Governance – nearly a week late but better late than never

So another week has gone by and time to write another blog though we’re nearly at the end of week 4 and this is a blog for week 3.

It was funny reading unit 3 as I thought crikey I’ve started to touch on some of these issues already in my blog for week 2 even though I hadn’t read any of the materials for unit 3.

The first thing that struck me about unit 3 was oh boy, we’re starting with a heavy document to read on neo-liberalism but I managed to get through that and became truly engaged with the articles on governance; an area of work which I have been involved in and have also been on the sidelines looking in at.

Learning this week

Things started to slot into place; I seemed to have all or most of the pieces but they were all jumbled up and I think that this week has started to rearrange them into some semblance of order but by no means perfect!

The realisation from donors and NGOs in the 1990’s that the structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) that had been put forward in the late 80’s/early 90’s were still not sufficient to ensure development occurred and was equal amongst a country’s people was fascinating.  Along with that there needed to be other conditions imposed by the donors for the delivery of aid to occur and this was the requirement for ‘good’ governance and that the recipient country should work towards  democracy and universal human rights (Leftwich, 2000).  It took some time for me to get SAPs but their failure to work in many cases due to poor governance did immediately trigger a bell.  It made me think of where I live in Indonesia and although things are improving in recent years; mostly as a response to decentralisation and a stronger central government which is cracking down on corruption; there are still many cases coming to court where senior government officials are being accused of corruption of central or district government money.  Now for Indonesia you can not say that the systems and processes are not in place; they are, just like the systems and processes were for SAPs but was there the will, the understanding, the motivation to implement them or to know that you could be held accountable and the answer has to be no or not in its entirety.  This linked very nicely to the article by Moore (ODI, 2006) and how political underdevelopment led to bad governance; something which seems obvious but may not immediately spring to mind.  I went through Moore’s causes of political underdevelopment and thought yep, nearly all the countries that I have worked in, I could put a tick against the boxes for each of those reasons though some countries may have moved on from some of the stages.  I particularly, like Tom, liked the linkage of how taxation is important for development.  Initially it was like, how can that be but then it clicked and I can see it happening in Eastern Indonesia where the tax system is in its infancy for implementation but there is progress in that people are definitely becoming more vocal, more questioning about how the taxpayers money is being used.  In other words the local Government or contractors are being held accountable.

I particularly liked Grindle’s (2004) article on “Good Enough Governance” and how different donors  have expectations that the Government is going to be able to deliver on the whole list of what is required for good governance.  It needs to be thought about, is there any country which can actually say they tick of yes to the never ending criteria which amount to good governance?  Additionally the comment by Grindle about the necessity to consider if all aspects of good governance lead to poverty reduction, that was something I hadn’t thought about before.  What I had thought about a few times in my work was about prioritising the aspects of governance but had always had difficulties in doing this due to the inter-linkages between so many aspects.  For example, governance at the school level to ensure quality and relevant education to children is essential but then what needs to happen at the district education office level for this to occur and then what needs to happen at the Ministry level?  There’s not easy answer to this and there are not that many donors or organisations who work across the whole spectrum from grassroots to the national level; so again the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness needs to be looked at by these donors and decisions made about how such harmonisation and synergies between partners can come about.

An interesting article in the Guardian Weekly (16-22 September 2011) was about the upcoming Rio+20 United Nations Summit and how the present focus  on how the environment should be protected could be shifted to how countries can support a green economy.  This will then take away the emphasis of placing obligations on countries to fulfil the various treaties and conventions which arose as a result of the 1992 Rio summit but will have a new one on how green economies can increase the economic development of the country and at the same time protect the environment.    More links to increased development which I hadn’t previously thought about.

How did I feel?

At the start of the unit, put of but then by the end I was raring to go.  Governance is something which carries over to all levels of society and can not just be seen as something which is the responsibility of the Government; good enough governance of NGOs, donors, civil society organisations (CSOs) and others is all necessary for their to be an impact on the ground.  I feel that this needs to be remembered and sometimes the donors can be concentrating on the national level and forget about the communities – change may happen at the national level but that does not necessarily mean it will filter down should there have been no effort at this level.  Donors or International NGOs need to consider the CSOs and local NGOs that they may be working with and conduct a simple assessment of their capacity at present and what works and what needs tweaking can only bring benefits to all in the end.  Too often CSOs and LNGOS are required to carry out technical aspects of a programme but they don’t actually have the relevant mechanisms in place or the understanding on how to go about it.

An example is when I was working with Save the Children in Eastern Indonesia and we just started to work with a small LNGO who were very keen and motivated, excited about working with an INGO and wanting to get out in the field.  It quickly became apparent that there were serious issues regarding finance, reporting and areas of management – not corruption by any means but just lack of capacity; the result was a participatory assessment to understand what support was required to ensure that the project objectives were achieved.  The impact was that the LNGO felt valued as a partner rather than a contractor, they implemented all activities to a satisfactory level, brought new innovations to some existing activities and there was a positive impact for the beneficiaries.  Subsequently and partially due to improved governance in the LNGO, they began to get funding from other INGOs in the geographic area.


Of course it has to be understood that governance is here to stay and that in some cases it will be bad, in others good enough and lastly it may be good.  But there needs to be a concerted effort by the donors, NGOs and governments that support for improved governance needs to be targeted and relevant to the organisation’s needs and there needs to be a positive outcome for all concerned.  Additionally, considering how everyone can be involved in holding the government or an organisation to account should be included.  My mind goes to some of the child based budget monitoring that I worked on with Save the Children in Timor Barat.  These children had been involved in the development of school development plans which were partially funded by the Indonesian Government’s school operational funds (locally known as Dana BOS) and then the same children were involved in ensuring that these funds were used as directed by the plan.  Of course, there had to be substantial work carried out with the Parent Teacher Committee and the Head teacher to ensure that there was a complete understanding of what the children were doing and to ensure that the children’s rights specifically that of protection was upheld.  The result was increased ownership for the school by everyone concerned.

Decision level

Some of what I should say here has probably already been said above but the main point has to be that when I’m writing proposals, conducting evaluations or supporting the capacity development of NGO staff, there has to be an increased focus on what aspects of governance will be covered.  Too often I’ve written in reports or proposals, ‘support the development of increased governance in the district education office’ or something similar but what does that actually mean?  It may sound ok but there needs to be a detailed analysis of what aspects of governance should be covered and these should be prioritised.



~ by xtalkpg on October 29, 2011.

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