear, publicised, stable and fair, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  3. Open Government and Regulatory Enforcement:  The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, efficient, and fair.
  4. Delivery of Justice:  Justice is delivered by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve.

A concern for New Zealand is that its ranking is sliding markedly compared with the two previous Rule of Law surveys. Most notable is the drop in the corruption measure with New Zealand now seen as being more corrupt than all the Scandinavian countries.

New Zealand remains in the “top ten” places on seven of eight dimensions.  Some of the movement down the league can be explained by 32 more jurisdictions being assessed than last year.

New Zealand 2012 (98 states) 2011 (66 states)
Limited government powers 6th 2nd
Absence of corruption 6th 1st
Order and security 12th 12th
Fundamental rights 5th 4th
Open government 4th 2nd
Regulatory enforcement 9th 3rd
Civil justice 9th 4th
Criminal justice 7th 3rd


  Limited govt. powers Absence of corruption Order and security Fund’al rights Open govt. Reg’y enf’mt Civil justice Criminal justice
1 Denmark Sweden Sing’pre Sweden Sweden Sweden Norway Denmark
2 Sweden Denmark Hong


Denmark Ne’thlds Japan Ne’thds Finland
3 Norway Norway Finland Norway Norway Denmark Germany Sing’pre
4 Finland Finland Denmark Finland New Zealand Austria Singapore Norway
5 Australia Ne’thds UAE New Zealand Australia Australia Finland Sweden
6 New Zealand New Zealand Sweden Spain Canada Norway Denmark Ne’thds
7 Ne’thds Sing’pre Japan Poland Finland Ne’thds Sweden New Zealand
8 Austria Australia Uzb’stan Australia Japan Finland Japan Hong


9 Germany Hong


Austria Ne’thds Hong


New Zealand New Zealand Germany
10 Japan Japan Canada Austria Austria Sing’pre Austria Rep Korea

                                               New Zealand  12th