Governance and good governance

The terms governance and good governance are increasingly being used in development literature. The concept of governance is not new. It is as old as human civilization. Governance describes the process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented). These procseses can include the political, economic, administrative, social processes and institutions by which public authorities, communities and the private sector take decisions on how best to develop and manage water resources. Different modes of governance include hierarchy (centralised/regulatory), market (competition) and networks (collaborative), and these have an impact on which forms of knowledge occur and dominate in important decision-making processes. Governance can be used in several contexts and scales such as corporate governance, international governance, national governance and local governance. In the context of governance in the face of ongoing global change, increasing attention is being paid to linked concepts of adaptation and adaptive management.

Common to many reviews pointing to good governance are elements of stakeholder inclusion, strategic thinking, accountability and fairness. Many of these key elements are also those that support social learning and lead to the development ofresilient communities. The links on this page focus on collaborative or networked governance forms:

Building capability by delivering results: Putting Problem-Driven Iterative Adaptation (PDIA) principles into practice  This paper by Matt Andrews, Lant Pritchett and Michael Woolcock proposes an approach based on four core principles, each of which stands in sharp contrast with the standard approaches. First, PDIA focuses on solving locally nominated and defined problem sin performance (as opposed to transplanting pre-conceived and packaged ‘best practice’ solutions). Second, it seeks to create an ‘authorizing environment’ for decision-making that encourages ‘positive deviance’ and experimentation (as opposed to designing projects and programs and then requiring agents to implement them exactly as designed). Third, it embeds this experimentation in tight feedback loops that facilitate rapid experiential learning (as opposed to enduring long lag times in learning from ex post ‘evaluation’). Fourth, it actively engages broad sets of agents to ensure that reforms are viable, legitimate, relevant and supportable (as opposed to a narrow set of external experts promoting the ‘top down’ diffusion of innovation).

From Government to Governance: A State-of-the-Art Review of Environmental Governance This report by Rob de Loë and colleagues presents a state-of-the-art literature review of current academic thinking regarding environmental governance, with a focus on considerations that are relevant to water management and water allocation. It acknowledges the enormous debate in the literature, and among practitioners, regarding how governance should occur in specific places. Nonetheless, the report points out that a general consensus is emerging that environmental governance should involve forms of group decision making that accommodate diverse views, that networks and hybrid partnerships among state and non-state actors are needed, that shared learning is critical, and that governance should provide opportunities for adaptability and positive transformation.
The contribution of network governance to sustainable development This paper by Tom Dedeurwaerdere provides a critical analysis of the concept of network governance and evaluates its use in implementing policies of sustainable development. In particular, he analyzes the network approach proposed in the European Commission’s White Paper on governance and its role in environmental policy integration. Relying on research on the concept of selforganization in complex adaptive systems, he shows the limits of a concept of network governance that is solely based on self-organization. On this basis, he argues to complete the current network approach to sustainable development with initiatives that foster social learning in the governance networks. As an example of such an initiative, the case of the recent experiment of Sustainability Impact Assessments is examined.

Interlinkages: Governance for sustainability This 2008 UNEP report highlights the opportunites of interlinkages. The complexity, magnitude and the interconnectedness of environmental change do not mean that decision-makers are faced with the stark choice of “doing everything at once in the name of integrated approaches or doing nothing in the face of complexity.” Governance approaches that are flexible, collaborative and learning-based may be responsive and adaptive, and better able to cope with the challenges of integrating environment and development. Such adaptive governance approaches are well placed to address complex interlinkages, and to manage uncertainty and periods of change. They are likely to result in incremental and cost-effective evolution of institutional structures, and reduce the need for more fundamental institutional restructuring. Tools for dealing with interlinkages, such as assessments, valuation techniques and integrated management approaches that link environment to development, provide a critical foundation for adaptive governance.

Emerging forces in international governance This introductory book chapter by Norichika Kanie and Peter M. Haas outlines the challeges faced by environmental governance. They take care to celebrate the real successes and gains that have been made over the last 20 years, while acknowledging the challenges that still lie ahead. The book highlights the role that social scientists can play in developing more effective governance in the future.

Institutions for Sustainable Development: Learning from international experience This background paper by Hayley Vujcich and Wendy McGuinness provides an assessment of the institutional framework for sustainable development of nine countries — Australia, Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Republic of Korea (South Korea), Sweden, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Five elements are selected to act as a lens with which to frame the analysis – administration and implementation, integration, participation, monitoring and independent review. This background paper concludes that although there appears to be no optimal institutional framework that can be applied to all countries, the five elements above, when developed in light of the unique characteristics and resources within each country, have generally resulted in the publication of a definitive NSDS. More publications looking in more detail at the New Zealand experience can be found from the SustainableFuture website.

Network Governance of the Commons This paper by Lars Carlsson and Annica Sandström acknowledges that the survival of the commons is closely associated with the potential to find ways to strengthen contemporary management systems. There is a need to make them more responsive to a number of complexities, like the dynamics of ecosystems and related, but often fragmented, institutions. A discussion on the desirability of finding ways to establish so called cross-scale linkages, i.e. connections among different actors from different levels of organisation and geographical settings, recently has been vitalised in the literature. The establishment of such linkages is believed to have many advantages for the sustainable management of the commons. In the same vein, concepts like adaptive management, comanagement and adaptive co-management have been discussed. In essence, these ways of organizing management to generate alternative governance systems are more closely related to network governance and social network theory, than to political administrative hierarchy.

LfS-iconUsing participatory and learning-based approaches for environmental management to help achieve constructive behaviour change This report from Will Allen, Margaret Kilvington, and Chrys Horn looks at how agencies can influence people’s behaviour to improve environmental management. It highlights new approaches that work with multi-stakeholder groups and teams, in particular those which improve motivation, information flows, and collaborative learning. The report covers four main areas: i) a review of contemporary approaches to environmental policy making; ii) a review of frameworks for supporting behaviour change; iii) providing an outline of the key concepts for managing participation in practice; and iv) a description of techniques for building group capacity for environmental change.

Editorial: Governance for sustainability This editorial by Derk Loorbach in “Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy” talks about the Dutch experiences with “transition management” as a novel governance paradigm dealing with long-term social change. Transition management is a coordinated effort to influence the speed and direction of large-scale social change based on the concepts of social transitions and sustainable development. In this sense he argues, transition management as governance for sustainability is a collective process of learning-by-doing and doing-by-learning based on a shared way of thinking. The approach is not to achieve fixed goals, but to gradually work towards common ambitions through innovation, integration, and transition. And the beauty is that everyone can contribute in his or her own way and in doing so the search itself becomes the process of governance for sustainable development.

Conceptualizing climate change governance beyond the international regime: a review of four theoretical approaches This paper by Chukwumerije Okereke and Harriet Bulkeley reviews four theoretical approaches for considering the governance of climate change at the international level – regime theory, global governance, neo-Gramscian and governmentality perspectives – to assess their respective strengths and weaknesses. Based on the review, the authors draw out some concepts around which future research on the involvement of non-nation state actors (NNSAs) in global climate governance might be framed. These include: (i) the nature of the state; (ii) the character of power and authority in the international arena; (iii) the underlying dynamics of governance; and (iv) governance as a process. This 2007 working paper from the Tyndall Centre concludes that although eclecticism is hardly celebrated in the IR scholarship, one ultimately would have to draw from the four theoretical traditions in order to generate a robust framework for conceptualizing climate governance beyond the international regime.

Governance for sustainable development: a framework PDF icon This paper by Annemarie van Zeijl-Rozema, Ron Cörvers and René Kemp deals with the linking of two complex concepts, governance and sustainable development. Sustainable development is a normative concept, dealing with different temporal and spatial scales and with multiple stakeholders. It indicates a process of human progress. Sometimes sustainable development is objectified in terms of goals and principles, but the exact meaning of sustainable development is usually left open. Governance is seen as a means to steer the process of sustainable development. However, governance is not a straightforward concept either. It can be seen as a collection of rules, stakeholder involvement and processes to realise a common goal. The central assumption in this paper is that sustainable development cannot be achieved without governance because of the nature of the sustainable development concept. Sustainable development incorporates wicked issues, social complexity and weak institutionalisation. In this paper we argue that the many perspectives on sustainable development can be described meaningfully between the extremes of the rational, objective perspective and the normative perspective of sustainable development. Furthermore, the variety of modes of governance can be captured between hierarchical governance and co-governance. From this we derive four typologies of state-society relations (governance) for sustainable development: the rational state, the rational society, the normative state and the normative society. The main conclusion of this paper is that the debate on governance for sustainable development will be clarified if the perspective on sustainable development and the mode of governance “and the combination of the two” is made more explicit.

www_iconApplying good governance concept to promote local economic development: contribution and challenge This paper in the International Journal of Economic Development by Kuotsai Tom Liou examines the application of good governance concept in the area of local economic development and focuses on contribution and challenge issues. The paper includes a review of major concepts of good governance, the role of government, and the importance of public management reform. On the contribution issues, the paper emphasizes such concepts as the devolution and decentralization policy, the flexibility and choice principle, and the networking and partnership strategy. On the challenge issues, the paper identifies potential problems of the limitation of managerial capacity, the lack of accountability, and the inconsistence of leadership and policy. The implications of both contribution and challenge issues are summarized in the conclusion section.

Fostering citizen participation top-down This paper by Lyn Carson and Rodolfo Lewanski observes that while many political theorists speak of the need to institutionalize deliberative democratic processes there is little evidence of institutionalization. This despite the fact that there have been many successful experiments with robust public participation methods. What has been missing to date is the political will to convert those experiments to routine practice supported by legislation. This paper documents a novel Law enacted in Tuscany in December 2007. It is a piece of legislation with the potential to provide a model for societies that are considered to be democratic. Tuscan Law no. 69 demonstrates how representative government and mini-publics might do more than co-exist. More information which can be used to enhance citizens’ involvement in the activities of local, state, or federal government can be found from Lyn Carson’s Active Democracy website.

Governance types

An introduction to the concept of governance can be found on the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific(UNESCAP) www_icon website.

In the context of governance in the face of ongoing global change, increasing attention is being paid to linked concepts of adaptation and adaptive management.