Good governance and sustainable development

Polin Kumar Saha | Published: August 17, 2018 20:44:36 | Updated: August 18, 2018 21:08:41

The concept of sustainable development was coined by the Brundtland Commission in 1987. It matured over time through different conventions, which were mostly led by the United Nations. As a consequence, the Agenda-2030 - the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been set for achieving within a fixed time period. The SDG has ambitious goals and targets, which require an omnipotent framework - a transformative shift in global development and the continuation of development paths for ensuring equity and dignity of all. Moreover, the new agenda aspires for a robust system of peaceful and inclusive societies and institutions, which entails execution and follow-up mechanisms to realize the agenda. Despite this development, the social, economic and environmental aspects are yet to be completely integrated in regular activities, business practices, policy-making, and lifestyles throughout this transition.

The process of SDG implementation has been striving for developing a system corresponding to good management for good governance, rather than having a focus only on sufficient resources. It is critical to make, distribute and use resources based on the underlying principles of sustainability. Therefore, a deeper look into the demand for sustainability corresponding to good governance may give us a clear picture on how influential an integrated system is in achieving the implementation agenda.

In principle, governance exists everywhere in all our daily practices, whether at home or outside. However, the integrated process of SDG implementation essentially requires good governance in decision-making processes. It shares several characteristics of the implementation path, which could run through an interplay mechanism between good governance and sustainable development agenda. The mechanisms deserve an eclectic process of capacity building on a range of levels, targets and aspects of good governance. Broadly, these may include: discussing strategies, policies and practices; meeting procedures; service measurement and delivery; duty bearer conduct (ethical perseverance), roles and responsibility clarification; and good working relationships. It seems that we indulge in many practices under these elements, but our efforts are disappointing in upholding ethical issues in matters like accountability, transparency, responsiveness, equity, rule of law, inclusiveness, efficiency, effectiveness, and participation.

Good governance measures address the strategic gaps in conventional systems.  These are briefly discussed below:

  • Accountability: Understanding and keeping the accountability of individuals as a key element of good governance. The process must convince advocacy and lobby issues to all concerned stakeholders participating in a development agenda. But in fact, we find different governing institutions and bodies failing to achieve fidelity in citizens' services. All players involved in implementation must create a scope for receiving development feedback and suggestions from the concerned stakeholders including service recipients.
  • Transparency: All implementation pathways of governance need to be transparent for engaging citizens in the decision making process. The practices can be framed based on legislative requirements - information exchanges, consultations and advices on how a specific decision can be reached.
  • Rules and regulations: The common people are still ignored at the community, local, national and international levels.  The multifaceted goals and targets of SDGs seek to endorse new laws and their enforcement. Most of the existing rules can be updated to ensure critical perspectives of the development agenda, and allow formation of a relevant and innovative governing system, where access to justice is facilitated through cost effective ways.
  • Receptive good governance:  The pathway towards sustainability demands huge responsiveness from all about the bodies involved in particular services. The required governance must relate with any kind of societal problems to overcome this. Good governance cannot be achieved unless the country's functional institutions and processes are made accountable and transparent for responding to people's needs. So, we need more receptive networks of governance with communities through balancing competing benefits in a timely, realistic and responsive manner.
  • Equity and inclusivity: Equity and inclusivity are critically important to make the society calm and peaceful. Overall, community happiness results from governance by catering to social needs and people's interests in the decision making process at various levels of the agenda.
  • Effectiveness and efficiency: Governments and other institutions should implement decisions and advance processes that make the best deal for majority people, time and resources to satisfy the accepted principles of sustainable development at all levels.
  • Participatory governance: Accountability of citizens' groups or institutions at any level should be gauged from local, national and international levels. Governance must involve citizens to participate in the implementation of 2030-agenda. This can happen in several ways; and citizens, institutions and communities also need to exchange relevant information.

The overall performance of good governance needs to be looked at in relation to the execution of sustainable development strategies. Both the agendas - good governance and sustainability - aim to achieve holistic success in public affairs, locally as well as nationally. This approach should explore how governance can advance sustainability through the growth of both existing and future institutional capacities. This should also address the roots of corruption, especially in developing countries.

Polin Kumar Saha is a Senior Research Associate at BRAC Research and Evaluation Division.

polin.msls2009@gmail.com; polin.kumar@brac.net

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