People should h…

People should have ownership of their own development.

– The Centre for Sustainable Rural Development

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What is governance?

I was at a workshop this morning that made me question my perspective. Participants kept discussing what governance was and asking what this word means, where did it come from, how is it different from management, etc. and it made me question what I knew about governance.

Growing up in Canada and always being interested in international development and human rights in general, I had never really questioned what governance was, I just accepted it. Governance was this word that was inherently good; it was this important thing to achieve. Now I find myself questioning what it means and whether using ideals like governance is positive or negative.

This meeting discussed the history of governance, how it emerged as a Western Ideology roughly 300 years ago, and how organizations like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund popularized it in the mid 1990s. It discussed that because of this, governance may not be suitable for countries like Vietnam, or other eastern nations that do not share Western roots or ideology. Does this mean governance is bad?

The participants had no real understanding of the ‘governance’ I grew up understanding, instead many people simply believe that governance is equal to management and is a top down approach, which is understandable as it was popularized by some of the largest international organizations. They believe governance to be a method of enforcement rather than a method of participation and a tool to increase donor funds.

This is a huge failure on the part of international development; governance is intended to involve everyone, to ask questions, to look at the needs of the most vulnerable, and to give every citizen a voice. It is not in the scope of governance to impose beliefs, ideologies, or methods on others, governance is supposed to let people come to their own conclusions and made independent decisions on their actions while taking into account the effects it will have on others. It goes against the very nature of governance to ‘enforce’ governance.

Anyway, this meeting made me curious and made me question a lot of what I grew up accepting, I hope it encourages you to think critically about some of the theories and ideologies you know of.

I will be doing more research on this whole governance dilemma and will get back to you but in the mean time share your perspectives on these questions: What is governance? What is good governance?