ASIMIIRE RITAH BIIRABO: Good governance, a framework for political analysis

Ms. Asimiire Ritah Biirabo is the executive director of Equality Mission Uganda (PHOTO/Courtesy).

KAMPALA —In a time of great change, accelerating globalization and increasing uncertainty, all countries, developed and developing, are looking for a new form of governance that is better adapted to the times in order to gain an advantage in economic competitiveness and create substantial resources and sustainable social growth.

As governance theory is becoming mainstream political theory in response to change, the values ​​that underpin the discourse and texts consistent with them have helped revise mainstream government theory. When we understand governance theory based on the practice of public administration in Uganda, we are struck by how important theoretically and practically governance theory is in reconstructing the intellectual system of democratic politics in Uganda, seeking an institutional platform for good governance, transforming public policy. modeling and getting rid of public administration practice in the market-oriented development process that is inefficient, or even fails in many respects.

In trying to summarize what was happening in Africa in 1989, the World Bank used the term “governance crisis” for the first time. Since then, the word governance has been widely used in political development studies, especially to describe the political state of post-colonial and developing countries. By now, various scholars have put forward five main propositions about governance as theory. They are the following:

  1. Governance refers to a set of institutions and actors that draw from government, but also beyond. It challenges the authority of the State or Government in the traditional sense and argues that the Government is not the only center of power in a State. As long as the power exercised by a public or private institution is recognized by the citizenry, it is possible to become a center of power at a specific level.
  2. Governance identifies the confusion of limits and responsibilities to address social and economic problems. It indicates that, in modern society, the state is transferring its previously exclusive responsibilities to civil society (ie private sector organizations and voluntary groups, which are increasingly taking over responsibilities previously held by the state). As a result, the boundaries between the State and society and between the public and private sectors are becoming increasingly blurred, as are the definitions of their responsibilities.
  3. Governance identifies the dependency of power involved in the relationships between institutions involved in collective action. Specifically, any organization dedicated to collective action has to depend on other organizations; to achieve its purpose, it has to exchange resources and negotiate a common goal with others, and the result of the exchange depends not only on the resources of each actor, but also on the rules of the game and the environment in which the exchange takes place. place.
  4. Governance emphasizes the importance of networks of autonomous and autonomous actors. A self-government network as such has the power to issue orders in a certain area and work with the Government in this area and share its responsibilities in public administration.
  5. Governance recognizes the ability to get things done without relying on the government’s power to command or use its authority. In public affairs management, other management tools and techniques exist and the government has a responsibility to use them to direct and guide public affairs (Stoker 1999).

From the aforementioned definitions of governance, we can see that, essentially, governing means exercising authority to maintain order and meet the needs of the public within a certain range.

The purpose of governance is to guide, direct, and regulate the activities of citizens through the power of different systems and relationships to maximize the public interest. In political science terms, governance refers to the process of political administration, including the normative foundation of political authority, approaches to dealing with political affairs, and the management of public resources.

It focuses particularly on the role of political authority in the maintenance of social order and the exercise of administrative power in a defined sphere.

There literally doesn’t seem to be much of a difference between “governance” and “government”. However, semantically, they are very different. A prerequisite for the correct understanding of governance is to distinguish it from government. As a process of political administration like state government, governance also requires authority and power and is ultimately aimed at maintaining a normal social order. Despite their similarities, there are two fundamental differences between them.

Fundamentally, or even essentially, the difference between the two is that governance requires authority but, unlike government, this authority does not necessarily come from government bodies. However, the governing authority is necessarily the State. The governing body is necessarily the public institutions of a society, while the governing body can be a public institution, a private one, or even a cooperation between the two.

Governance is the cooperation between a political state and its civil society, the Government and non-governmental organizations, public and private institutions, which can be compulsory or voluntary cooperation. It is characterized mainly by hiring, rather than supervision; decentralization, instead of centralization; administration by the State, instead of redistribution by the State; management based on market principles, instead of management by administrative departments; cooperation between the State and the private sectors, instead of being guided by the State. Therefore, governance is a broader concept than government.

From modern corporations to universities and entry-level communities, all of them can do without state government, but not without governance, if they are meant to function in an efficient and orderly manner.

Furthermore, power runs in different directions in management processes. For the State government, power works from the top down all the time, since it exercises the political authority of the Government to implement the unidirectional management of social and public affairs through the issuance of orders and the formulation and execution of policies.

Instead, as an administrative process of interaction between the upper and lower levels, the governing body manages public affairs through cooperation, negotiation, association, establishment of a common identity and objectives, etc. In essence, the government is a cooperation based on the principles of the market, common interest and identity. Its administrative mechanism does not depend substantially on the authority of the Government, but rather on the authority of a collaborative network.

His power is multi-directional and bi-directional, rather than one-directional and top-down.

Therefore, good governance is the active and productive cooperation between the State and the citizens, and the key to its success lies in the powers that participate in political management. Only when citizens have enough political power to participate in elections can policymaking, administration and oversight drive the state and join with it in building authority and public order.

Democracy is apparently the only practical mechanism that can safeguard the fully free and equal political power possessed by citizens.

Therefore, good governance is organically combined with democracy. In an autocratic system it is possible to have good government when the system is at its best, but it is impossible to have good government.

Good governance can only be achieved in a free and democratic political system, since it cannot arise without freedom and democracy.

Immature and essentially ambiguous as it is, governance theory is a break with traditional dichotomous thinking that has long been dominant in the social sciences, i.e., market versus planning, public versus private sector, political state versus civil society. and nation-state versus international. community.

He regards effective management as cooperation between the two; tries to develop completely new techniques for the management of public affairs; emphasizes that management is cooperation; argues that legitimate power comes not only from the state, but also from civil society. The theory also sees governance as a new practical form of modern democracy. Those are all his positively significant contributions to political studies.

Based on the premise that the role of the state and state sovereignty are negligible and the boundaries of nation-states are blurred, governance theory, especially global governance theory, emphasizes the nature of governance as an activity. transnational and global.

The danger here is that undermining the important roles of state sovereignty and sovereign government in national and international governance could be seen as a theoretical basis for superpowers and multinationals to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries and further their international hegemonic policies.

Therefore, we must be aware of the dangerous trend of governance theory, especially global governance theory.

Writer Asimiire Ritah Biirabo is the Executive Director of Equality Mission Uganda.

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