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Preamble

At first glance, Canada and Zimbabwe, continents apart, would seem to have little in common. Yet both nations are former colonies that are now established as independent republics and have inherited the Westminster system of government.

Since inception, ZUNDE has championed the cause of good governance and the rule of law in Zimbabwe and here we present material from Canada’s Institute on Governance to explore what good governance entails. There are striking similarities between what Canada strives for and what Zimbabwe needs. We look forward to the day when Zimbabwe is a free liberal democracy and an exemplar of good governance.

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Defining

gov • ern • ance

The complexity of Governance is difficult to capture in a simple definition.

The need for governance exists anytime a group of people come together to accomplish an end. Though the governance literature proposes several definitions, most rest on three dimensions: authority, decision-making and accountability. At the Institute, our working definition of governance reflects these dimensions:

Governance determines who has power, who makes decisions, how other players make their voice heard and how account is rendered.

Governance is how society or groups within it, organize to make decisions.

As we unpack this simple statement three big issues come to the fore:

1

Who has a voice in making decisions?

2

How are decisions made?

3

Who is accountable?

1

Who has a voice in making decisions?

2

How are decisions made?

3

Who is accountable?

Governance challenges include:

  • Effective representation of diverse population;
  • Ageing citizens;
  • Integrating transportation networks;
  • Preparing for the effects of climate change;
  • Everything is faster;
  • New disruptive technologies are both driving and enabling change and everything from policy making to service delivery to citizen activism;
  • As expectations grow, the relationship between government and citizens is changing;
  • Renewing our notions of privacy of openness;
  • Control of government data;
  • How to incorporate the direct involvement of citizens between elections while responding to the newly empowered activist citizens.

In short, rigid government control over data, decisions, and the social agenda is just no longer tenable.

Five Principles of Good Governance

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) enunciates a set of principles that, with slight variations, appear in much of the literature. There is strong evidence that these UNDP–based principles have a claim to universal recognition. In grouping them under five broad themes, the Institute on Governance recognizes that 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.

Legitimacy and Voice

The UNDP Principles and related UNDP text on which they are based 

  • Participation – all men and women should have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their intention. Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capacities to participate constructively.
  • Consensus orientation – good governance mediates
    differing interests to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the group and, where possible, on policies and procedures.

Direction

The UNDP Principles and related UNDP text on which they are based

  • Strategic vision – leaders and the public have a broad and long-term perspective on good governance and human development, along with a sense of what is needed for such development. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.

Performance

The UNDP Principles and related UNDP text on which they are based

  • Responsiveness – institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders.
  • Effectiveness and efficiency – processes and institutions produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.

Accountability

The UNDP Principles and related UNDP text on which they are based

  • Accountability – decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society organizations are accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the organizations and whether the decision is internal or external.
  • Transparency – transparency is built on the free
    flow of information. Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them.

Fairness

The UNDP Principles and related UNDP text on which they are based

  • Equity – all men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain their well- being.
  • Rule of Law – legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially, particularly the laws on human rights.