26 May, 2007

Good Governance

The Official British View.

I am told that all Overseas Territories Governors were given the following white paper at the OT Consultative Conference in London in November, and instructed to implement it. Results have apparently been disappointing. We are asking our Governor what he's doing about it. Good governance is such a vital quality of government that it seems to me it would be worth publishing the paper in its entirety, as a sort of “guest editorial”.


1. Although it is a phrase that has gained currency in recent years, the concept of governance has been with us as long as there have been systems within societies which determine the process of decision making; and the process by which decisions are, or are not, implemented. Good governance is simply doing this well.

2. Good governance is part of the partnership between the UK and its Overseas Territories set out in the 1999 White Paper, which highlighted the importance of providing governance of a high quality. It is essential that the UK and its Territories subscribe to high standards of human rights, openness and good government. Good governance builds trust amongst citizens of a society in its institutions and assists social cohesion. It encourages domestic investment; promotes higher rates of growth; and enables a society’s development to be shared equitably amongst its citizens. And it also promotes greater confidence amongst potential external investors. Moreover, good governance is a key element in ensuring sustainable development, another important area highlighted by the White Paper. For without good governance, the potential for sustainable development is severely undermined.

3. This paper seeks to set out what is good governance. The best way to do this is to identify what are some of the most important elements. Perhaps the key element of good governance is the rule of law. Good governance requires legal frameworks that are enforced impartially. This means the full protection of human rights, and particularly those of people belonging to minorities. Impartial enforcement of laws requires an independent judiciary immune from any external influence; and a police force which treats all individuals equally, without fear or favour. It also requires a public service free from political interference in its appointments, discipline and dismissals, which implements policy in accordance with the rule of law and internationally accepted standards. This provides the certainty, and sense of security, which are both essential for economic prosperity and social stability.

4. This leads on to the second element, which is transparency. This means that decisions by both the executive and legislature should be taken (and be seen to be taken) and implemented in line with defined rules and regulations. It also means that (subject to limited exceptions) information must be freely available and directly accessible to those who will be affected by such decisions and their implementation. It also requires the provision of an appropriate level of information, in an easily understandable form, by government and the public service to the public, and media.

5. The third key area is accountability. Not only Government institutions and the legislature, but also the private sector and civil society organisations, must be accountable to the public and, where appropriate, to their institutional stakeholders. Each organisation or institution should also be accountable to those who will be affected by its decisions or actions. This means that institutions should be subject to checks and balances, including scrutiny by the legislatures, committees of legislators, and other appropriate bodies. This also involves a well-developed civil society, with strong independent media free from political interference; and representative NGOs to defend the rights of individual interest groups. Institutions should in general be accessible, and open to the public and the media, so that confidence can be built up within society that these organs are functioning properly and in the general interest.

6. Crucially, these three issues are interlinked. For accountability cannot be enforced without transparency and the rule of law.

7. A further key element is the responsiveness of institutions. Good governance requires that institutional processes should serve all stakeholders within a reasonable time frame. And they should do so according to defined and acceptable standards. Another guiding factor is equity and inclusiveness. It is important that all those in a society feel that they have a stake in it, and that they do not feel excluded from the mainstream of society, or access to Government and services. This requires all groups, but particularly the most vulnerable, to have the opportunity to maintain and/or improve their well being. But most importantly, it is about ensuring that there is equality of opportunity for all in society; and that services and benefits are made available on this basis, without either politicians or public servants giving preferential treatment because of family ties, friendship or political allegiance.

8. Another significant factor in good governance is effectiveness and efficiency. It is important that processes and institutions produce results that meet the needs of society, while making the best use of resources at their disposal. This is particularly relevant in ensuring the sustainable use of natural resources and the protection of the environment. Political decisions need to be taken with the long-term interests of society in mind, to ensure sustainability. And it involves ensuring sound financial management. Good governance may mean taking on entrenched interests, and judging how strongly to lead from the front. And finally, good governance means participation, including an organised civil society; and ways to ensure that the views of the most vulnerable are taken into consideration in decision-making.

9. Good governance is important, therefore, because it is the basic foundation for a successful, prosperous, well-ordered and sustainable society. It is about ensuring that the resources of a society are used to the best and most durable effect; and to the benefit of the greatest number of the population. These are aims to which both the UK and the territories aspire. The FCO makes available finance from its OT Programme Fund to help promote activities to this end.

10. Achieving good governance poses a series of challenges for all involved. What has been described is a counsel of perfection. No country, including the UK, completely meets all the criteria. But it is something the UK and the Territories must strive to achieve. The White Paper makes clear the importance which the UK attaches to meeting its commitments, including the implementation of its international responsibilities; protecting itself against contingent liabilities; and ensuring good governance. Therefore, the UK Government will work with Territory Governments on these issues. Both the Overseas Territories and the UK Government recognise that Governors have a key role to play in this process. The UK is sure that, for the reasons outlined, Territory governments share the UK’s concern that these objectives and standards are achieved, and will work with the UK to achieve them.

1 comment:

  1. This can all be ignored right now because we're considering constitutional reform that may impact these areas. This will buy us a year before we have to implement any of this.

    Then we can appoint a committee to make recommendations on what all this really means in Anguilla. That will buy us a next year.

    By then it will be election time and that will buy us a third year.

    What is His Excellency going to do to keep us from mishandling all this in our traditional way, and will he make a statement.


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