Among other characteristics of state besides territory and population is government. The supreme power of the state is exercised by some political machinery through which the will of the state is formulated, expressed and enforced and this is what we call the government. The organization of the state in terms of functionality is divided into three branches: the legislative, executive and the judicial. The legislative branch forms the will of the government while executive implements it and judiciary interprets and applies it.
Governance is a method or system of governance or management. The term denotes qualitative expression, and is different from government which is a physical entity. Governance means to exercise power with the aim of directing and regulating public activities in the larger interests of the people. The concept of governance has acquired increased importance since 1990s; the simple reason behind this is that international aid agencies began to see its absence as a main cause of poor economic development of the developing countries. Now, the concept of good governance is being promoted with its characteristic features like decentralization, participatory management, citizen participation in decision-making etc.
The concept of governance and good governance became prominent in the far end of the 20th century — the terms were coined by the World Bank. The word ‘governance’ has wider meanings and implications than the word ‘government’; it includes governmental and informal non-governmental institutions and regulatory mechanism. Good governance involves role of government in core strategic and sovereign functions. It means that government’s primary function is to govern and let the institutions govern themselves. The trends and policies like privatization, deregulation, corporatization and contracting out are becoming prominent features of good governance across the globe as it provides for equal opportunities, sound environment, equity and healthy competition.
One of the preconditions for good governance is empowerment that can be brought by introducing public sector management, developing accountability framework, enhancing access to information, ensuring transparency and caring for environment, human rights and, above all, supporting democracy. The developed countries adopted this model and today they are thriving and touching new horizons in good governance and every new concept and improvement in the existing one is put forth and experienced by them. Therefore, criticizing the donors for dictating the developing world is not fair in the sense that it is to be decided by the countries which form of government they want.
According to the UNDP, governance is “the exercise of economic, political, and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises mechanisms, processes, and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations, and mediate their differences.”
Good governance is, among other things, participatory, transparent and accountable. It is also effective and equitable, and promotes the rule of law. It ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard and provided shelter in decision-making over identification and allocation of development resources.
Characteristics of Good Governance
Participation is a process whereby stakeholders, according to their worth, influence policymaking, prioritizing issues and accessibility to resources, goods and services. Ultimately, it increases economic efficiency, overall governance as a result of exchange of information and transparency in decision-making. All members of society have the right to be heard and their legitimate demands should be given due weight by the government. For this, they should endeavour to enhance their capacity and capability to participate in decision-making processes.
In the lexicon of public administration, there are three main areas that can ensure public participation. These are: a) Access to information; 2) Participation in decision-making process; and 3) Access to justice.
Access to information is active when government institutions are obliged to give and disseminate information voluntarily to take citizens into confidence. Its passive form occurs when citizens demand from or request to government institutions for information. Right to information is one of the basic tenets of good governance. From different points of view, access to information increases confidence, participation in decision-making and, ultimately, sense of ownership among citizens. The legal cover is necessary to give access to justice so that in case of denial, legal remedy is available so that people can get their rights. It is also necessary from ethical, moral and human rights points of view. The final objective is to involve people in governance and bring them as a major actor by involving them in this participatory process.
2. Rule of Law
Weak governance serves private interests as absence of access to information leads to exploitation at the hands those elements having vested interests. Therefore, rules and regulations, codes of conduct and procedures should be fair and impartial across the board. Institutions respond to the changing environment where up to date information leads to accountability and thereby enhance service delivery.
Governments should be open in their business so that citizens may participate in decision-making wholeheartedly. Governance is also compromised by lack of transparency; simply because information is not made available to the respective stakeholders in order to escape the responsibility and embezzle resources. The ultimate losers are the poor as resources meant for them are utilized for the privileged class who are already affluent. The last course left is to bribe the officials and it means corruption. Remember, corruption is caused by lack of monitoring, no accountability and weak institutions. This also means that one of the ingredients of good governance i.e. transparency, is missing in government affairs.
Consensus or consensus decision-making aims at achieving broader understanding among competing groups to achieve a balance where interests of differing groups are protected and are in consonance with policies and procedures. Collaboration is inevitable to develop consensus for which due weight is given to differing views instead of the will of advantageous one.
Consensus decision-making is a process by which the agreement of most participants is sought in order to resolve or alleviate the objections of the minority. Consensus decision-making is intended to de-emphasize the role of factions or parties and promote the expression of collective voices. This also increases the likelihood of unforeseen or creative solutions by juxtaposing dissimilar ideas. Consensus decision-making involves identifying and addressing concerns, generating new alternatives, combining elements of multiple alternatives and checking that people understand a proposal or an argument. This empowers minorities, those with objections that are hard to state quickly, and those who are less skilled in debate. Therefore, consensus decision-making can be seen as a form of grassroots democracy. In the real sense, this is to save the interests of all by not imposing, but by developing, convergence among all.
Effectiveness & Efficiency
A public entity may be very efficient in utilizing resources, but may not necessarily be effective at the same time, and vice versa. It requires the best use of resources with optimum results. This will not only give respect to public service providers but will also improve public confidence in them. However one aspect of poor service delivery may be low remunerations, poor working environment or lack of incentives. It is to be ensured that public officials do not resort to corruption and that is possible only by legislating on the matter of governing civil servants and their appointments and promotions only through merit-based processes.
Access to information and transparency are the two major ingredients to hold public entities/office-holders accountable. However, the check from civil society and NGOs also serves the purpose. The accountability differs depending on the organization and whether the decision is internal or external to an organization. Central to the principle of accountability is information-sharing and transparency which should be promoted by governance structures. Hence, accountability is hard to achieve especially in the absence of access to information.
Public accountability is founded on two pillars. The first pillar is related to accountability by the executive and the second one is based on institutional change. Accountability can be classified in four categories: public, financial, horizontal and vertical. Horizontal accountability is the relationship between the executive, legislature and the judiciary. Vertical accountability one actor reports to another, subject to the interpretation of constitutional provisions. Informal checks on these relationships are reinforced by civil society and the donor community.
Leaders and the public have a long-term perspective on good governance and human development, along with a sense of what is needed for it. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.
Good governance leads to a number of positive consequences, including, but not limited to, building of public trust in the system, self-appraisal and prompt feedback, ability to handle crisis, financial stability and value for money.