What is governance?
The term ‘governance’ is used to describe the way in which a country is governed. It covers the range of political, economic and administrative decisions made by the government, business and civil society sectors as they manage a country’s resources and affairs.
What is good governance?
The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) states that good governance is participatory, transparent, responsive, consensus-oriented, equitable and inclusive, effective and efficient, accountable, and follows the rule of law. Good governance assures that corruption is minimised, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.
Good governance is essential for a country’s development as effective leadership drives the processes and institutions that deliver better services to the population, stimulates economic growth and ensures security and stability.
Democracy and good governance
Democracy is one of the universal core values and principles of the United Nations. Respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential elements of democracy. Political rights and civil liberties that are essential for meaningful democracies are part of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which has been signed by 167 countries around the world.
Democracy supports good governance, yet there may be tensions among the various elements such as balancing participation and efficiency. Ensuring people’s voices are heard when addressing such challenges is part of good governance and in meeting the universal core value of democracy.
Human rights and good governance
There are close links between good governance and human rights. The characteristics of good governance guarantee civil, political, and socioeconomic human rights. Citizens are legally protected in relation to their property, personal security and liberty and are able to freely express views and influence the government for change without the fear of being arrested or discriminated against. When people are able to fully participate in government decision-making and to advocate for their rights to education, housing, health and an adequate standard of living, it leads to a robust and responsive government that is less likely to be susceptible to corruption and instability.
Corruption and good governance
Corruption, the abuse of one’s official position for personal gain, undermines good governance. It is increasingly recognised as the greatest obstacle to achieving sustainable development. Corruption undermines citizens’ trust in public institutions and offices of government, eroding the values of democracy. It increases costs for companies to do business, and decreases the tax revenues for governments to provide essential public services such as education, health clinics and clean water.
Fighting corruption requires strong political will, an active civil society, a free press, freedom of information legislation and a strong, clean judicial system. As well as a strong commitment from all levels of government and society, it takes time and resources to change behaviours and attitudes and for people in official positions to cease engaging in corrupt practices.