Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, July 19th, 2018

The Worth of Good Governance

Favorable, fair, and effective governance is clearly one of the most dominant factors for sustainable development. Today good governance is also a key to sustainable development. Honest and competent governance effects every aspect of one’s life from the protection of our basic human rights to food and water security. Governance is more than just government, it includes everything from an impartial and efficient judicial system to schools and healthcare, to an economic system that offers job security and a living wage. Its foundation is a strong and vital civil society.
The impacts of poor governance are severe. Ineffective or corrupt governments can allow, or even promote, resource depletion and environmental destruction. They can distort and disrupt local and national economies, impoverishing citizens as well as frightening away investors. In extreme cases, poor governance leads to civil or international conflict. This conflict perpetuates a cycle in which all the components of a healthy civil society are destroyed, and government itself loses connection with its people.
In industrialized nations unresponsive, careless governance produces equally devastating results: the apathy and disengagement of its citizens. People adopt a "why bother?" attitude about politics and government. Stronger institutions of governance can manage more effectively the interdependence between economies and eco-systems. In such a way, capable governance can develop lasting solutions to key environmental issues such as global climate change, ozone depletion, and associated health risks.
There are many ways to strengthen governance. One of them is to create conditions supportive of democracy such as literacy, a free press and flow of information, and gender and class equality. Nations can recognize and train effective leaders at all levels. Pioneering organizations have also created ways of identifying and publicizing corrupt behavior and then insisting on accountability. Effective economic development that benefits all segments of society is also an essential ingredient in strengthening governance.
The benefits of good governance range from an enhanced quality of life for all citizens of each nation to a more responsible, accountable relationship with the environment. A strong and healthy civil society carries with it an almost automatic assurance of reduction in poverty. And, most importantly, the spread of good governance within nations will ultimately lead to diminished conflict and greater possibility of peace between nations.
The UNDP defines governance as "the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority to manage a nation's affairs. It [includes the] processes... and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their rights and obligations and mediate their differences". The three interconnected parts that constitute the governance are the state, civil society organizations, and the private sector. The media also plays an essential role in effective governance by enhancing communication among all sectors.
Key factors in determining the quality of good governance are responsiveness and involvement. Good governance means that stakeholders or beneficiaries feel like they have a voice in what affects them and that their particular interests are recognized. In both the developing and industrialized world, civil society is the most important building block in this process. It is made up of everything from community centers to credit unions to cultural organizations. Governance is the glue that holds a society together.
In prehistoric times, isolated bands of hunters and gatherers had little need for complicated governance. But as people settled in one place and agricultural societies grew in size, legal and political systems grew in response.
The more complicated and diverse the society, the greater the need for effective governance: this could range from an all-powerful monarch to a very inclusive, participatory democracy. Of the nearly 200 sovereign nations of the world at the beginning of the 21st century each has some kind of political system. All the nations of the world have within them components of good and bad governance. Developing countries - many of them former colonies - often have inherited a top-down system of government in which politicians and civil servants see no need to be accountable to their constituents. The result is often system-wide corruption from the lowest village headman to head of state. All citizens suffer as a result, but none more than the poor peasant who has the greatest need for services like health care and education.
Ineffective, corrupt governments do little to prevent resource depletion and environmental degradation. Without accountability to their citizens, they often reach economic agreements that offer short-term profits but have a devastating effect on the local environment. There is also little provision for governmental oversight of the activities of corporations and, even if there are laws and rules to protect the environment they are often not enforced.
Effective governance rests on a dependable revenue base. Without adequate funds to pay civil servants and maintain basic services, a nation risks collapse. Many countries of the world have never been able to rely on tax revenues to meet their budgetary needs. Citizens simply do not pay their income taxes or the government may impose taxes and duties that are inequitable and punitive.
Outside the economic sphere, bad governance impacts the quality of life of everyone in a country, from the poorest peasant to the most privileged. Not only are human rights disregarded or enforced inconsistently, but also essential services as well as adequate food and clean water simply do not reach those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. In matters of food and water security the interests of the political elite are served and the rights of majority often disregarded.