What is Governance?

Derived from the Greek verb ‘kubernaein’, governance is a term used to describe the governing done by a state or organisation. Kubernaein means ‘to steer’, in this context relating to the directions and decisions taken by those involved in the process.

The United Nations defines the word as “the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented)”.

Examples of governance include monarchies or republics, and is important for any group or organisation, although the processes may vary depending on the specific structure. Governance is also important in business, as most companies follow a strict set of rules to adhere to shareholders and other relevant parties.

In terms of ethics, accountability and responsibility are key to governance. Establishing and implementing clear policies will help the decision-making process, with rules and strategies in place to deal with any issues that may arise. The word has grown in popularity in recent years as corporate governance, international governance, national governance, and local governance have entered the mainstream.

It’s often compared to politics, but it’s not really the same thing. Governance is the result of the implementation of political ideas and agreements, but doesn’t refer to the specifics of these ideas themselves.

There are eight characteristics 👇 to check for when looking for examples of good governance:

1. Participation

Informed and organised participation by both men and women, which should also allow for freedom of expression.

2. Rule of law

Fair, legal frameworks that are judged impartially. Human rights must also be considered.

3. Transparency

Information about any decision-making process is freely available, in an intelligible form, to those who will be affected, and rules and regulations must be followed.

4. Responsiveness

Institutions and organisations should be able to respond within a reasonable timeframe.

5. Consensus-oriented

The group allows mediation for different viewpoints and ideologies, to reach a common consensus in terms of best interests for the entire community.

6. Equity and inclusiveness 

Everyone should feel included, while the most vulnerable should be taken care of. There should also be opportunities to improve or maintain standards of living.

7. Effectiveness and efficiency 

Institutions and organisations should meet the needs of society, while using the resources at their disposal effectively and without waste.

8. Accountability

Arguably the most important aspect: both public and private organisations should be accountable to society and to their stakeholders.

Overall, it’s a simple list of criteria, which sets out rules, clear boundaries, and expectations for those in charge, as well as those being governed. The rise of social media has made it easier to report any concerns, and to find out about bad governance affecting others.

We now have a better understanding of how and why we’re governed, and many systems of governance are aiming to improve their organisations to better meet the needs of the people. Good governance will help to combat issues like corruption, while is crucial to enact civil reform.

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