Current Public Administration Magazine (August - 2016) - Development, Good Governance and Human Rights

Sample Material of Current Public Administration Magazine

Law Administration

Development, Good Governance and Human Rights

Characteristics of Good Governance

Governance is bounded by four properties: authority, reciprocity, trust, and accountability.


Trust is the normative consensus on the limits of action present in a political community. Indicators of trust in a political community are the extent to which individuals and groups in society cooperate in associations that cut across basic divisions such as ethnicity, race, religion, and class.


The quality of social interaction among members of a political community is reciprocity. An important indicator of reciprocity is the extent to which individuals are free to form associations to defend and promote their interests in the public realm.


Accountability refers to the effectiveness with which the governed can exercise influence over their governments. Trust and reciprocity are not easily sustained without specific rules of holding the executive accountable to civil society.


Authority is the legitimate use of power. Authority is facilitated by the other three variables but it goes beyond these in stressing the significance of effective leadership. Indicators of authority consist of compliance with not only given policies but also the process by which they are arrived, i.e. the extent to which leaders respect rules or change them in ways that are acceptable to the governed.

The more the four variables are present, the greater the likelihood of good governance. The more authority, reciprocity, trust and accountability there is, the higher the likelihood that individual rights are respected by
the state. Good governance in this sense means that the state comes closer to its citizens and starts negotiating more with the citizens in provision of basic services.

Integrating Human Rights into Governance

While there is a conflict between the value-based and technomanagerial perception of good governance, the relationship between human rights and good governance is not conflicting. It is one of mutual benefits. Governance policies may benefit from legal human rights obligations and governance measures can also strengthen the protection and fulfillment of human rights. But because the two are different concepts and have different
foundations, bridges must be built. How can the linkages or bridges be built between human rights and good governance?

The concept of human rights is explicitly normative, involving ideas and values about how a state should act towards individuals. Human rights are a means to the end of human dignity, and therefore they set some minimum standards of what human dignity should encompass. The latter implies minimum standards of how the state should govern. In this perspective, good governance should primarily be defined by human rights standards and only secondarily by economic and managerial criteria. Human rights are something that individuals and groups are entitled to. Good governance is something that the authorities are obliged to do. From a rights-based perspective, the concept of good governance should function as a supporting mechanism in an endeavour to increase the legal protection of the economic, social and cultural rights of the people. Although frequently human rights are not considered as an integral part  of good governance and good governance is seen as a means to improve the people’s possibilities to claim their human rights, still good governance can offer something to human rights (and vice versa) if good governance is to be described as accountable, transparent administration under the rule of law. Good governance is a basic dimension for the realisation of human rights in general and for the success of participation. If the development agencies intend to relate their activities to human rights, then all elements of human rights must be respected. Good governance must be related directly to human rights.

If good governance is predominantly participatory, equitable, and promoting the rule of law, then good governance touches directly upon a fundamental foundation of human rights and is based upon a proper observance of human rights. The manner in which power is exercised by the state and the value it is built on is central to creating and sustaining an environment, which fosters strong and equitable development. The state needs to be rebuilt from top to bottom based on human rights values.

A Human Rights Based Approach

Advancing a human rights approach to development requires a new paradigm and a new perception of both rights and development. The dignity and well-being of human beings are the foundation on which a rightsbased
approach is built. Working for development by extending services or providing for basic needs is different from working to ensure the enjoyment of rights, SEC rights in particular. The effect of depriving basic SEC rights on the dignity of a person cannot be ignored. Individuals cannot be asked to wait for economic development to happen before their dignity is respected.

A rights-based approach is founded on the conviction that each and every human being, by virtue of being human, is a holder of rights. Thus a rights-based approach does not involve charity or simple economic development, but a process of enabling and empowering those not enjoying their human rights to claim their rights. The process of staking a claim not only asserts an individual’s ownership of his or her entitlement, it also
helps define the rights and raises awareness that what has been claimed is not a privilege or an aspiration, but a right.

But what does a rights-based approach to development mean:

It means the difference between a right and a need. A human right is something to which one is entitled solely by virtue of being a person. It is that which enables one to live with dignity. A right can be enforced before the government and entails an obligation on the part of the government to honour it. A need is an aspiration which can be quite legitimate, but is not necessarily associated with an obligation on the part of the government to cater to it. Satisfaction of a need cannot be enforced. Rights are associated with being, whereas needs are associated with having.

A rights-based approach focuses on the rights themselves and the apparatus that make the violations possible. It does not focus solely on defending or attacking the form of government, on making statements for or against the victim’s political inclination, or on the alleged or actual motivations of those violating human rights.

A right is defined on the basis of dignity, on the basis of being. It is not defined on the basis of having or the social or economic programme of party or a government. A political programme can and should be negotiated, where dignity is non-negotiable. Political programmes are necessary to honour human rights, but they cannot be substituted for the latter. Political programmes are subject to change in social and economic dynamics, and
what is important today may not be important tomorrow. The dignity of the individual is immutable; it is the same at all times and in all places, and its essence transcends cultural particularities.


Get this magazine (Current Public Administration) free if you purchase our any of the below courses:

Public Administration Online Coaching / Study Kit

<< Go Back to Main Page