Urban Governance: A Sourcebook on Indicators

Part One

2. Good Governance

What is Good Governance?

Good governance is both a goal and a process. It only can help us find solutions to poverty, inequality and insecurity. It creates an environment in which civil organisations, business community, private citizens and other institutions can assume ownership of the process of city development and the management of their own communities.

The term ‘Governance’ is derived from the Greek word ‘kybernan’ and ‘kybernetes’. It means ‘to steer and to pilot or be at the helm of things’. While the term ‘government’ indicates a political unit for the function of policy making as distinguished from the administration of policies, the word ‘governance’ denotes an overall responsibility for both - the political and administrative functions. It also implies ensuring moral behaviour and ethical conduct in the task of governing, i.e., the continuous ethical exercise of authority on both the political and administrative units of governments.

There are three main regimes involved in good governance. They are the State, the Civil Society and the Private Sector. All three are critical for sustaining human development. Since each has got its weaknesses and strengths, a major objective of good governance is to promote highest possible constructive interaction among them in order to minimize individual weaknesses and utilize the strengths optimally. The intricate intercourse between and among these three domains will indicate the direction of the society’s economic and social flight path. The more integral, balanced and inter-dependant the three are the better it is for that society.

THE STATE provides the foundation of Equity, Justice and Peace, creating a conducive political and legal environment for development by:

  • maintaining the rule of law;

  • regulating socio-economic standards;

  • developing social and physical infrastructure; and

  • ensuring social safety nets and civic protection.

CIVIL SOCIETY provides the foundation of Liberty, Equality, Responsibility & Self-expression through:

  • organising the communities;

  • educating the communities;

  • mobilizing groups to participate in the economic and social life of the city;

  • facilitating political and social interaction;

  • supporting solidarity actions and watch-dog functions; and

  • fostering the cultures.

PRIVATE CORPORATE SECTOR provides the foundation of economic growth and development through:

  • employment and income generation;

  • production and trade;

  • human resource development;

  • service delivery; and

  • setting, and constantly upgrading, corporate standards.

Governance is the cumulative impact that the interaction of the above three regimes in city’s political, economic and administrative domains will have on the life styles and living standards of its citizens. These regimes constitute the governance system through many different and complex mechanisms, institutions, and partners, processes and relationships which citizens use on daily basis to:

  • articulate their needs, problems and aspirations;

  • exercise their rights and duties;

  • obtain redress or solutions; and

  • mediate to maintain law, order and justice.

Results of Good Governance

Good governance results in:

  • The orderly organisation of the city’s predominant political thought, vision & action;

  • The administration of events & processes leading to the realisation of the vision; and

  • The maintenance of ethical rhythm and equity in the distribution of the fruits of realised vision to the satisfaction of all.

The result of good governance is development that ‘gives priority to poor, advances the cause of women, sustains the environment, and creates needed opportunities for employment and other livelihoods. (Re-conceptualizing Governance, UNDP, 1997. Pp. 1)

Governance is good and effective when it subscribes to the following nine characteristics:

  • Participation

  • Strategic vision

  • Rule of law

  • Transparency

  • Responsiveness

  • Consensus Orientation

  • Equity building

  • Effectiveness & Efficiency

  • Accountability

Growth, Equity & Good Governance

There is a popular myth that economic growth will automatically lead to human development. True, it will lead to some human’s development, not of the whole society. Without good governance, by might and craft, a few will appropriate to themselves the best of the products of economic growth leading the way to greater economic and social disparities. Responsive and accountable governance systems and processes upholding the rule of law can prevent such polarization of resources, both material and human, to a very great extent.

Like everything else, good governance is not an accident. Process towards good governance too must be planned meticulously and pursued systematically. Good governance is a result of good planning, efficient investment of managerial resources, effective partnerships and sound decision-making. Some of the major action steps towards effective governance are:

9 Action Steps Towards Good Governance

  • Understanding and appreciating the potential of efficient and effective governance for equitable development

  • Identify critical pastures; overcoming distrust among them and gaining mutual respect

  • Consensus building on core principles of partnerships, formalizing partnerships & assigning specific responsibilities

  • Creating a vision for municipal development; planning municipal progress; setting objectives & targets; and setting the governance upgrading programme in motion

  • Reviewing municipal revenue & mobilizing new resources

  • Reviewing & upgrading management tools for assessing governance and partnerships

  • Setting up systems for functionaries to upgrade their managerial skills, information and knowledge on a regular basis

  • Regular review of performance; revision of procedures & legislation and mid-Course Corrections

  • Constant search to further improve Good Governance practice

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