What is Good Governance?
The terms ?governance” and “good governance” are not new to those in development sector. But for the general public these terms may sound as new or dry. However, a time has come when we must all, as responsible citizens give a serious consideration to the subject for it is the very process we govern ourselves.
The concept of ?governance?
The concept of “governance” simply means the process by which we manage our public life by decision-making and implementing those decisions. Governance unlike many people think is not limited to government alone. It comprises the entire civil society and its various groups, the non-governmental sector, the media, the corporates, local groups etc. In some places, it includes the local leaders who are influential in the policy making process. Governance is thus a vast subject with a vast scope and a spectrum of processes, activities and programmes. Stated simply it means the way we govern our public life with all its nuance. Governance can be used in several contexts such as international governance, national governance and local governance.
Governance, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), can be seen as ?the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.? Thus, governance ?includes the state, but transcends it by taking in the private sector and civil society.?
All governance initiatives are geared on to promote human development which must be sustainable. Any development to be meaningful must be addressed to all sections of the society and take into consideration specially the poor and the vulnerable. There must be a focus on the present development with a clear vision for the future generations to safeguard their interests. ?We define human development as expanding the choices for all people in society. This means that men and women – particularly the poor and vulnerable – are at the centre of the development process. It also means “protection of the life opportunities of future generations…and. the natural systems on which all life depends” (UNDP, Human Development Report 1996). Ref. http://magnet.undp.org/policy/chapter1.htm
Today more and more people need to actively participate in the governance process. People must assume responsibility for their participation. It?s not just enough to demand better governance or an end to corruption. There must be sustained effort on the part of the civil society to put continuous pressure on the governments so that they are made to deliver goods to the full satisfaction of the citizens. Governance is a process of decision making and implementing those decisions. Hence it calls for people?s active participation in decision making process. Citizens must be involved in decisions that affect their lives.
Government is one of the actors in governance. There are a lot of others who are involved. On the international level, multi national corporations may be involved in decision-making process. Even donors may play a role or influence the decision making process. Today we talk about public-private partnership in many countries. It?s in the interest of the society that such partnerships play an active role in governance. NGOs, and other civil society groups including research institutes or even religious leaders also may play a role in governance.
There is no guarantee that good and honest people purely govern the decision-making process. Sometimes there may be rich and famous who influence decision-making process. Likewise, people with criminal background or mafias may also directly or indirectly influence the decision-making process. Therefore, it is so vital for good citizens to play an active role in governance.
Main hurdles in the quest for good governance
We in India do not yet experience a fair share of good governance since Independence. It?s both a matter of shame and seriousness. Neither the quality of public services is satisfactory nor the enforcement of the rule of law anywhere near truth and justice. There is no equal opportunity to all citizens. On the contrary society is divided on the basis of caste or creed and widespread communal elements. The current scenario in India leaves much to be desired.
The Central and state government machinery have their own problems. They might quote some of the problems they face as reasons for poor service delivery. Though this cannot be accepted as valid reason for failure on government?s part, it cannot be overlooked either that there is a tremendous overload of functions on the government. It?s not only the provider of a wide range of essential public services, but also has in its control numerous commercial enterprises.
What is important to consider here is the immediate significance of governance to a vast majority of the population who depend on the government for basic services. Governments have a strong monopoly in the provision of services, and because of this they have escaped from both direct public accountability and competition. Citizens not only have to contend with poor quality, but also bear with non-responsiveness of public service providers.
Huge amount of public money is spent on providing basic services and it is here that most of the corruption is found. Bribes are demanded by officials and paid by helpless citizens. There are no efficient grievances redressal systems and the ones that are set in place are superficial. Delays in providing citizen services are intentional to solicit bribes. But the delays cause citizens additional expenditure. For example, a citizen who does not get an electricity connection has to spend on generators or other forms of fuel. So also when there are power cuts which are absolutely not necessary, citizens need to have recourse to other means of power. Like wise a citizen who suffers from government?s indifference on drinking water supply is forced to invest a huge amount on ensuring his/her regular water supply. And if we take into account all the time and energy spent on these substitute arrangements, it?s a drain on national productivity. It can also cause psychological harm, unnecessary tensions, etc., which have a bearing on one?s emotional or social life.
Good governance therefore is essential for a healthy living in the society. We must put pressure on the elected representatives and make them deliver goods. We must hold them responsible and accountable to people who elect them as leaders to govern them. Their actions must be transparent so that people know what?s happening, the decisions taken, the programmes implemented etc.
The three pillars of Governance
Generlly, we think of three pillars of democracy, viz. the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary.
There is a fourth pillar of democracy and that is YOU. When you live as an active citizen, you become a pillar of strength to uphold democracy. Governance cannot be meaningful and effective unless and until citizens realize and play their role in it.
Mangalore?s governance and citizens
Mangalore with its unique nature of being a coastal city and a culture of its own is different from the rest of the country. Yet it has many things in common with other regions. While safeguarding national unity and integrity, the community of Mangalore must also work towards promoting its local interests for the benefit of Mangaloreans. It is with this objective in mind that we suggest a Mangalorean Movement for Good Governance. Citizens who sincerely wish to be part of this movement may express their desire to join and then we can meet and discuss the future strategies. But first thing is we must share a common vision and mission for the future of Mangalorean community.
One of the best ways to work for our future is to prepare our youth and children to be active citizens today. We must inculcate in them civic values which are so important in today?s world scenario. If we build capacity of our younger generation, we can hope to find at least some of them to be our good leaders tomorrow who will be honest, sincere and committed to provide good governance to us in the future.
Author: Cyril Vas- Bangalore