Governance Link Initiative

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Governance Map

What is good governance?

Governance is about the processes by which decisions are made and/or implemented, and usually involving several actors. Good governance thus, takes into consideration the context in which these decisions are made and/or implemented such as democracy, corporate governance, international governance, national governance and/or local governance, to ensure the best possible process for making and implementing these decisions. In this discussion we are particularly focusing on government/public institutions as an actor in governance.

Democracy, and democratic governance in particular, means that people’s human rights and fundamental freedoms are respected, promoted and fulfilled, allowing them to live with dignity. Good governance thus, plays a significant role at different levels of government/public institutions, be it local, regional or national in ensuring that democratic governance principles are adhered to; including how government/public institutions make decisions, run day to day public business and/or use/manage public resources. Most importantly it promotes participation of the general public, taking into account the needs and aspirations of all members including minority groups and vulnerable segments of the society thereof.

Scale of Justice

GLINK - Good Governance Map

What are the main elements of good governance?

Nothing for the people without them taking part. Participation is a process that provides people an opportunity to have a say on decisions that affect their lives. Participation is a human right enshrined in several provisions of our constitution as well as other local and international instruments like the UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It is a fundamental part of citizenship and a key cornerstone of good governance. It is thus, rational for government to fully adopt good and democratic governance principles and values including engaging all members of the public in all decisions that affect them whether directly or indirectly. This can be achieved in many ways including but not limited to: providing access to public information, consultation, engage the public in actual decision making and implementation, public education and training.

Accountability is a fundamental requirement of good governance. Government/public institutions are answerable to the public. They thus, bare full responsibility to inform, report, explain all decisions made and/or implemented, as well as must own the consequences of any such decisions made and/or implemented on behalf of the public whether positive or negative.

Transparency is about openness. Government/public institutions have an obligation to be open in the way they conduct public business including decision making and implementation, and how they use and/or manage public resources. They must conduct public business in a way that the public will be able to follow and understand. This could be achieved by making public information easily accessible and to follow the rules and regulations in making and implementing decisions.

This means that ALL decisions are consistent with relevant legislations or common law and are within the powers of government/public institutions. The legal frameworks must be fair and enforced impartially and without impunity. In the case of Malawi government, relevant legislation includes the constitution of 1996 and other relevant legislations and/or instruments local as well as international, to which Malawi is signatory.

This means that decision making and implementation takes into consideration and priority the needs of the general public on one hand and on the other trying to balance with other competing factors in an ethical, timely and meaningful manner. The public in this case must always be the winners.

This means government/public institutions takes into consideration the diversity of the public and/or constituency being served, as decisions are being made and/or implemented to ensure that the interests and aspirations of all members are fairly taken into account including those of members of the public who are considered to be vulnerable and/or in minority. At the end of the day, everyone feels they have a fair share of the pie regardless of who they are.

This means that government/public institutions strives to make and implement decisions that make the best use of available resources to ensure the best possible results that addresses the needs and aspirations of the constituency they serve.

There are several actors and as many view points in any given society. Good governance thus requires mediation of the different points of view and needs in society to reach a broad consensus 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 growth and human development and how to achieve the goals of such development. This can only result from an understanding of the historical, cultural and social contexts of a given society or community.