What is Governance?

Governance is a process whereby government, private sector, civil society, law enforcement agencies, and community groups and organizations make important decisions, determine where they want to go together and whom they want to involve in the process of decision-making.  It is not just something about government, it is also about political parties, legislature, judiciary, media, civil society, citizens, organizations and public institutions.  Governance involves interactions, knowledge systems, structures, processes and traditions that determine power, responsibility and decision making.

In order to understand the governance process one may ask the following questions:

–   Who has powers to make decisions and how those decisions are made?

–   Who has the power and responsibility to implement the decisions and how the decisions are implemented?

–   Who is held accountable?

Local government decision-making and use of power and authority affect the lives of citizens. Implementing such decisions and sharing the results of successes and failures are fundamental to safeguard interests and rights of citizens.


What are the principles of good governance?

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP “Governance and Sustainable Human Development, 1997”) enunciates a set of principles grouped under five broad themes.  These principles often overlap or are conflicting at some point, that they play out in practice according to the actual social context, that applying such principles is complex, and that they are all about not only the results of power but how well it is exercised.   The five principles of good governance are shown in Table 1:


What are the indicators of good governance?

Initiated by the World Bank, the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) Project covers more than 200 countries. It is based on more than 350 variables, obtained from a global survey and dozens of institutions worldwide. The Governance Indicators capture the following six key dimensions of good governance, with two indicators each for the political, economic, and institutional dimensions of governance:


  1. Voice and accountability—measuring political, civil, and human rights
  2. Political instability and violence—measuring the likelihood of violent threats to, or changes in, government, including terrorism
  3. Government effectiveness—measuring the competence of the bureaucracy and the quality of public service delivery
  4. Regulatory burden—measuring the incidence of market-unfriendly policies
  5. Rule of law—measuring the quality of contract enforcement, the police, and the courts, as well as the likelihood of crime and violence


Who are the key agents and their roles in good governance?

Good governance is driven by two key agents:


In order to promote good governance, the government is expected to:

  • Promote transparency in all operational activities especially in establishing accounting standards for performance monitoring and public finance management;
  • Establish democratic institutions that engage civil society organizations in planning, monitoring, and evaluating government services, projects, and programs; and
  • Mainstream social accountability mechanisms in government’s functions, service delivery processes, and development projects.

2.Citizen groups include community service organizations, nongovernment organizations, and community associations as well as the private sector, academia, the media, research and development institutions, religious groups, and other nongovernmental entities.

According to the World Bank (2003), citizen groups must be proactive in demanding good governance from public officials to:

  • Improve public expenditures in social programs by bringing in knowledge of what the citizens need;
  • Enhance the quality of public services through social accountability mechanisms;
  • Monitor how the government makes use of public funds by incorporating citizen feedbacks to budget proposals; and
  • Enhance public expenditure effectiveness through participatory tracking and monitoring systems.




  1. Principles of Good Governance, Policy Brief, 2003 by John Graham, Bruce Amos, Tim Plumptre
  2. Social Development Family in the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network of the World Bank (March 2003)
  3. Advancement for Small & Micro-Enterprises Development in Tanzania (ASMET)
  4. Citizen Participation in Governance, Institute of Development Studies