Good Governance - Definition, Features, Principles & Examples

There is no single and exhaustive definition of good governance, nor is there one that commands universal acceptance. The term is used with great flexibility; this is an advantage, but also a source of some difficulty at the operational level. However, there is a significant degree of consensus that good governance relates to political and institutional processes and outcomes that are deemed necessary to achieve the goals of development.

What is Good Governance?

It has been said that good governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realisation of human rights in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption, and with due regard for the rule of law. The true test of good governance is the degree to which it delivers on the promise of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. In general sense, good governance means an ideal governing system that is inevitable for political, economic; social and cultural development of a country.

What is Ideal Governing System?

Ideal governing system means the ideal orienta tion of a state that works best to achieve self-reliance, sustainable development and social justice and the ideal functioning of government that operate most efficiently. The concept of good governance emerged mainly because practices of bad governance, characterised by corruption, unaccountable governments and lack of respect for human rights, had become increasingly rampant and needed to be curbed. Good governance seeks to address several central issues:

Universal protection of human rights; nondiscriminatory laws; efficient, impartial and rapid judicial processes; transparent public agencies; accountability for decisions by public officials, devolution of resources and decision making to local levels from the capital; and meaningful participation by citizens in debating public policies and choices.

The central focus is to see how the government enables, simplifies and authorises its people (regardless of differences of caste, creed, class, and political ideology and social origin) to think and take certain decisions which will be in their best interest, and which will enable them to lead a clean, decent, happy, and autonomous existence. Good Governance manages and allocates resources in response to the problems of its citizens; And enables them to participate in the decisions that affect their lives and to hold their governments accountable. In its policy paper, Governance for Sustainable Human Development, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) defines good governance as, among other things, participatory, transparent, and accountable as well as effective, equitable, and as promoting the rule of law. Good governance, accordingly, seeks to ensure that political, social and economic priorities are based on a broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision-making on the allocation of development resources. Characteristics of a Good Governance Good governance has eight (8) major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law. Good governance is responsive to the present and future needs of the organisation, exercises prudence in policy-setting and decision-making, and tries to ensure that the best interests of all stakeholders are taken into account.
    • Rule of Law: Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced by an impartial regulatory body, for the full protection of stakeholders.
    • Transparency: Transparency means that information should be provided in easily understandable forms and media; that it should be freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by governance policies and practices, as well as the outcomes resulting therefrom; and that decisions taken and their enforcement are in compliance with established rules and regulations.
    • Responsiveness: Good governance requires that organisations and their processes are designed to serve the best interests of stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.
    • Consensus Oriented: Good governance requires consultation to understand the different interests of stakeholders in order to reach a broad consensus of what is in the best interest of the entire stakeholder group and how this can be achieved in a sustainable and prudent manner.
    • Equity and Inclusiveness: The organisation that provides the opportunity for its stakeholders to maintain, enhance, or generally improve their well-being provides the most compelling message regarding its reason for existence and value to society.
    • Effectiveness and Efficiency: Good governance means that the processes implemented by the organisation to produce favourable results meet the needs of its stakeholders, while making the best use of resources human, technological, financial, natural and environmental at its disposal.
    • Accountability: Accountability is a key tenet of good governance. Who is accountable for what should be documented in policy statements. In general, an organisation is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions as well as the applicable rules of law.
    • Participation: Participation by both men and women, either directly or through legitimate representatives, is a key cornerstone of good governance. Participation needs to be informed and organised, including freedom of expression and assiduous concern for the best interests of the organisation and society in general.
Good governance is an ideal which is difficult to achieve in its totality. Governance typically involves wellintentioned people who bring their ideas, experiences, preferences and other human strengths and shortcomings to the policy-making table. Good governance is achieved through an on-going discourse that attempts to capture all the considerations involved in assuring that stakeholder interests are addressed and reflected in policy initiatives.

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