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Good Governance Vs Good Administration Politics Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 4265 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Good governance and good public administration are essential aspects of democracy. The ability to distribute society’s resources, curb the abuse of power and corruption and guarantee equality of all persons before the law is fundamental to a well-functioning society.

The starting point of this research has been the hypothesis that our new commitment to “governance” norms is interlocked with the emergence of a new model (or new models) of legitimate political action and state regulation.

The present analysis will concentrate of the following factors among others: the enforceable content of the right, including the role of the European Ombudsman; the relationship between good governance and good administration; the uncertain reach of the concept of maladministration;

Democratic governance differs from the concept of “good governance” in recognizing that political and civil freedoms and participation have basic value as developmental ends in themselves and not just means for achieving socio-economic progress.

Democratic governance is built on the concept of human development in its full sense of the term, which is about expanding capabilities people have, to be free and able to lead lives that they would choose to. The capability to be free from threats of violence and to be able to speak freely is as important as being literate for a full life. While the range of capabilities that people have is huge and almost infinite, several key capabilities are fundamental in human life and are universally valued, not only those in the “socioeconomic sphere” such as health and survival, education and access to knowledge, minimum material means for a decent standard of living, but those in the “political sphere” such as security from violence, and political freedom and participation. Indeed, these are core elements of human well being reflected in the Millennium Declaration. Democratic governance needs to be underpinned by a political regime that guarantees civil and political liberties as human rights, and that ensures participation of people and accountability of decision makers.

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In 1977, the Council of Europe argued in its Resolution 77 (31) [1] that since the development of the modern state had resulted in an increasing importance of public administrative activities, individuals were more frequently affected by administrative procedures. The principal task of the Council of Europe was to protect the individual’s fundamental rights and freedoms, hence they intended to undertake efforts to improve the individual’s procedural position vis-à-vis the administration by promoting the adoption of rules, which would ensure fairness in the relations between the citizen and the administrative authorities [2] . The following principles were stated:

I – Right to be heard

II – Access to information

III – Assistance and representation

IV – Statement of reasons

V – Indication of remedies [3] 

Article 41 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union stipulate that every person has the right to have his or her affairs handled impartially, fairly and within a reasonable time by the institutions and bodies of the Union. This right includes the right of every person to be heard, before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken; the right of every person to have access to his or her file, while respecting the legitimate interests of confidentiality and of professional and business secrecy; the obligation of the administration to give reasons for its decisions [4] .

Every person has the right to have the Community make good any damage caused by its institutions or by its servants in the performance of their duties, in accordance with the general principles common to the laws of the Member States. Every person may write to the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Treaties and must have an answer in the same language.

The setting out of the right to good administration represents the establishment of a new fundamental right. The principle of good administration has been developed by the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice and in the rulings of the Court of First Instance, and is based on the existence of a Community governed by the rule of law. Paragraph 1 reaffirms this general right, the essential elements of which are expanded on in paragraph 2. The right to good administration arises from a concern for equal treatment, in accordance with the jurisprudence of the Court, and with the right to an effective remedy (article 47 of the Charter) as well as rights which go with it. (the right to be heard and each person’s right to access to his or her file) This right is also contained in article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The institutions’ obligations arise from the provisions of the Treaties: the general obligation to give reasons for decisions, (article 253 EC) making good of damages (article 288 EC) and the possibility of communicating with the institutions of the Union in one of the languages of the Treaty. (article 21 EC) Unlike in the Treaty, in the Charter this possibility is open to every person [5] .

The European Ombudsman instituted by the Treaty of Maastricht (articles 21 and 195 EC) is authorized to receive complaints in cases of maladministration in the activities of Community institutions and bodies. In April 2000, the Ombudsman made a recommendation containing the principles to be included in a Code of good administrative conduct applicable to the servants of institutions and bodies of the Union in their relations with the public [6] . The Commission has added a Code of this type in annex to its internal regulations, in the context of the reform of its services and operations. The other institutions and bodies of the Union have also adopted a Code of good administrative conduct based on the Ombudsman’s recommendations, or are in the process of doing so.

Furthermore, in the context of police and legal cooperation, and in order to create an area of freedom, security and justice, the Union is committed to a global anti-corruption policy, set out in the Commission’s communication of 1997.

So we can say that democratic local governance is the process of governing democratically at the local level, viewed broadly to include not only the machinery of government, but also the community at-large and its interaction with local authorities. (Use of the term .local. refers to all sub-national levels of government.) When effective decentralization and democratic local governance advance in tandem, local governments and the communities they govern gain the authority, resources, and skills to make responsive choices and to act on them effectively and accountably. Advancing the capacity of local governments to act effectively and accountably requires promoting the desire and capacity of civil society organizations and individual citizens to take responsibility for their communities, participate in local priority-setting, assist in the implementation of those decisions, and then monitor their effectiveness [7] .

Local autonomy is an important factor which enhances progress towards local democracy and the achievement of good governance (Ron Duncan, 2004).

Governance nowadays occupies a central stage in the development discourse but is also considered as the crucial element to be incorporated in the development strategy. However, apart from the universal acceptance of its importance, differences prevail in respect of theoretical formulations, policy prescriptions and conceptualization of the subject itself. Governance as a theoretical construct, separate from the theory of state, is not only in an embryonic stage, but its formulation also differs among researchers depending on their ideological convictions.

According to Larry Diamond (2005) good governance consists of several dimensions.

One is the capacity of the state to function in the service of the public good. Effective functioning requires knowledge of the policies and rules that best serve the public good, and hence training of state officials in their various professional realms. It requires a professional civil service with a set of norms and structures that promote fidelity to public rules and duties, in part by rewarding those who perform well in their roles.

This relates intimately to the second dimension of good governance, commitment to the public good. Where does this commitment come from? It may be generated by dedicated and charismatic leadership. Or it may derive from a cultural ethic that appreciates and a structure of institutional incentives that rewards disciplined service to the nation or the general community. In every modern society, however, it must (at a minimum) be reinforced by institutions that punish betrayals of the public trust, and so this normative element is strongly linked to the concrete institutional ones.

A third dimension of good governance is transparency, the openness of state business and conduct to the scrutiny of other state actors and of the public. Transparency requires freedom of information, including an act to ensure that citizens can acquire information about how government makes decisions, conducts business, and spends public money. Needless to say, it requires full openness and competitiveness in public procurement, but it also requires openness with regard to the personal finances of government officials.

Transparency is intimately related to accountability, the fourth dimension of good governance. Governing agents are more likely to be responsible and “good” when they are answerable for their conduct to the society in general and to other specific institutions that monitor their behaviour and can impose sanctions upon them. Effective oversight requires open flows of information, and hence transparency, so that monitors can discover facts and mobilize evidence. This requires a system of government by which different institutions check and hold one another accountable, compelling them to justify their actions. Power is thus constrained, bound not only “by legal constraints but also by the logic of public reasoning.”

Transparency and accountability are thus intimately bound up with a fifth dimension of good governance, the rule of law. Governance can only be good when it is restrained by the law: when the constitution and laws (including individual rights under them) are widely known, when the law is applied equally to the mighty and the meek, when everyone has reasonable access to justice, and when there are capable, independent authorities to adjudicate and enforce the law in a neutral, predictable, and efficient fashion. Both effective government and well functioning markets require that there be clear rules about what constitutes acceptable conduct in all realms of economic, social and political life. All actors, public and private, must have confidence that those rules will be observed. Only under a rule of law can property rights be secure and contracts enforceable. Only through a rule of law can individuals be secure against arbitrary harm from the state or powerful private actors.

A fifth dimension of good governance consists of mechanisms of conflict resolution. Participation is one means for doing so. Development is not only about choice at the individual level but also about making difficult choices at the collective level. Often there is no clear answer to the question of what is in the public interest. Only through a process of political participation and dialogue can conflicting interests be reconciled in a way that is deemed minimally fair by all (or most), and that generates broad commitment among the relevant constituencies or stakeholders in the policy arena. But participation in itself can also stimulate conflict. Conflict resolution requires as well fairness, justice, and transparency, and often more specific mechanisms to ensure that all groups are heard and included and that power and resources are decentralized and dispersed in a way that gives each community or region some real control over its own affairs.

Finally, when good governance functions in the above five ways, it also breeds social capital, in the form of networks and associations that draw people together in relations of trust, reciprocity, and voluntary cooperation for common ends. The deeper a country’s reservoirs of social capital, and the more these are based on horizontal relations of equality, the more vigorous is coordination for and commitment to the public good. Social capital thus not only fosters the expansion of investment and commerce, embedded in relations of trust and predictability, it also breeds the civic spirit, participation, and respect for law that are crucial foundations of political development and good governance. In other words, it generates a political culture of responsible citizenship. All of this in turn breeds political legitimacy and stability-further deepening the society’s appeal to investors who must risk capital in the effort to create new wealth. In many respects then, good governance constitutes a “virtuous cycle” in which the several elements reinforce one another in a dense interplay.

Shalendra D. Sharma (2007) demonstrates that good governance has several characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective, efficient, equitable, and inclusive and follows the rule of law. At a minimum, good governance requires fair legal frameworks that are enforced impartially by an independent judiciary and its decisions and enforcement are transparent or carried out in a manner that follows established rules and regulations. Since accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law, accountability is a key requirement of good governance.

Policy analysis based empirically on the historical experiences of governance gives prominence to government failures to deliver, leading to propositions for downsizing or rightsizing, while policy prescriptions for good governance take an evolutionary view of the matter questioning relevance of public sector management of certain activities in a changed context (Hye Hasnat, 2001).

Good governance is the term that symbolizes the paradigm shift of the role of governments (Holzer, 2002).. Moreover, governance is not only about the “organs” or actors as affirmed by Hasnat Abdul Hye. More importantly, it is about the quality of governance, which expresses itself through elements and dimensions, which will be listed in this study.

Nevertheless, he states that: “Just as the dancer cannot be separated from the dance, the organs or actors executing governance in their respective spheres cannot be relegated to the background”.

It has become a truism to say that “good governance is essential for successful development”. This simply begs the question what is good governance?

Governance is about processes, not about ends. Common definitions describe governance as a process by which power is exercised without explicitly stating the ends being sought (Hyden, 2000).

At international levels some definitions were depicted.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

Given that the term “governance” means different things to different people, it is useful, therefore, for the UNDP to clarify, at the very outset, the sense in which it understands the word. Among the many definitions of “governance” that exist, the one that appears the most appropriate from the viewpoint of the UNDP is “the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. It comprises mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences”. [8] 

Good governance is, among other things, participatory, transparent and accountable, effective and equitable, and it promotes the rule of law. It ensures that political, social and economic priorities are based on broad consensus in society and that the voices of the poorest and the most vulnerable are heard in decision-making over the allocation of development resources.

The World Bank:

According to the World Bank, governance is „the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.”

On this meaning, the concept of governance is concerned directly with the management of the development process, involving both the public and the private sectors. It encompasses the functioning and capability of the public sector, as well as the rules and institutions that create the framework for the conduct of both public and private business, including accountability for economic and financial performance, and regulatory frameworks relating to companies, corporations, and partnerships. In broad terms, then, governance is about the institutional environment in which citizens interact among themselves and with government agencies/officials.

UN concept

Governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights. Good governance accomplishes this in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption, and with due regard for the rule of law. The true test of “good” governance is the degree to which it delivers on the promise of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The key question in the UN’s concept is: are the institutions of governance effectively guaranteeing the right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food, quality education, fair justice and personal security?

The concept of good governance has been clarified by the work of the Commission on Human Rights. In its resolution 2000/64 the Commission identified the key attributes of good governance as:





responsiveness (to the needs of the people)

Resolution 2000/64 expressly linked good governance to an enabling environment conducive to the enjoyment of human rights and “prompting growth and sustainable human development.” In underscoring the importance of development cooperation for securing good governance in countries in need of external support, the resolution recognized the value of partnership approaches to development cooperation and the inappropriateness of prescriptive approaches.

By linking good governance to sustainable human development, emphasizing principles such as accountability, participation and the enjoyment of human rights, and rejecting prescriptive approaches to development assistance, the resolution stands as an implicit endorsement of the rights-based approach to development.


The concept of governance denotes the use of political authority and exercise of control in a society in relation to the management of its resources for social and economic development. This broad definition encompasses the role of public authorities in establishing the environment in which economic operators function and in determining the distribution of benefits as well as the nature of the relationship between the ruler and the ruled. (OECD DAC, 1995);

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At the Local Development and Governance in Central, East and South East Europe Conference [9] aroused two questions: What are the obstacles in coordinating policies, adapting them at the local conditions and involving business and civil society in strategic planning and the orientation of measures, and what are the best mechanism and initiatives to overcome these obstacles? Can these initiatives be mainstreamed and extended to all regions of the country to connect the various actors of local development around long term goals and concrete implementation tasks whatever the local conditions?

At the same conference Professor Xavier Greffe (2005) enounced several types of instruments that could help good governance at local level: a proper allocation of responsibilities between the different levels of government involved (the institutional environment for governance), a sound organization of forums where stakeholders could interact and create synergy (institutional design), good management of project execution in its different dimensions: legal, financial or cultural (regulation of governance). [10] 


Governance encompasses the capacity of the state, the commitment to the public good, the rule of law, the degree of transparency and accountability, the level of popular participation, and the stock of social capital. Without good governance, it is impossible to foster development. No amount of resources transferred or infrastructure built can compensate for-or survive-bad governance.

It can be concluded that the introduction of democratic institutions in the form of more ample political rights, civil rights, and freedom of the press, among others, may or may not be associated with improved governance. Are the various cases of “enlightened dictatorship” the rule or the exception in the recent past? Do most democracies allow their population to choose more effective policymakers or are they just used as a tool by specific classes and oligarchies to control political power and sustain ineffective, corrupt regimes?

Before making any predictions, it needs to be established whether the notion of good administration now acts as a kind of umbrella for the numerous disparate rules previously grouped around the notion of user protection – in which case the change would be a quantitative one – or whether it is of an entirely new nature – in which case there has been a qualitative shift. It is still too early to give a definite answer. There is good reason to think, however, that in future, any oversight brought to bear on the activities of the administration will focus not just on specific administrative acts, but also on the administrative procedures themselves. In other words, there has been a shift in emphasis from the outcome of administrative action (result) to administrative behaviour (functioning). Other clues, the discussion of which is beyond the compass of the present report, suggest that this is indeed the direction in which the concept of good administration is moving. Good administration, good governance, good legislation all effectively presuppose the existence of a large pool of good people. Is a good administration one that makes good decisions (i.e. legal decisions) or will we eventually come round to the view that good acts are ones that are produced by a good administration, without the need for any other reference to some predefined legality? In other words, are good acts to be defined objectively in their own right or should they, as Aristotle suggests, more properly be regarded as the acts of a good person? (Fortsakis, 2005)

The features of good administration cannot be fixed or fully enunciated, but are identified only when the conduct of the administration fails to reach an acceptable standard, a standard that varies over time and context. And in the modes of the concept most often embraced-such as the notion of citizen as consumer with marketplace choice, and the notion of ‘consultation,’ a form of participatory democracy which privileges those individuals and communities who have the political sophistication to organise themselves and further marginalise large sectors of unorganised society-she finds a virtual denial of the democratic concept of citizen as sovereign, the ‘creator’ of state power who can dictate the exact limits to be placed on personal autonomy.


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