Standards of Good Governance

No governance is good without respect for human rights

This is an axiom in the definition and assessment of good governance and its performance.

The subject of human rights has become part of the details of everyday public life. Human rights themselves have not only become an approach which governments are required to abide by, but also a measure of the type and viability of governance, and even a mean of evaluating its future.

The term ‘good governance’ may be new in Arab literature, but is extensively used as a genuine human rights term.

Good governance is governance in which the following conditions are met:

Availability of democratic institutions, which allow individuals to participate in public affairs.

Successful delivery of state services to the people, such as the services of education, health, housing, employment and others, which are among the rights of people.

Governance based on the rule of law, which means that laws should apply to everybody without discrimination. The law is applied fairly and in a manner that preserves the rights of individuals. It is the law that protects the fundamental freedoms of society and provides a haven for individuals against the predominance of the executive authority.

Finally, good governance is one that combats corruption, including the wastage of public funds, transgression of the law and nepotism in favour of certain segments or members of the society. By curbing corruption, good governance is realized in terms of having effective institutions which discharge their functions properly, to serve the public interests.

Based on the above features, seeking good governance, is a continuous and ongoing pursuit. Some regimes may develop and acquire the description of ‘good governance’, while others may deteriorate and hence be described as ‘lacking good governance’ (e.g. corrupt, authoritarian, etc.).

Hence, countries are not only required to persistently work towards integration and the improvement of conditions in order to gain the satisfaction of the people and be renowned for ‘good governance’, but they are also required to monitor their status, lest they slip backwards and lose what they have achieved.

Good governance according to the above standards can only be a protector of human rights, in their multiple fields. Not only protects the individual from being harmed by the authorities, but also protects them in their pursuit to acquire and exercise political, civil, social, economic and cultural rights, just as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the two international Covenants (ICCPR & ICESCR). Thus, any application of ‘good governance’ standards will necessarily serve human rights directly.

Despite the fact that the concept of ‘good governance’ is linked to the concept of ‘human rights’, the latter is separate and not a part of the former, and needs extra attention. For example, ‘good governance’ needs to exert great efforts in the development of legislative frameworks, policies and programs and budget allocations, etc., to enable the respect and development of human rights.

Good governance is responsible for providing the favourable environment for human rights and enabling their cultural and practical concepts to seep into the state institutions and the community. It is noticeable that the principles of human rights are almost identical to the principles underpinning good governance, with respect to achieving: (accountability, transparency, equity, non - discrimination, participation, equality, adoption of efficiency, etc.). On this basis, it could be said, without reservation that: Good governance is the governance which protects, preserves and defends human rights..

There is a final noteworthy point, which is that many countries are keen on providing their citizens with public services (which are among the human rights the responsibility of providing falls on the state) such as health, education, accommodation, employment etc. But these countries may be reluctant to provide the political rights of the community. In this respect, governance that fails to provide political rights is not considered as good governance, and in that case the drawbacks of preventing the political participation of citizens may have detrimental effects even on the state’s performance in providing the other services.

In other words, the existence of political participation, the rule of law and the provision of services to citizens, are all interlinked. Thus, it is impossible to combat corruption, achieve the rule of law or provide services properly and continuously without allowing every citizen to have an opinion, a position and participation in public affairs.