What is Good governance?

What is Good governance?

Recently the term “good governance” is being increasingly used in development literature. Bad governance is being increasingly regarded as one of the root cause of all evil within our societies.
Like New Public Management the concept of Good Governance is also the product of the 1980s which emerged out of the synthesis of development administration and the neo liberal restructuring of government. The concept is elusive and value laden. Thus proved to be difficult to define accurately.
Two documents attempted to sketch the outline of the concept.
Firstly, the World Bank’s 1989 document on Sub-Saharan Africa, and secondly World Bank’s 1992 document.
In its document of 1989 World Bank cleared the concept of Governance with three parameters;
1. Public Sector Management and Accountability
2. Legal framework for development
3. Information and transparency

In the document of 1992 entitled ‘Governance and Development’ the World Bank stated three applications of the concept of governance;
1. In the form of political regime
2. The process by which governmental power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources
3. The capacity of governments to design, formulate and implement policies

It is imperative to understand that present need to reconceptualize the governance is felt out of the compulsion of regulating developmental assistance given by the international financial institutions like World Bank to the Third World countries. The World Bank after its establishment in 1944 in the Bretton Woods  Conference, is committed to provide developmental assistance to the underdeveloped and developing countries for the purpose of poverty reduction, education, health, empowerment of weaker sections, environmental sustainability etc. Around 1980s the World Bank from its lending experience in many developing countries observed that despite of sound policy design, programmes and projects have failed due to institutional failures in those countries.
World Bank experts identified some of the problems as;
1. Governments in these countries are not determined enough to implement the policies.
2. There is an absence of proper accounting or budgetary system
3. Widespread corruption is prevailing in these countries.
4. General lack of popular participation due to public apathy and misinformation among the people.
In order to overcome these difficulties lending agencies like the World Bank insists on ‘structural adjustment programmes’ for the recipient countries which emphasize on downsizing the bureaucracy, opening up new sectors to the private sector for development and redefining the state role as an ‘enabler’ rather than a ‘provider’. The development aid was linked up with promotion of open, market friendly competitive economical readjustment of the national economies, support for democratization and improvement of human rights records and insistence on the new package called ‘good governance’.
OECD further clarified the expectations of lending countries vis-avis recipient countries under the following heads;
• Participatory Development
• Human Rights
• Democratization
• Legitimacy of Government
• Respect of human rights

• Rule of law

Features of Good Governance

From the above discussion we can spell out some important features of Good Governance. Good Governance insist on removal of corruption, voices for the minorities, participation of most vulnerable in decision-making and responsive to the present and future needs of society.

Features of Good Governance

Features of Good Governance


Inequalities and discriminations of various kinds like gender, race, caste, creed, place of birth etc are addressed in the good governance by participation of various stakeholders in governance either through direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives. Informed and organized participation is emphasized. It means freedom of association and expression for all to raise their concerns.

Rule of law

Good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. It entails protection of human rights, particularly those of minorities; impartial enforcement of laws which requires an independent judiciary and an impartial and incorruptible police force.


Transparency suggest three things; firstly, decisions must be taken and enforced in proper legal manner, secondly, the information must be freely available and directly accessible to the affected, and thirdly, complete information in easily understandable forms and media.


It suggests that governance must be responsive to the concerns of all stakeholders within a reasonable timeframe.

Consensus oriented

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 needs sensitivity of the administration to the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or  community. In political term it is called as political pluralism.

Equity and inclusiveness

Good governance must address the issues concerning justice and equity. None in the society should feel side lined or exploited in the process of development. Growth should be inclusive and equitable. Mostly the vulnerable and marginalized must share the fruits of the development and must have opportunities to improve and maintain
their well being.

Effectiveness and efficiency

It means that developmental needs of the society must be achieved by the optimum utilization of the resources at their disposal. It further suggests sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment.


Accountability is a key of good governance. Both public and private institutions along with civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. Transparency and Rule of Law are prerequisites of accountability.