Germany's contribution

Good governance – a core element of German development cooperation activity

Newspaper readers in Kenya

Promoting good governance is a core element of German development cooperation activity. Germany’s work in this field aims to ensure that governments exercise political power and use public resources in a responsible manner. Germany seeks to build the capacity of governmental actors and institutions to formulate pro-poor, sustainable policies. The intention is that the population should be involved in all phases of the political process.

Through Financial and Technical Cooperation Germany helps its partner countries implement reforms to these ends. Promotion of political participation, human rights, rule of law, decentralisation, local development, establishing effective institutions in the public sector and tackling corruption are various approaches Germany takes to achieve the objective of good governance.

In this area, Germany works with government institutions such as ministries, parliaments, ombudsman services, anti-corruption authorities and associations of local authorities as well as directly with numerous civil society organisations.

Areas of action

The Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) provides assistance for projects in the area of "Democracy, civil society and governance" in more than half of the countries with which it cooperates. The only priority that features more often in partnership agreements is "Sustainable economic development".

Key action areas in Germany’s work in this priority area are:

  • respect for, protection and guaranteeing of all human rights;
  • democracy, rule of law, freedom of opinion and freedom of the press;
  • gender equality;
  • transparent government actions, administrative reform and decentralisation;
  • good financial governance;
  • anti-corruption measures; and
  • transparency in the national resources sector.

Inclusion in all areas of our work

School in Burkina Faso

In addition, aspects of good governance are specifically embedded in projects conducted in other areas of development – even in countries with which governance has not been agreed as a priority. This means, for instance, that healthcare or education projects can include steps to strengthen the rights of various sections of the population and support governmental actors in their efforts to be transparent and accountable in their work. This in turn promotes the long-term success of such projects and makes development cooperation more effective.

Germany also works to promote good governance in its multilateral cooperation activities, providing support for relevant programmes run by, for instance, the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the African Union.

Engagement in all corners of the world

Promotion of good governance plays a key role in all the regions of the world in which the BMZ is active. Examples include:

  • Asia, where the BMZ’s activities include promotion of democratic participation and respect for and protection and guaranteeing of human rights, especially girls‘ and women’s rights;
  • North Africa and the Middle East, where the BMZ is helping to prevent crisis and secure peace through its special "Stabilisation and Development in North Africa and the Middle East" initiative. Promotion of good governance is one of the initiative’s four priorities; and
  • Latin America, where Germany is working to promote responsible tax policies and the establishment of government and administration structures that are responsive to citizens’ needs.   

Development cooperation activities in the face of poor governance

Partner countries with a low level of governance and authoritarian political structures pose a particular challenge to German development policy. Where governance is poor, it is important that existing power structures are not inadvertently justified or reinforced when development instruments are employed.   

The main challenge is to strengthen the government in a way that enables it to perform its core duties in line with citizens’ expectations and to make political participation possible. A certain degree of sensitivity is necessary in these types of state-building measures since they trigger long-term change processes within society.

In the BMZ approach, dialogue between governmental and social actors plays a vital role. For instance, Germany helps civil society representatives articulate their political interests, contribute to development plans and poverty eradication strategies, take part in local-level budgeting and  call for accountability with regard to how public funds are used.

BMZ glossary

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