We are reproducing a collection of definitions and principles of good governance from multiple sources ahead of the PCRM’s initiative to create a charter of demands that we will submit to the political parties, which have formed the government in Manipur recently. We will emphasize on the issues of public importance as stated in our objectives and in addition we will also be exploring the best ideas and approaches to realise them.
Good Governance Guide
Good governance is about the processes for making and implementing decisions. It’s not about making ‘correct’ decisions, but about the best possible process for making those decisions.
Good decision-making processes, and therefore good governance, share several characteristics. All have a positive effect on various aspects of local government including consultation policies and practices, meeting procedures, service quality protocols, councillor and officer conduct, role clarification and good working relationships.
What are the main characteristics of good governance?
Good governance is accountable
Accountability is a fundamental requirement of good governance. Local government has an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences of decisions it has made on behalf of the community it represents.
Good governance is transparent
People should be able to follow and understand the decision-making process. This means that they will be able to clearly see how and why a decision was made – what information, advice and consultation council considered, and which legislative requirements (when relevant) council followed.
Good governance follows the rule of law
This means that decisions are consistent with relevant legislation or common law and are within the powers of council.
Good governance is responsive
Local government should always try to serve the needs of the entire community while balancing competing interests in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner.
Good governance is equitable and inclusive
A community’s wellbeing results from all of its members feeling their interests have been considered by council in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process.
Good governance is effective and efficient
Local government should implement decisions and follow processes that make the best use of the available people, resources and time to ensure the best possible results for their community.
Good governance is participatory
Anyone affected by or interested in a decision should have the opportunity to participate in the process for making that decision. This can happen in several ways – community members may be provided with information, asked for their opinion, given the opportunity to make recommendations or, in some cases, be part of the actual decision-making process. ■
12 principles for good governance at local level, with tools for implementation
Council of Europe
Principle 1 – Fair Conduct of Elections, Representation and Participation
• Local elections are conducted freely and fairly, according to international standards and national legislation, and without any fraud.
• Citizens are at the centre of public activity and they are involved in clearly defined ways in public life at local level.
• All men and women can have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate bodies that represent their interests. Such broad participation is built on the freedoms of expression, assembly and association.
• All voices, including those of the less privileged and most vulnerable, are heard and taken into account in decision-making, including over the allocation of resources.
• There is always an honest attempt to mediate between various legitimate interests and to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the whole community and on how this can be achieved.
• Decisions are taken according to the will of the many, while the rights and legitimate interests of the few are respected.
Principle 2 – Responsiveness
• Objectives, rules, structures, and procedures are adapted to the legitimate expectations and needs of citizens.
• Public services are delivered, and requests and complaints are responded to within a reasonable timeframe.
Principle 3 – Efficiency and Effectiveness
• Results meet the agreed objectives.
• Best possible use is made of the resources available.
• Performance management systems make it possible to evaluate and enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of services.
• Audits are carried out at regular intervals to assess and improve performance.
Principle 4 – Openness and Transparency
Decisions are taken and enforced in accordance with rules and regulations.
There is public access to all information which is not classified for well-specified reasons as provided for by law (such as the protection of privacy or ensuring the fairness of procurement procedures).
Information on decisions, implementation of policies and results is made available to the public in such a way as to enable it to effectively follow and contribute to the work of the local authority.
Principle 5 – Rule of Law
• The local authorities abide by the law and judicial decisions.
• Rules and regulations are adopted in accordance with procedures provided for by law and are enforced impartially.
Principle 6 – Ethical Conduct
• The public good is placed before individual interests.
• There are effective measures to prevent and combat all forms of corruption.
• Conflicts of interest are declared in a timely manner and persons involved must abstain from taking part in relevant decisions.
Principle 7 – Competence and Capacity
• The professional skills of those who deliver governance are continuously maintained and strengthened in order to improve their output and impact.
• Public officials are motivated to continuously improve their performance.
• Practical methods and procedures are created and used in order to transform skills into capacity and to produce better results.
Principle 8 – Innovation and Openness to Change
• New and efficient solutions to problems are sought and advantage is taken of modern methods of service provision.
• There is readiness to pilot and experiment new programmes and to learn from the experience of others.
• A climate favourable to change is created in the interest of achieving better results.
Principle 9 – Sustainability and Long-term Orientation
• The needs of future generations are taken into account in current policies.
• The sustainability of the community is constantly taken into account.
• Decisions strive to internalise all costs and not to transfer problems and tensions, be they environmental, structural, financial, economic or social, to future generations.
• There is a broad and long-term perspective on the future of the local community along with a sense of what is needed for such development.
• There is an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which this perspective is grounded.
Principle 10 – Sound Financial Management
• Charges do not exceed the cost of services provided and do not reduce demand excessively, particularly in the case of important public services.
• Prudence is observed in financial management, including in the contracting and use of loans, in the estimation of resources, revenues and reserves, and in the use of exceptional revenue.
• Multi-annual budget plans are prepared, with consultation of the public.
• Risks are properly estimated and managed, including by the publication of consolidated accounts and, in the case of public-private partnerships, by sharing the risks realistically.
• The local authority takes part in arrangements for inter-municipal solidarity, fair sharing of burdens and benefits and reduction of risks (equalisation systems, inter- municipal co-operation, mutualisation of risks…).
Principle 11 – Human rights, Cultural Diversity and Social Cohesion
• Within the local authority’s sphere of influence, human rights are respected, protected and implemented, and discrimination on any grounds is combated.
• Cultural diversity is treated as an asset, and continuous efforts are made to ensure that all have a stake in the local community, identify with it and do not feel excluded.
• Social cohesion and the integration of disadvantaged areas are promoted.
• Access to essential services is preserved, in particular for the most disadvantaged sections of the population.
Principle 12 – Accountability
• All decision-makers, collective and individual, take responsibility for their decisions.
• Decisions are reported on, explained and can be sanctioned.
• There are effective remedies against maladministration and against actions of local authorities which infringe civil rights. ■
The 12 principles in a video: Watch it!
Good Governance and Human Rights
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
What is good governance?
There is no single and exhaustive definition of “good governance,” nor is there a delimitation of its scope, 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. Depending on the context and the overriding objective sought, good governance has been said at various times to encompass: full respect of human rights, the rule of law, effective participation, multi-actor partnerships, political pluralism, transparent and accountable processes and institutions, an efficient and effective public sector, legitimacy, access to knowledge, information and education, political empowerment of people, equity, sustainability, and attitudes and values that foster responsibility, solidarity and tolerance.
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. It has been said that good governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realization 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. The key question is: are the institutions of governance effectively guaranteeing the right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food, quality education, fair justice and personal security?
Key attributes of good governance
The concept of good governance has been clarified by the work of the former Commission on Human Rights. In its resolution 2000/64, the Commission identified the key attributes of good governance:
• responsiveness (to the needs of the people)
By linking good governance to sustainable human development, emphasizing principles such as accountability, participation and the enjoyment of human rights, and rejecting prescriptive approaches to development assistance, the resolution stands as an implicit endorsement of the rights-based approach to development.
Resolution 2000/64 expressly linked good governance to an enabling environment conducive to the enjoyment of human rights and “prompting growth and sustainable human development.” In underscoring the importance of development cooperation for securing good governance in countries in need of external support, the resolution recognized the value of partnership approaches to development cooperation and the inappropriateness of prescriptive approaches.
How are good governance and human rights linked?
Good governance and human rights are mutually reinforcing. Human rights principles provide a set of values to guide the work of governments and other political and social actors. They also provide a set of performance standards against which these actors can be held accountable. Moreover, human rights principles inform the content of good governance efforts: they may inform the development of legislative frameworks, policies, programmes, budgetary allocations and other measures.
On the other hand, without good governance, human rights cannot be respected and protected in a sustainable manner. The implementation of human rights relies on a conducive and enabling environment. This includes appropriate legal frameworks and institutions as well as political, managerial and administrative processes responsible for responding to the rights and needs of the population.
The links between good governance and human rights can be organized around four areas:
• Democratic institutions
When led by human rights values, good governance reforms of democratic institutionscreate avenues for the public to participate in policymaking either throughformal institutions or informal consultations. They also establish mechanisms forthe inclusion of multiple social groups in decision-making processes, especiallylocally. Finally, they may encourage civil society and local communities to formulateand express their positions on issues of importance to them.
• Service delivery
In the realm of delivering state services to the public, good governance reforms advance human rights when they improve the state’s capacity to fulfil its responsibility to provide public goods which are essential for the protection of a number of human rights, such as the right to education, health and food. Reform initiatives may include mechanisms of accountability and transparency, culturally sensitive policy tools to ensure that services are accessible and acceptable to all, and paths for public participation in decision-making.
• Rule of law
When it comes to the rule of law, human rights-sensitive good governance initiatives reform legislation and assist institutions ranging from penal systems to courts and parliaments to better implement that legislation. Good governance initiatives may include advocacy for legal reform, public awareness-raising on the national and international legal framework, and capacity-building or reform of institutions.
In fighting corruption, good governance efforts rely on principles such as accountability, transparency and participation to shape anti-corruption measures. Initiatives may include establishing institutions such as anti-corruption commissions, creating mechanisms of information sharing, and monitoring governments’ use of public funds and implementation of policies.
Good governance, human rights and development
The interconnection between good governance, human rights and sustainable development has been made directly or indirectly by the international community in a number of declarations and other global conference documents. For example, the Declaration on the Right to Development proclaims that every human person and all peoples “are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development” (article 1).
In the Millennium Declaration, world leaders affirmed their commitment to promote democracy and strengthen the rule of law as well as to respect internationally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development. According to the United Nations strategy document on the millennium development goals (MDGs), entitled “The United Nations and the MDGs: a Core Strategy’, “the MDGs have to be situated within the broader norms and standards of the Millennium Declaration,” including those on “human rights, democracy and good governance.”
Good governance in main international human rights instruments
From a human rights perspective, the concept of good governance can be linked to principles and rights set out in the main international human rights instruments. Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the importance of a participatory government and article 28 states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realized.
The two International Covenants on Human Rights contain language that is more specific about the duties and role of governments in securing the respect for and realization of all human rights. Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires states parties to respect and to ensure the rights recognized in the Covenant and to take the necessary steps to give effect to those rights. In particular, states should provide an effective remedy to individuals when their rights are violated, and provide a fair and effective judicial or administrative mechanism for the determination of individual rights or the violation thereof. Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states are obliged to take steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the Covenant by all appropriate means.
The human rights treaty monitoring bodies have given some attention to the different elements of good governance. In general comment No. 12, on the right to food, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that “Good governance is essential to the realization of all human rights, including the elimination of poverty and ensuring a satisfactory livelihood for all.” The Committee on the Rights of the Child has on several occasions addressed the issue of governments’ capacity to coordinate policies for the benefit of the child and the issue of decentralization of services and policy-making. It has also addressed corruption as a major obstacle to the achievement of the Convention’s objectives.
The Human Rights Committee generally addresses issues related to the provision of adequate remedies, due process and fair trial in the context of the administration of justice in each state. It regularly emphasizes the importance of independent and competent judges for the adequate protection of the rights set forth in the Convention. ■
Finally, we have the concept of good governance as put forward by the BJP which is the major party of the ruling government. Good governance in their own words:
The BJP’s definition of good governance is an administration where even the weakest and the most vulnerable sections of society have an equal stake in charting the country’s growth. Everything starts and progresses from this single idea. Today, the BJP is the only true merit-based democratic political party in India. In governance, the BJP is committed to the ideals of transparency, efficiency and responsiveness. Time and again, the party has demonstrated its commitment towards these principles, wherever it has been voted to power.
With the BJP at the helm, the Indian voters can look forward to a clean government, free of corruption and scandal; a leadership that hasn’t reached on top on the basis of connections and cronyism, but on the basis of years of unrelenting work for the masses and a youthful leadership that is in sync with contemporary India.
Our model of good governance ensures that even the tallest leaders and top bureaucrats are answerable to an ordinary citizen, hailing from any part of India. The government believes in operating in complete transparency, with every file and official record open for public scrutiny, except when these may endanger national security. The BJP’s ascendancy is an antidote to whatever has troubled the Indian political system over the last six decades– crony capitalism, feudalism, favouritism and archaic methods of governance. For us, governance is a mission that isn’t complete without proactive involvement of the citizens of India. We strive to provide a clean and efficient government that invites proactive participation and involvement of citizens at every step. ■