Good governance – an enabling environment for development

Voter in Burundi

Good governance and sustainable development are indivisible. That is the lesson of all our efforts and experiences, from Africa to Asia to Latin America.
Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General 1997–2006

Towards the end of the 1980s it became widely recognised around the world that progress was not merely a matter of economic success but that it could be hindered by "weak" governments, arbitrary legal and judicial systems, poor governance and corruption. Only effective, legitimate government institutions have the capacity to steer political, economic, social and ecological reform processes and to ensure permanent reform.

As a result, "good governance" became synonymous with the concept of a development-enabling environment. In particular, such an environment includes democracy, political participation and responsiveness to people’s needs, rule of law, respect for and protection and guaranteeing of all human rights, a functioning system of public finance and corruption-free conditions.

Primarily, German development policy sees good governance as meaning that:

  • governmental institutions perform their duties efficiently and transparently at all levels and are publicly accountable for their actions;
  • in their actions, governmental institutions are guided by democratic and human rights principles and standards; they involve the entire population and take into consideration minority groups’ thoughts and the needs of the weak;
  • all citizens are provided with the necessary public goods and social services; and
  • all decisions are based on sustainability principles.

Good governance is both a precondition for and a goal of development cooperation

Since the mid-1990s, good governance has been a key concept in development strategies. Promoting good governance involves helping partner countries in development cooperation activities create the right political conditions for successful social, environmental and economic development.

However, good governance is not only a goal of effective development cooperation – it is also a precondition for effective development work. Whether and how Germany engages in development cooperation with a given country depends on the political situation in that country. The more reform-minded and development-oriented the state’s actors and the more stable its institutions, the more impact development policy can have and the more benefit it can bring to local people.

Tools for assessing good governance

Since a country’s level of governance often changes in small steps that often go almost unnoticed at first, it is extremely difficult to measure change. Various international organisations and institutions have therefore developed tools for assessing a country’s governance situation. The BMZ also internally assesses the governance situation in its partner countries. Some of the indexes that inform German development policy are:

Links to the following chapters:

BMZ glossary

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