WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Evaluating Progress in Central America

As Central American countries struggle with inequality, corruption, and violence, it’s critical that we find ways to measure how foreign aid is contributing to the strengthening of the rule of law and security in the region. Using extensive data collection and analysis, the Central American Monitor can measure progress and opportunities over time in eight key areas directly relevant to rule of law and security, thus providing critical information that can inform strategic rule of law investments in the region.

AP Photo/Moises Castillo

WOLA and our Central America partners have developed a series of indicators to assess the progress in Central America in eight key areas. That progress will reflect both the commitment of Central American governments and the effectiveness of international assistance. The indicators include a combination of quantitative data and qualitative analysis in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of the changes taking place in each country. Data sources include official documents and statistics, surveys, interviews, and reviews of existing laws and regulations that will be systematically compiled. WOLA and our partners developed these indicators in a months-long process that included review of international standards, consultation with experts, and consensus among all partners about the key issues to address.

Our goal is to provide an instrument that can help identify the areas of progress and opportunities for improvement for the policies and strategies being implemented on the ground, in a form that is useful for policymakers, donors, academics, and the public. At the same time, we hope to provide analysis that can contribute to the evaluation of trends over time both within and between the countries of the Northern Triangle.


Indicators of Progress


  • Capacity of the Justice System: Number of criminal justice officials, geographical coverage, workload, effectiveness, and public trust.
  • Internal Independence: Existence and implementation of a public, merit-based selection process free from external influence, a results-based evaluation system, and an effective disciplinary system.
  • External Independence: Size of budget allocated for the judicial sector and implementation of national and international protection measures for justice officials.


  • Budget and Spending Transparency: Access to public information on budget allocations and spending on security, justice, and defense.
  • Scope and Implementation of the ‘Law of Access to Public Information’: Type of information categorized as restricted or of limited access, period of classification, availability and quality of statistics related to security and justice, information requests granted and denied, and related fees.
  • Disclosure of Public Officials’ Statement of Assets: Level of official compliance with disclosure norms, and the degree to which such statements are made available to the public.


  • Scope and Implementation of Legislation to Combat Corruption: Classification of new crimes in criminal codes and reforms of existing anti-corruption laws to adhere to international standards.
  • Advancements in Criminal Investigations: Number of corruption cases filed, prosecuted, and resolved, as well as the progress made in emblematic cases.
  • Functioning of Oversight Bodies: Existence and capacity of external oversight bodies or agencies to combat corruption.
  • Level of Public Trust: Degree of public trust in state institutions involved in efforts to prevent, identify, investigate, and punish corruption.


  • Political Will and Level of Collaboration: Commitment of the state to collaborate and enable the work of the CICIG in Guatemala and the MACCIH in Honduras, demonstrated by the progress of emblematic cases, the approval of legislative reforms, and support for domestic counterparts working with these commissions.


  • Functioning of Police Career Systems: Existence and effectiveness of police recruitment and promotion mechanisms, training processes, and disciplinary systems, as well as the structure of police bodies.
  • Allocation and Use of Budgetary Resources: Allocation and effective use of public funds and percentage designated for the wellbeing of members of the civilian police forces.
  • Community Relations: Public trust in the police, police-community relations, and relations with indigenous authorities.


  • Development and Implementation of a Concrete Plan: The design and implementation of a publicly accessible and verifiable plan with goals, timelines, activities, and clearly established indicators; repeal of legal norms authorizing participation of armed forces in public security, and access to information regarding payroll and assigned resources.
  • Conduct of Military Forces: Complaints, accusations, and sentences regarding human rights violations perpetrated by members of the armed forces and the level of public trust in the armed forces.


  • Capacity Building: Existence and functioning of specialized anti-organized crime units, application of scientific and technical investigative methods, and functioning of judges or tribunals dedicated to the prosecution of organized crime.
  • Advances in Criminal Investigations: The number of organized crime-related cases filed, prosecuted, and resolved, as well as the progress made in emblematic cases.
  • Crime Reduction: Convictions for homicides, extortion, and against criminal networks, as well as a reduction in serious and violent crimes.


  • Investigation and Conviction of Human Rights Violations: Existence and functioning of specialized investigative units, number of complaints, prosecutions, and convictions, handling of emblematic cases, and degree of security forces’ collaboration with investigations.
  • Protection Mechanisms: Structure and functioning of domestic protection mechanisms and implementation of international protection measures for human rights defenders who have been victims of attacks or threats.
  • Hate Speech: Analysis of attacks and smear or defamation campaigns against human rights defenders.