Monday, January 26, 2009

Good Governance


The topic of governance is very broad and of great complexity. It is referred to as “study of good order and workable arrangement,” (Williamson, 2005). In the broadest sense, governance concerns performance of the government including public and private sectors, global and local arrangements, formal structures and informal norms and practices, spontaneous and intentional systems of control. In the simplest sense, governance means the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). In the empirical analysis of public policies, governance is considered to encompass all aspects of the exercise of authority in the management of the resource endowment of a state and the manner in which the power is exercised. The quality of governance is determined by the impact of this exercise of power on the quality of life enjoyed by the citizens.

What is governance?

The concept of "governance" is not new. It is as old as human civilization. Simply put "governance" means: the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). Governance can be used in several contexts such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.

Since governance is the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented, an analysis of governance focuses on the formal and informal actors involved in decision-making and implementing the decisions made and the formal and informal structures that have been set in place to arrive at and implement the decision.

Government is one of the actors in governance. Other actors involved in governance vary depending on the level of government that is under discussion. In rural areas, for example, other actors may include influential land lords, associations of peasant farmers, cooperatives, NGOs, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions political parties, the military etc. The situation in urban areas is much more complex. Figure 1 provides the interconnections between actors involved in urban governance. At the national level, in addition to the above actors, media, lobbyists, international donors, multi-national corporations, etc. may play a role in decision-making or in influencing the decision-making process.

All actors other than government and the military are grouped together as part of the "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.

Similarly formal government structures are one means by which decisions are arrived at and implemented. At the national level, informal decision-making structures, such as "kitchen cabinets" or informal advisors may exist. In urban areas, organized crime syndicates such as the "land Mafia" may influence decision-making. In some rural areas locally powerful families may make or influence decision-making. Such, informal decision-making is often the result of corrupt practices or leads to corrupt practices.

What is the concept of good governance?

Good governance has 8 major characteristics. 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.

Characteristics of good governance


Participation by both men and women is a key cornerstone of good governance. 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. All men and women, inclusive of the physically challenged, should have a voice in decision- making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capabilities to participate constructively.

The World Bank notes that this, in turn, will improve and, as a result, increase the overall governance and economic efficiency of development activities.

Generally, public involvement includes three elements or ‘pillars’:

  • Public access to information;
  • Public participation in decision-making processes;
  • Public access to judicial and administrative redress often termed ‘access to justice’.

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.


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.


Good governance requires that institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.

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.


Accountability should be ensured not only governmental institutions but also the private sector and civil society organizations. In general an organization or an institution is accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions.

What are the dimensions of governance?

The essential nature of governance is the structure of institutions and societal norms by which authority is exercised for everyone’s benefit at all levels, from local to global.

The Three Dimensions of Governance

Governance in general has, among others, three dimensions: - - - -

§ The political dimension- processes by which those in authority are selected, elected, monitored and replaced.

§ The economic dimension- process by which public resources are effectively managed and sound policies implemented.

§ The institutional dimension- processes by which citizens and the state itself respect the society’s/ public institutions.

Insofar as the World Bank is concerned, its interest in governance stems from its concern with the effectiveness of the development efforts it supports. From this perspective, sound development management, in the broadest sense of the phrase, is critical for ensuring adequate returns and efficacy of the programs and projects financed, and for the World Bank’s underlying objectives of helping countries reduce poverty and promoting sustainable growth. Hence, the World Bank’s emphasis in recent years has shifted from its own interventions to the overall country context (i.e., the governance climate) within which those interventions take place. In doing so, it has been guided by the nature of its operations and the opportunities for action that these offer.

Accordingly, the key dimensions of governance identified by the World Bank is:

§ Public sector management,

§ Accountability,

§ Legal framework for development, and

§ Transparency and information.

What are the actors of the governance?

The Three Actors upon Governance - State, Market and Civil society - Government Essay: - - - -

This essay attempts to offer an explanation and overview of the terms governance, institutions and “good governance”. Throughout the history the term governance has been associated exclusively to the role of the state ignoring other social factors. Most stress the relationships between the three actors of governance -state, market and civil society- as necessary requisite to the act of governance. Governance is the way these actors organize themselves and make decisions according to a set of formal and informal rules that together form institutions.

Governance is the process of decision-making which conducts public life in a society and guarantees respect of citizens’ Human Rights, equality in resource distribution and safety. Governance is in charge of the application of the rules of the game which will determine the absence or not of political legitimacy in a country and the population’s quality of life.

All actors other than government, the army and the members of the market are put together as part of civil society. In some countries the criminal society has such influence in the decision-making process that may be considered as another actor of governance. Governance is therefore the result of the interactions among state, market and the civil society and function according to a set of rules and norms.

Governance is the process of decision-making and the process of implementing that decision through different institutions in the management of the resource endowment of the state. Governance can be used in several contexts, such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance.

Government is one of the actors in governance and other actors involve in governance vary depending on the level of government. Local level actors in governance are cooperatives - -

  • NGOs/CBOs
  • Religious leaders
  • Political leaders
  • Financial institutions and above all local elected bodies.

National actors in governance are - -

  • Media,
  • Lobbyists
  • International donors
  • Multinationals corporations etc.

These all may play a role in decision making or influencing the decision making process

Rhodes (1997) relates governance with concepts as “self-organizing” and “interorganizational networks”. According to his point of view society is able to organize and govern itself independently of the state and through a process that can be defined as symbiotic as all the members of society need to each other to achieve their aims.

In the words of Rhodes (1997) “no single actor, public or private, has the sufficient knowledge to dominate ultimately a governing model”. Governance is the result of a social-political-administrative sharing process where state, market and civil society have their own role.

The role of Institutions:

So far governance has been described as the way state, market and civil society interacts according to a set of norms and rules known as institutions. These are in charge of providing the instruments which make possible such interaction.

According to Gorringe (1997) institutions are created as a result of the necessity of improving the co-ordination among the different members of a society, preventing conflicts of interests and supporting cooperatives. A society without institutions or rules of the game would be an anarchist society where lack of organization may lead to chaos.

Two different degrees of formality can be identified within the rules:

  • Formal norms: Based on written constitutions, laws, formal contracts, etc.
  • Informal norms: Based on moral rules, unwritten societal codes of conduct, etc. Informal norms have more importance in developing countries for social administration and poverty alleviation.

The scope of work of institutions is very wide and covers all the economic and social aspects of the individual as personal security, property rights, resource distribution, level of freedom, education, etc.

At the present moment “good governance” is the most common approaches are those based on the interactions among state, market and civil society.

It is widely thought that a necessary condition for “good governance” is that the interactions among government, market and civil society should occur under the framework of democracy and the respect of the Human Rights (civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights) as it is described by the United Nation in its Resolution 2000, 64 (UN High Commission for Human Rights).

Democracy is not just understood as the citizens chance to participate in the electoral system but it also involves a pluralist political and social system, the integrity of the three governance actors, the legitimacy of the decision-making process and the opportunity for public scrutiny of the actions of those who holds the power (Archer, 2003).

The “ideal” model of governance is according to the UN only possible if it takes place under the umbrella of transparency, equity participation of citizens in the decision making process, consensus among all parts involved seeking the best common interests, following of the rule of law, responsiveness to serve all the society members, accountability to the public and institutions and effectiveness and efficiency to meet the society’s needs and protecting the environment (UN ESCAP). This “ideal” model of governance every actor has a task to undertake:

  • The market should create the necessary conditions for fair trade and competitiveness, as well as to maintain the balance between private and public companies to make sure that everybody has the same chances to access to goods and services.
  • The state should be in charge of financial control, good and long-term planning (in economy, infrastructure people,...), to provide an equal welfare and education system and to offer a judicial system which upholds the law without bias.
  • Finally civil societies should promote co-operatives to eliminate powerful interest bias and to claim political and economic accountability to maintain social equality.

The three actors of governance the instructions about how they should achieve a more fair society. A society cannot develop properly without the proper functioning of its formal and informal institutions that at the same time have to be designed and applied according to the needs and beliefs of the citizens, not trying to satisfy just the privileged minorities that dominate the interactions among state, market and civil society.


Though it is tough to achieve good governance in a context of a developing country like Bangladesh but a huge option to work is waiting for talents. That could be large platform of urban planners.

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