By Padma Rijal
“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.” ― Hubert H. Humphrey
Governance is no longer a value-neutral term. The definition of this term has been evolving as a normative term. Traditionally, the concept of governance was limited within statecraft, resource management, decision-making, and management of state affairs. It was understood to be the exercise of the sovereign power of the state. Government, governance and state were regarded as similar concepts. Good governance in the modern days has been a necessity of the state, the goal of the administration, will of the people and agenda of the civil society. Today, we conceptualize this term as a duty of state correlated with the rights of the citizens. The government as an agent of the state has the obligation of managing state affairs effectively and efficiently.
Good governance is not a dot, it is an arrow. It is not a position but progress. Good governance is assessed through some commonly accepted standards. Asian Development Bank prescribes them as “accountability”, “transparency”, “predictability” and “participation”. Equity and responsiveness are other additional pillars advocated by the World Bank. Administrative competence, judicial independence, democratic values, rule of law, people-centric attitude are the pillars for governance to be good.
Additionally, Human rights is an asset to the normative value of governance. Governance is appraised as good governance when the agent of the state i.e. government respects, protects, fulfils and promotes the human rights of its citizens. Maintaining the human rights standards strengthens the aforementioned pillars of good governance. Human Rights protection is the precondition to good governance. Governance is an interdisciplinary approach covering the social, political, economic, development as well as legal aspects of the country. Human rights norm has been at the core of every legal system today. The concepts of good governance and human rights are interrelated.
The pursuit of humankind is not only to exist but to exist better. On a similar note, governance also can always be better and strives towards good governance. Human Rights have become a checklist of guidelines for the government. It is the universal language that prescribes a minimum standard of treatment for human beings. The Office of the High Commission for Human Rights posits that good governance reflects the degree to which a country delivers the promise of civil, political and socioeconomic rights. Van Boven rightly identifies the relevance of human rights in the discourse of good governance. He indicates that human rights are not discussed for their intrinsic value but for their instrumental role in creating an environment for good governance.
Furthermore, the realization of various human rights reinforces good governance. Realization of civil and political rights such as the right to liberty, right to a fair trial, freedom from torture, freedom of movement, right to equal protection before the law, right to information, right to privacy, right to participation, right to vote etc. ensure transparency and accountability. It helps to strengthen government mechanisms by acting as an antidote to arbitrariness and promotes the rule of law .Similarly, satisfying the economic, social and cultural rights such as, right to adequate standards of living, right to health, right to social security etc. are the positive obligations of government. A people-centric welfare government is an important feature of good governance. In this way, good governance can be promoted through the exercise of protecting human rights.
The political aspects of good governance aspire for peace and security, enhancement of public welfare, protection of human rights, safeguard of the right to self-determination of people, rule of law, constitutionalism and supremacy of citizens. The economic goals of good governance are the equitable distribution of fruits of development, fiscal discipline, sustainability and investment in human capital. The socio-development goals of good governance like social justice, welfare, equity, inclusion, non-discrimination, public participation, and partnership with the community are the necessary conditions for citizens for realizing their human rights.
Thus, it can be perceived that human dignity is the common axis of human rights and good governance. Goals of good governance and realization of human rights mutually reinforce each other. Human rights need a conducive environment to thrive. Good governance can be equated with less violation of human rights. Human Rights are rights of the citizens and obligations of the government. Good governance is an obligation of the State so that citizens can exercise their rights. Moreover, good governance is the obligation of citizens as well because only vigilant and participating citizens can maintain the integrity of good governance. Therefore, the interlinked alliance of good governance and human rights cannot be evaded, because one is substantiating the other.
Padma Rijal is an advocate, Nepal Bar Council .She is also student of the UMSAILS LLM program at Department of Law and Human Rights, University of Asia Pacific.