Sunday, July 19, 2015

What Is Governance?

                     Why Better Governance?
 The governments, public officials, managers and political actors love and run after Good Governance(GG).  To achieve it, we first need to understand, what  Governance mean. What is it all about?  The first and foremost aim of a government is to provide Good Governance to its citizens.
GG has no exact or accurate definition. United Nations (UN) defines GG as an ideal proposition which is difficult to achieve in its totality. GG is an instrument of public affairs management. Public actors and political masters try their best to achieve it. Due to lack and slippage in management, outcome is not as per GG concept.
    Now focus on governance? The concept of governance in not new. Its complexity is difficult to capture in a simple definition. There is no consensus on its meaning. Hence, it can't be defined exactly and accurately.  It provides different meanings to different people in different contexts. And its meaning depends on level of the governance, goals achieved and approach being  followed.
    Governance is a very broad concept, and operates at every level, such as household, village, municipality, nation, region or globe. Due to the inherent diversity in national traditions and public cultures, Governance has many definitions in the literature. But it is possible to categorise it into three main types of governance.
    First, political or public governance, whose authority is the State, government or public sector, relates to the process by which a society organizes its affairs and manages itself. The public sector could be defined as “activities that are undertaken with public funds, whether within or outside of core government, and whether those funds represent a direct transfer or are provided in the form of an implicit guarantee”.
    Second, economic governance, whose authority is the private sector, relates to the policies, the processes or organizational mechanisms that are necessary to produce and distribute services and goods.
    Third, social governance, whose authority is the civil society, including citizens and non-for-profit organizations, relates to a system of values and beliefs that are necessary for social behaviours to happen and for public decisions to be taken.   
    Governance should not be reduced to government, as the three aspects of governance are interdependent in a society. Indeed, social governance provides a moral foundation, while economic governance provides a material foundation, and political governance guaranties the order and the cohesion of a society.
    Therefore, governance is not just about how a government and social organizations interact, and how they relate to citizens, but it concerns the State’s ability to serve citizens and other actors, as well as the manner in which public functions are carried out, public resources are managed and public regulatory powers are exercised.  
    Besides, public governance represents more than a means of providing common good, as it can be related to the government capacity to help their citizens’ ability to achieve individual satisfaction and material prosperity. Therefore, governance could be compared to the management, supply, and delivery of political goods to citizens of a nation-state.
    Political goods and social products are various, and they include human security, rule of law, political and civil freedoms, medical and health care, schools and education, communication networks, money and banking system, fiscal and institutional context, support for civil society, or regulating the sharing of the environmental commons. The practice of governance is also ruled by community values, informal traditions, accepted practices, or unwritten codes of conduct.
    The term governance is the most favourite term for (and frequently used by) political actors, social activists, and public managers.  Governance is a gauge for metering and assessing  performance of public actors.  It acts as tool for measuring  quality of the governance in marketing  public services by public managers.
    There are some fundamental concepts and terminologies of governance. These concepts and terminologies are not static and don't apply in a uniform way in all places and cultures.    
    The term governance gained prominent attention towards the end of the twentieth century.  The donor agencies, social scientists, philanthropists and civil society  applied it to a wide range of issues, relationships and institutions in the process of managing public and private affairs.  
    Public administration popularises the word governance.   Many theorists  believe  governance  as organising concepts  that guides public managers  as administrative practices shift  from the bureaucratic  state to what is called the hollow state.
    The  World Bank(WB) and International Monetary Fund(IMF), and Western countries urged developing countries to undertake political, economic and administrative reforms  to practice GG.  
    Governance, in a generic sense, refers for running a government or entity. The  Webster's New International Dictionary  indicates governance is a synonym for government.  This implies the act or process of governing, mainly authoritative direction and control.
    The  British council, however  asserts that " Governance is a  notion more than government.  The working definition used by council is " Governance involves interaction between the formal entity and those civil society.  It refers to a process whereby elements in society wield power, authority, and influence and enact policies and decisions concerning public life and social upliftment."
    Frederickson and Smith asserts that with more emphasis on governance, " the administrative state is now less bureaucratic,  less hierarchical and less reliant on central authority to mandate actions. Accountability for conducting  the public's business is increasingly about performance rather than following a specific policy goal within the ambit of the law."
World Governance Indicators  project conceptualizes that "Governance consists of the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced; the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies; and the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them."
    The United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP), in its 1997 policy paper, defined governance as " the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country' 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 difference."
    Institute on Governance (IoG)defines that "Governance determines who has power, who makes decisions, how other players make their voice heard and how account is rendered."  It further states that  mostly definitions rest on three main dimensions: authority, decision-making and accountably.     
    IOG also offers a simple definition as" the art of steering societies and organisations." Governance is about  the more strategic aspects of steering, making the larger decisions about both direction and roles. Governance is a highly contextual concept.  While working  in the field of governance, one operates in an area where one size does not fit all.
    In 1993, the WB defined governance as the method through which power is exercised in the management of a country' political, economic, and social resources for development.
    The evaluation of  governance is important for a number of reasons. First, donors and reformers take it into consideration when assessing the impact of policies and determining future development projects. Second, governance evaluations determine the investment climate. It is well established that aid flows have greater impacts on development in countries with better governance
    Governance is a qualitative aspect. Measuring and assessing it exactly is not easy.  Its measurement is inherently controversial and political exercise. In many efforts, research and international development community tried  to assess the quality of governance of countries all around the world over the last decades.
      In one notable effort among many, WB and WB Institute has created an internationally comparable measure of governance. They started a Worldwide Governance Indicators project.  The project evaluate and assess 200 countries  for six dimensions of governance. These are: voice and accountability, political stability and lack of violence,  government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, control of corruption.
    A new World Governance Index(WGI) project started. It reports aggregate and individual governance indicators for 215 economies over a period of 1996-2013 for six dimensions as in WB.  The WGI are not used to allocate resources by WB groups.
    Governance  is a term closely associates with  public.  It affects and impacts general masses everyday directly or indirectly. Public are consumer of political goods and social products. These are produced and marketed in a factory called government by political masters and public actors through different governance processes and steps.
    The different types of programmes, projects, ideas etc. implemented by the governments may broadly be categorized as social products. These products are developed for the welfare and overall development of the society and masses.
    Our three-tier government-system (national, provincial, and local) creates departments/ ministries/ sections for developing such social products. The government markets social products for no profit with a primary ambition of achieving better governance. Therefore, governance could be compared to the management, supply, and delivery of political goods and social products to citizens of a nation-state.
Better governance brings happiness. Simple  governance  makes life charmless. And bad governance makes citizens'  life miserable. Desired better governance improves the image of the nation and political masters worldwide. It  helps in enhancing the bargaining power of the country. 
This in turn assists in economic growth and  accelerates  the overall prosperity and development of the country and its citizen.  
Heera Lal (Views are personal and based on different references)