The discussion on governance requires more than a focus on government. It relates to the nature of relations between state and society; it is essentially about the creation of a space where the state and economic and societal actors interact to make decisions. As such, governance is not just about what is done, but also about how things are done. Governance looks into important issues like how services are delivered, how rights are protected, how resources are distributed and how policies are made, issues that require at most input from the people. This is why governance can only be effective if leaders ensure that they look into the true needs and interests of the people.
Good governance thus remains important to development effectiveness in developing countries. The quality of governance does matter for development effectiveness and overall development performance. We have seen more donors now agreeing with this e.g. the World Bank, which has significantly stretched its policy frontiers by endorsing good governance as a core element of its development strategy. That is why we see them expanding their work on governance by :- Supporting initiatives on governance e.g. transparency initiatives, giving substantial funding and technical assistance for governance reforms and capacity building in developing countries, promoting policy processes that foster participation, just to mention but a few.
From this, we gather that donors are trying to play their part in improving governance in developing countries and see the inclusion of governance in the development effectiveness agenda as an important entry point in this regard. The most helpful thing that donors can do is to nurture an environment of transparency and accountability within which locally- appropriate solutions can emerge. In trying to attest to this, to inform the agenda on governance and development effectiveness in the run up to the Fourth High Level Forum held in Busan last year, a roundtable meeting that brought together experts from different parts of the world had this as one of the key messages; That domestic accountability, legitimate governance and well balanced state- society relations are crucial for good development outcomes.
Domestic accountability can be improved by building up on practices such as ensuring there is the provision and use of space by Civil Society Organizations e.g. monitoring state performance, and ensuring that there is support of this at both national and local levels. This will in turn contribute to a more transparent, accountable and responsive service delivery by the government. It must take the deliberate attempt for all actors to work on the domestic accountability agenda so as to realize more equitable, and transparent access to social and economic services.
Legitimate governance is valuable because it helps create norms and information that enable our governments and other actors to coordinate their behavior in mutually beneficial ways. They create opportunities for states and other actors to demonstrate credibility, thereby overcoming issues like commitment problems that are likely to crop up. A lot of coordination is however needed for this to happen.
The importance of positive and well balanced state- society relations cannot be emphasized enough. This is one of the factors that will in the long run make our development programmes work, and help any country realize its expected development goals. This is bound to enhance a country’s ability to satisfactorily meet its people’s true needs and expectations, which is really the idea behind development effectiveness.
Operationalizing some of these approaches however, still remains a big challenge. Even though many donors already consider governance issues as part of a range of considerations in informing their aid allocations across countries, there is need to support more independent, rigorous and detailed governance assessment. Further, it should build local capacity to conduct such assessments. By doing this, development assistance becomes more effective and it will actually benefit poor people in developing countries.
Sadly, civil society input in governance issues remains limited. People’s views are often ignored or misrepresented. There is also a lot of corruption and bureaucracy when it comes to delivery of services. These are some of the issues that need to be dealt with accordingly if our countries are to fully enjoy outcomes like political freedom, economic growth and development effectiveness.
Citizen involvement is critical for enhancing democratic governance, improving service delivery and fostering empowerment. Citizens, Civil Society Organizations and other non state actors are the ultimate stakeholders and as such, they should be able to make the state accountable and make it responsive to their needs.
In conclusion, the demand for good governance aims to strengthen the capacity of all these stakeholders to be able to hold the authorities accountable for better development results and it is important that these initiatives receive support not only from the donors, but from the state as well.