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Good Governance: The Amazing Emptiness Of Magic Words

First published by the author on 03 December, 2015 in

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“Frammin in the Jim Jam - Frippin at the Krotz”, this magic spell is used by the ‘Wizard’ in Johnny Hart and Brant Parker’s ‘Wizard of Id’, it is like so many other meaningless, yet magic words, incantations, mantras, charms and spells. But it sounds so good and entertaining!
Politicians, like illusionists, or stage magicians, create diversions, using theatrics, smoke and mirrors, rhetoric and suggestion-by-repetition to make people suspend their logic and reason and believe their magic words.
‘Good governance’ is a current favourite magic spell in India, and it is a good magic mantra because we, without understanding the meaning of it expect ‘good governance’ to happen with its utterance, just as an illusionist or a stage magician or a sleight-of-hand performer makes objects appear out of seemingly nowhere by saying abracadabra or choo mantar.
‘Good governance’ in reality has form and substance.
‘Good Governance’ is when consensual decisions are taken with the participation of all institutions: Government, civil society, NGO’s, and the representatives of the weakest members of society. Decisions are transparent and accountable to the public, and they are taken within the framework of the law, which, when acted upon with efficiency and inclusion, ensure the sustainable human development of all, including the most vulnerable minorities.
According to UNESCAP - United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. “Good governance has 8 major characteristics. It is participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive and follows the rule of law. It assures that corruption is minimized, the views of minorities are taken into account and that the voices of the most vulnerable in society are heard in decision-making. It is also responsive to the present and future needs of society.”
Characteristics of Good governance (adapted and paraphrased from & UNESCAP):
1. Participation is a keystone of good governance - all who are affected by, or are interested in a decision, should be free to associate, express, and have the opportunity to participate in the process of making that decision.
This means that organized civil society and non government organisations and other government institutions should be provided with information and asked for their opinion, and then, given the opportunity to make recommendations.
2. Consensus oriented – All groups, particularly the most vulnerable must have opportunities to participate in deliberations during the decision-making process to arrive at a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the whole community, and how sustainable human development can be achieved.
3. Accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law. Not only governmental institutions, but also the private sector and civil society organizations have an obligation to report, explain, be answerable and accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders for the consequences of the decisions made.
4. Transparency – Information, advice and consultation must be freely provided, freely available, and freely accessible in easily understandable forms and media to the people. And rules and regulations - strictly followed during the decision making process.
5. Responsiveness - Good governance requires that institutions and processes serve the needs of the entire community and all stakeholders, in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner.
6. Effectiveness and efficiency – When processes and institutions of the government, effectively and efficiently help implement decisions that produce results and meet the needs of society, while making the best use of people, time and resources available, in a way that covers the sustainable use of natural resources and protects the environment.
7. Equity and inclusiveness – When all members of society, even the weakest, do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society, and feel that they have a stake in it, and have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.
8. Rule of Law is followed - Decisions in good governance are consistent with relevant legislation and are enforced impartially, within fair legal frameworks, thereby protecting human rights, especially those of minorities.
This is NOT good governance:
. Ordinances being imposed - for any reason
. Arbitrarily and without notice, removing and overruling environmental clearances to facilitate projects to favour industry for business development.
. Persecuting and questioning the funding of NGO’s that oppose nuclear energy, coal mining, GMO - Genetic Modfication, land acquisition for Economic Processing Zones. Pogroms & communal riots.
. Destabilising freedom of conscience and freedom of religious minorities to practice their religion.
. Educationists, educational establishments, parents and children made apprehensive of the credibility of education due to attempts to rewrite of text books.
Because they do not conform to the norms of Good Governance:
. No participation, discussion or opportunity to participate in decision making by the affected people, or by organized civil society, non government organisations and people’s representatives, or the marginalised and displaced.
. Democratic debate disregarded. No seeking of consensus in the decision making process. People’s representatives not part of decisions on what is in the best interest of the whole community, or, how sustainable human development can be achieved.
. No accountability. And no credible explanation for decisions. The decision makers have not reported, explained or been accountable to the public for the consequences of decisions.
. There is no transparency - Information, advice and consultation were not sought from the people, nor provided.
. Equity and inclusiveness – Members of the minorities, the weak and vulnerable, feel excluded from the mainstream of society and do not feel that they have a stake in it, nor do they feel that they have opportunities to improve or maintain their well being.
‘Good governance’ is democratic governance - governance by the people, for the people and of the people. ‘Good governance’ is free of any signs of fascism, or belligerent nationalism, and is conducted in an atmosphere of mutual trust.
Apparently, the magic phrase ‘good governance’ is merely meaningless mumbo jumbo. A sound construct without depth or relevance. But they are magic words alright, people don’t’ understand the words and so believe the myth. Frammin in the Jim Jam. Frippin at the Krotz!
Pratap Antony, Passive activist.Active pacifist