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Good Governance and Sustainable Human Development

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Essay title: Good Governance and Sustainable Human Development


The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has been at the forefront of the growing international consensus that good governance and sustainable human development are indivisible. And we believe that developing the capacity for good governance can be - and should be - the primary way to eliminate poverty. Notions of good governance and the link between governance and sustainable human development vary greatly, however, both in academic literature and among development practitioners.

So, what is sustainable human development?

We define human development as expanding the choices for all people in society. This means that men and women - particularly the poor and vulnerable - are at the centre of the development process. It also means "protection of the life opportunities of future generations...and...the natural systems on which all life depends" (UNDP, Human Development Report 1996). This makes the central purpose of development the creation of an enabling environment in which all can enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.

Economic growth is a means to sustainable human development - not an end in itself. Human Development Report 1996 showed that economic growth does not automatically lead to sustainable human development and the elimination of poverty. For example, countries that do well when ranked by per capita income often slip down the ladder when ranked by the human development index. There are, moreover, marked disparities within countries - rich and poor alike - and these become striking when human development among indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities is evaluated separately.

There are five aspects to sustainable human development - all affecting the lives of the poor and vulnerable:

• Empowerment - The expansion of men and women's capabilities and choices increases their ability to exercise those choices free of hunger, want and deprivation. It also increases their opportunity to participate in, or endorse, decision-making affecting their lives.

• Co-operation - With a sense of belonging important for personal fulfillment, well-being and a sense of purpose and meaning, human development is concerned with the ways in which people work together and interact.

• Equity - The expansion of capabilities and opportunities means more than income - it also means equity, such as an educational system to which everybody should have access.

• Sustainability - The needs of this generation must be met without compromising the right of future generations to be free of poverty and deprivation and to exercise their basic capabilities.

• Security - Particularly the security of livelihood. People need to be freed from threats, such as disease or repression and from sudden harmful disruptions in their lives.

UNDP focuses on four critical elements of sustainable human development: eliminating poverty, creating jobs and sustaining livelihoods, protecting and regenerating the environment, and promoting the advancement of women. Developing the capacities for good governance underpins all these objectives.

What, then, is governance? And what is good governance?

The challenge for all societies is to create a system of governance that promotes, supports and sustains human development - especially for the poorest and most marginal. But the search for a clearly articulated concept of governance has just begun.

Governance can be seen as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country's 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 differences.

Good governance is, among other things, participatory, transparent and accountable. It is also effective and equitable. And it promotes the rule of law. Good governance 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.

Governance has three legs: economic, political and administrative. Economic governance includes decision-making processes that affect a country's economic activities and its relationships with other economies. It clearly has major implications for equity, poverty and quality of life. Political governance is the process of decision-making to formulate policy. Administrative governance is the system of policy implementation. Encompassing all three, good governance defines the processes and structures that guide political and socio-economic

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