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Good Governance Essay


The topic of this essay concerns about good governance namely what is it, what is its possible application in the formal and informal sectors added to its context, do the different ideological systems concord with it and lastly does it produce any, whatsoever, improvement or development in any sense and sector? And to answer to all that issues I will firstly define it, secondly discuss all its characteristics and indicators from the various organizations directly and/or indirectly involved with it and thirdly compare and contrast by analysing any situations within the main political orientations in which it is present or absolutely absent and the consequent effects. And finally I will try my conclusions to whatever it could produce with plausible recommendations.

Well, the meaning of “governance” in the normal daily use and the first one that comes straightforward to the mind is: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). The concept anyway of “governance” is as old as human civilization and that is since human being felt the need to organise themselves by gathering in groups and electing among them those who will decide for the communities way of life, the eventual relation between the members and theirs with any other possible group around. However it is very recent when developmental professionals and different actors (international organizations, local, national and regional governments) noticed the relevance of governance on the causes that produce bad or good outcomes regardless the expected results and the intentions behind.

The increased use of the term “governance” good or bad, in the development literature is real and evident, but because bad governance is being absolutely regarded as one of the main causes of all evil deeds in all over the world, most of the International developmental institutions and financial donors have changed approaches by pretending from aid eligible poor countries to ensure good governance in order to have access to aids or loans. Not to ignore the fact that it is anyway the civil society, tacitly to ask, first of all, their relative governments for good governance if it ensures for a decent and better standard of life. The aforementioned definition implicates the automatic existence of decision makers whom are usually called actors by scholars and professionals. On the bases of this definition it can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.

Add to this that any analysis of governance focuses on the formal and informal actors involved in decision-making and implementing it and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and implement the decision. Among the various actors Government, is the one per excellence, followed by the numerous local and regional ones in one side and the international or global institutions in the other. Within the same country there are for example, beyond the government that has the super power and final decision, other actors in rural and urban areas such as influential land lords, farmers, cooperatives otherwise known as associations of productive workers, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions, political parties, the military etc. At the national level, in addition to the above actors, there are media, lobbyists, international donors, multi-national corporations, and many others that may influence the decision-making and or condition the decision-making process.

It is worth to remember any way that all actors except government and the military are grouped together under what is known as “civil society”. In some countries in addition to the civil society, organized crime syndicates also influence decision-making, particularly in urban areas and at the national level. Moreover it is normal to hear about formal and informal government structures and formal and informal sectors and that all of them are one means by which decisions are arrived at and implemented. In some remote rural areas, locally powerful families may informally make or influence decision-making and most of the time corrupted practices are the final outcomes. So governance may be a good or a bad one depending mainly on whether it is constructive and positively fruitful or corrupted and destructive.

Unfortunately it is a real perception that, almost in the majority of the countries in the South of the world, there is an uncontrolled widespread corruption as a result of the bad governances of those minority, the elite in power with no distinction between the trio: Government, the military and civil society. But on the parallel carriage there is, at a global level, a huge campaign aimed to achieve some bettering improvement with the expectations to at least minimise all that corruption if not eradicate it at all. It is known how usually this minority misuse the governmental power to personal and or restricted group’s interest depriving in that way the civil society which represents the majority. If this sort of government in power is of a military extraction it makes the situation very difficult and worse because they, most of the time, impose themselves by intimidating the citizens and treating them as enemies, but the impact of their mismanagement will be discussed later.

So the main problem in developing countries is a combination of power misuse, political immaturity and prioritising of personal interests to the communities expenses. The international community, in order to prevent further power misuse, promotes Good governance as the remedy to all that and in the intent to grant a decent standard of life to every single citizen regardless of her/his race, religion and social, political or ethnic group. It is not an easy target implementing it, and at the same not that hard but it, surely, needs or better demands, professionalism with some good deeds. Professionalism is the difficult task to answer since it requires competence, political maturity, responsiveness and responsibility. In other term, to have functioning governance toward the citizens interests and to achieve such governance there is, for the time being, eight major characteristics and several indicators to be fully implemented.

These characteristics are the result of a long and hard work of scholars and professionals that offered their intellectual powerful services to the societies in order to find out the solutions for a better life, on common grounds, regardless the different political and ideological views. The eight characteristics are: Participation, Rule of law, Consensus oriented, Transparency, Equity and inclusiveness, Effectiveness and efficiency, Accountability and finally Responsiveness. According to United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and The Pacific (UN ESCAP) these eight characteristics are defined as follows:


Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. It is important to point out that representative democracy does not necessarily mean that the concerns of the most vulnerable in society would be taken into consideration in decision making. Participation needs to be informed and organized. This means freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand.


Accountability is a key requirement of good governance. Not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Who is accountable to whom varies depending on whether decisions or actions taken are internal or external to an organization or institution. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.


Transparency means that decisions taken and their enforcement are done in a manner that follows rules and regulations. It also means that information is freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their enforcement. It also means that enough information is provided and that it is provided in easily understandable forms and media.

Rule of law

Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It also requires full protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.

Consensus oriented

There are several actors and as many view points in a given society. Good governance requires mediation of the different interests in society to reach a broad consensus in society on what is in the best interest of the whole community and how this can be achieved. It also requires a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.

Equity and inclusiveness

A society’s well being depends on ensuring that all its members feel that they have a stake in it and do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being.

Effectiveness and efficiency

Good governance means that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal. The concept of efficiency in the context of good governance also covers the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.


Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.” In theory it is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, 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. It is people centred matter trying to address gender inequalities. It is really vital and important from local level to global to achieve good governance, with the awareness that its achievement requires absolute professionalism and consciousness, two attributes that are unfortunately absent or worse than that, not considered especially in the South.

Following this “new” approach the international community, leaded by the United Nations different and various specialised organizations in collaboration with the International Financial Institutions with Bretton Woods institutions in the first place and some other world organizations, demands those countries in the South, who are always involved in corruption, to adopt good governance’s paradigm by modelling their governmental systems so that it might import huge changes and lead to better their country’s economical and social situations.

The aforementioned institutions, after long and on-going hard research on what causes bad governance, and as the ones who perpetuate developmental progress, they use to propose solutions, which most of the times fail because of negligence regarding the way they approach and solve or deal with the problems and because of “disinterest” from both sides: the proposing and the recipient. However each and every institution has its own proposals, indicators and monitoring systems and some of them need revision and reconsiderations.

United Nations institutions:

The United Nations different institutions are for instance involved in developing country’s redressing developmental programmes according to their specializations and interests and it is sufficient the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) as an example. In fact, their purpose is to tackle the main tragedies that mankind is facing now in most parts of the planet, with different intensity anyway between North and South. These problems are mainly the followings:

-widespread poverty and hunger;
-lack of primary education;
-absence of Gender equality;
-Increasing infant and child mortality;
-absolute absence of maternal healthcare;
-dangerous diseases such as HIV/AIDS;
-mismanagement of environmental resource without sustainability;
-misconception of what is a global partnership.
And according to these problems the Millennium Development Goals are designed to:
-eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
-achieve universal primary education
-promote gender equality and empower women
-reduce child mortality
-improve maternal healthcare
-combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and
-ensure environmental sustainability
-develop global partnership development.

These goals will be achieved and implemented not later than 2015. As seen they are eight goals focusing on the alleviation and tackling of those problems. Each goal has its own targets and indicators under the supervision of the appropriate different organization in order to measurably achieve developmental improvements in the poorest of the developing countries. In total there are 8 goals, 18 targets and 48 indicators. Regarding to the monitoring institutions there are for example concerning to health based programmes UNICEF, WFP, UNAIDS and WHO while to tackle poverty and hunger there are WB, IMF, FAO and UNICEF. UNESCO is concerned with educational problems while ILO (International Labour Organization) and IPU (Inter-Parliamentary Union) are more likely to deal with Gender inequality and women empowerment and so on.

One of the eighteen targets [target twelve (12) of goal eight (8): Develop a global partnership for development] demands commitment to good governance, but at the other way round these goals are achievable only in an environment where good governance exists. It is a “cause” and “effect” at the same time. The expectations anyway and in any case are less encouraging because of unreasonable policies of some aid institutions that are not allowing a bettering situation, such as IMF and WB or the well known Bretton Woods Institutions.

The Bretton Woods Institutions & Good Governance

One of the major causes of under development is represented by the heavy debts that plague these countries as a result of continuous increasing interest loans hardly repayable. Stabilisation, deregulation, devaluation, distortion of prices and many other interventions render developing countries life very miserable. The killing factor anyhow is represented by the Bretton Woods Institution’s Structural Adjustment Programmes (SPA) with the intention to help heavily indebted poor countries (HIPC) repay or clear their debts in order to be eligible to new loans . But, these criticised institutions and related organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), dedicated from long time their efforts to help poorer countries to overcome corruption, but unfortunately and sorely without positive tangible results, and this is because of their mismatching “rigid” policies and certain conditionals imposed on borrower such as Structural Adjustment Programme, that did not succeed to alleviate but, at the contrary, worsen the already existing conditions of poverty.

The worse part is that IMF conditionals diminish the state’s authority to govern its own economy as national economic issue and not differently. But with the stabilisation programmes, deregulation, price distortion and privatisation of nationalised industries predetermined by the structural adjustment packages does not help the borrower to implement good governance. Equally the WB’s acting in partnership with the private sectors of a given country results in substituting the state which represents the primary provider of essential good and services. Imposing the reduction of government’s expenditure on food subsidies, education and healthcare or changing its import and export policies does not at all help developing countries to achieve good governance. This replacement usually ends in a shortfall of those services when most likely the condemned country is more in need. But now the Bretton Woods institutions realized that they need to review their policies in order to enable good governance to be achieved and the veracity of this is reported in the 1994 Naples summit communiqué of the G-7’s countries.

This communication clearly explicitly urged the need of reforms and reviews because of the Bretton Woods failure to achieve its primary mission of poverty alleviation. Reforming and reviewing the International Financial Institutions means they themselves need to practice and apply good governance and not pretending only from their borrowing members. If they succeed to change their policies in better then perhaps there will be a hope of improvement for the developing countries. All the above exposition concerns the theoretical side of good governance and it is very ideal and difficult to be realised in practice up to be considered a utopia. Nevertheless, the real fact is that good governance is absent from the international scenario and only few countries could be said to be close to implement it fully. Besides, the hilarious aspect of this assertion is that they are of different political orientation. This means that good governance does not require a certain political view than other.

Examples of these politically differently oriented states are: OECD, Japan, China and the Arabian Gulf countries. Good Governance and the main political systems and governing ideologies As stated before Good governance is not necessarily related to any of the political systems existing nowadays and this because countries with totally different political orientations seem to succeed implementing it. Moreover these systems might be used as temporary solutions in certain difficult political moments regardless their main “normal” one. In the purpose to understand which of these systems could conciliate with what could be seen as good governance paradigm it is worth to remember them with some useful comments. There are two main different groups on which these systems are based namely collectivism and individualism.

The first one considers human being the pillar around which to build a society with the result that the types of the societies are different as it is different the means to design it. What they have in common is the notion that one (king or dictator) or many men (majority) should rule the others. At the contrary the individualist are more philosophical concepts in respect to the other group. Under the umbrella of collectivism there are autocracy/ dictatorship/ despotism, communism, conservatism, democracy, fascism, imperialism, monarchy, pluralism, plutocracy, socialism and theocracy, and the individualist are: anarchism /nihilism, liberalism (classical), libertarianism, objectivism, capitalism, and the republic.

Each of them has its characteristics and less or more they could be simply interrelated and or contradictory. -Autocracy, dictatorship and despotism, for instance, are very similar in term of definition and that is an uncontrolled supreme right of governing in a single person with the difference that autocracy is supposedly benevolent. But there is a paradox in the sense that anyway an autocrat needs a huge amount of force to subordinate perhaps an unwilling people and from autocracy we pass to dictatorship.

An example of this sort of dictatorship could be the Russia of Stalin for instance.

Dictatorship though is the main factor that unfortunately destroyed most of the countries of the South mainly in the decolonization decades (1950-1970) leading them to extreme poverty. It is clearly evident that this type of system does not favourite the achievement of good governance because lacks most of its characteristics such as transparency, accountability, consensus oriented, and respect for human rights just to mention some. -Communism and socialism have the same collective view of mankind with the difference that socialism is a political system while communism is a scheme that tends to equalize the social conditions of life by collectivising the private property under the governing of the legislator (the State in socialism); a problem that could be mentioned is concerned with what socialists call supervision on freedom of expression just to preserve the community integrity and this represent a restraining factor.

Moreover socialism’s paradigms contradicts and represses the private initiatives ignoring so the potentiality of the private on development. Lately in few western countries there is an acceptance of it but in a diluted fashion. This leads to think that socialism differently from communism could give birth a good governance if well managed up to realize at least the corresponding and similar characteristic of both: good governance and socialism. I think this is enough for our purpose but it can be otherwise developed. Opposing to socialism and communism there are, as secular antagonists, democracy and capitalism.

Democracy is usually intended for two major modes: 1) retained and directly exercised by the people and 2) retained by the people but governed by a delegated periodically renewable constitutional authority, a popular representation. It relays on whatever the majority’s choice is sacrificing so the minority, even if represented by one single person. This is the same as dictatorship with the difference that in the latter is the single person who sacrifices the majority for his choice. The major difference between socialism and democracy lays in the way deal regarding the collective. Democracy uses to favour the powerful capitalists at the expenses of others with less economic and consequent social power.

In this sense capitalism exerts inequalities born from wrongly created adversarial. Nevertheless capitalism allowed technological progress to be achieved more rapidly than communism. Hence good governance might be implemented by these later systems albeit in a different way and intensity and there are no consistent and distinctive criteria to declare the suitability of one of them to the best achievement of good governance. Remember that all depends about good deeds and professionalism.

-Monarchy is a currently used system in different part of the two hemispheres. As a rulership, in which a king or a queen, an emperor or empress, it holds unlimited power having similarity with autocracy or lately limited power (constitutional), usually inherited. It is proven that monarchy in these last centuries succeeded to implement good governance albeit with more suffering civil society. But seen that good governance is people centred system there should be a redressing effort and good intent. According to the other systems I think that they are either out of fashion such as fascism, imperialism or nihilism or have a temporary or transitory use such as pluralism, conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, plutocracy, objectivism, theocracy and so on. Among these later systems pluralism seems, in my opinion, to be helpful to most if not totally of the African governments.

According to an article on the web of freedom in the UK, pluralism is: “Government carried out by a process of bargaining and compromise between a variety of competing leadership groups (business, labour, government, etc.). Advocates of pluralism claim that it best serves the democratic ideal in a complex modern society, in which individual participation in every act of decision-making is impractical. According to pluralism, individual rights and interests are protected by a sort of extra-constitutional checks and balances: No single group holds the dominant power position, power is always shifting, and individuals can have influence on policy-making through being active in one of these power groups.

Some claim that America is such a pluralistic society; other theories say that pluralism is in fact a myth and American society is elitist. Despite this pluralism is not limited, other than by the common sense of its participants. Therefore it is still, in essence, collectivist and adversarial.” Analysing this sort of definition it is easy to encounter, at least most of good governance’s characteristics such as participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law.

In 1994-5 I was following Yemen’s political crises during the controversy between the socialists system supporters from the south and the, let us say, non socialist promoters in the north. At the end came winner those from north formed by a coalition of religious forces and the pseudo capitalist system in power. During the contention the President proposed a joint supreme governing power composed by three representative members of the main three forces:

the president, a socialist and a religious leader stabilising so a sort of bargaining government and the result was that the socialist part lost the partnership. My aim anyway was to prove how pluralism worked in this crucial time and for this reason it is seen as a myth since good governance tends to be utopia matter. But nevertheless different countries of different political orientation nearly implemented its characteristics it means that other could succeed by trying it. There is nothing unachievable if there is the willpower to succeed and people are determined to obviate the obstacles. And to do so the actors need to, first of all, understand the nature of the obstacles and then analyse the eventual solutions without being second to none in decision making putting themselves in that way in a subordinated position.

They need to be capable of bargaining and only by that way they can validate their voices over bargaining powers on the other side. Understanding your power, resource availability, willpower of bargaining through it and accepting compromises are attributes necessary toward good governance. Representing their civil society properly and honestly and prioritising their basic needs will put the actors in the position of enabling it to benefit from the outcomes. All these requirements are possible of realization if the roles of the three main components of a country are well defined and every component knows its limits, rights and duties. Those mentioned three parts are government, civil society and the force army in its different specialty. Only in the case these parts understand clearly their roles there will be the expected good governance, otherwise the developing countries will hold forever the heavily burdens now devastating their lives and live with it.

Good governance and the trio: Government, Civil society and the Military It is absolutely necessary to have distinct these three groups in order to avoid any irregular and regrettable interferences among them. This simply means that government’s role is to rule and to make decisions, to choose the ways of implanting those decisions while the Military is to defend the country from external aggression or to calm an internal subversive. Regarding the civil society it represents the groups and individuals out of the formal structure of government and the military. Concerning political development it represents the extreme expression of political parties. In it there are the opposing forces that recalls government and military’s misbehaviour. Therefore, if one of them interferes with the other’s role and tries to replace them there will be a chaotic situation, and to sort out or put a remedy will be afterwards difficult.

Effectively this is what happens in many of the developing countries causing situations difficult to redress. Nepotism, tribalism, racism, clannish belonging and similar congregations are causes of misuse of power, public and private resources and denying basic human rights to whoever does not belong to their circle. Add to this the fact that if the replacing group are the arm forces, the atrocity of the consequences is very deep and bitter. After the decolonization, in most countries in the South there was a subsequent darkening governmental systems that, based on ignorance and limited professionalism and lacking any sort of political stability due to indecisions regarding to which big power block count lean on, ended in disastrous bad governance and continuous coup d’état from military men. At the beginning this sort of endeavour was aimed for a patriotic purpose but the result afterwards become dictatorship and despotism.

The general ideas of governing of creating nations become too hard to be accomplished and it is been replaced by personal enrichment. More these fool governors were enriching themselves the civil society was suffering deep poverty. These facts encouraged military men challenge their adversely rivals in order to access to that wealthy life at the expenses of their poor tribal partners and not any more the whole civil society. Moreover such economic patrimony did not stop them from stealing but they have created tribal-based hatred between the poor people and this ended in between failed states and under the denomination of poorest countries. A failed state is the result of internally not functioning one or externally not recognised and that because the damage is more o less incident. There are so partially or totally failed states or better states that internally function but there is non external recognition and vice versa. Anyway the internal malfunctioning ends in overthrowing or secessionism, situations that are to be avoided.

Well then, it is time that developing countries leave this nonsense aggregation of tribe, race and similar clannish ones and move forward in order to accomplish decent standard of life becoming equal to the civilised world and to put an end to the greediness of their governors. They have just to ask good governance’s characteristics to be implemented or otherwise they will only regress in respect to the progressive globalizing world. From the above discussion it is clear that good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality but this does not mean that is impossible. Very few countries and societies have come close to achieve it. However, to ensure sustainable human development, actions must be taken to work towards this ideal with the aim of transforming it into a reality. It is a matter of competence/professionalism and good deeds.

Competency, or professionalism or skill or aptitude, is very decisive or better it represents the core of the power in the government. It is indeed a requirement. Regarding the good deeds the determining one depends mostly from the rich and free societies and the effort they decide to spend. Actually it is the international community’s interest to show good intents in reasonably and responsibly cooperating with and helping poorest countries all around the world otherwise whatever the outcomes will affect them seen that the whole world is becoming a small village due to globalisation. It is surely known how global warming for example is threatening the whole world.

Good deeds from national to international level is required and the rich and free societies role. To support this thesis it is worth to mention the United States of America’ 60th president, John F.Kennedy who said in his inaugural Address in January 20, 1961: If a free society can not help the many who are poor, it can not save the few who are rich. Likewise President Mpaka of Tanzania quoting President Kennedy’s statement said in a speech: In a globalizing world, if we cannot help the many who are excluded in global prosperity, we cannot save the few who are included. In conclusion good governance will definitely improve development’s conditions all over the world if the varied development institutions work in favour of good governance.

1. UN ESCAP What is a GOOD GOVERNANCE? INTRODUCTION Recently the terms “governance” and “good governance” are being increasingly used in development literature at www.unescap.org/huset/gg/governance.htm (accessed 21 December 2004) 2. United Nations Millennium Development Goals. at www.un.org/millenniumgoals (accessed 27 November 2004) 3. Bretton Woods Project – Critical voices on the World Bank and IMF. … Good governance. 49 items. Fugitive in five-star hotel, IMF foots bill. … at www.brettonwoodsproject.org/topic/goodgov/index.shtml – 25k (accessed 24 December 2004) 4. Freedom in the UK google search engine: political systems (accessed 28 December 2004) 5. President J. F. Kennedy’s inaugural speech at www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1961Kennedy.html ( accessed 23 December 2004) 6. Chakravarthi Raghavan, Mar 5, 1998 FINANCE: FUND/BANK SHOULD PRACTICE GOOD GOVERNANCE! At www.sunsonline.org.htm – 14k (accessed 14 January 2005)

Kingsbury D. et al (2004) Key issues in development 1ST ed. New York: Palgrave Mcmillan

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