Summer School: Principles of Good Governance

by: Marco Kienlein

Fundamentals: Who, What & Why in/of Good Governance

The concept of good governance moves between four big issues. On one side stands conflict and fragility as challenges for a state and/or a region. Peacebuilding and development stand on the other side as possible reactions from the international community.

But, how we can specifically define good governance? And, what are central points or principles of this concept?

At the moment, no international standardised definition of good governance exists. Therefore, criteria or standards for good governance depend on the organisation that uses this “approach”.

Despite definition differences, topics like participation, accountability, effectiveness and the rule of law seem to be crucial characteristics of good governance. From another point of view, good governance could include the expectations relating to the most urgent tasks of the government, for example reducing poverty, maintaining economic stability and/or providing basic services. When putting these points together, good governance can be understood as a mixture of good things concerning the quality of institutions in combination with supporting different fields of policies.

Within the discussion of how to define good governance, the correlation to economic development was one of the most interesting issues. China, for example, is famous for its high grow rates over the last years, although its good governance performance can be assessed as not the best.  The German Federal Ministry for Economics, Cooperation and Development mentioned good governance as the second most frequent priority after sustainable economic development.

Bringing these short considerations to an end, the following points should be highlighted. First, in discussions about the concept of good governance, all participants should possess the same essential knowledge of this concept. Second, good governance may not be the only precondition for positive development in a fragile state. And third, with reference to Merilee Grindle, good governance is important, but it is not a magic bullet.