Good Governance and Human Rights


Dr. Khine Khine Win

Government is a combination of the people of a country to affect certain objects by joint effort. Abraham Lincoln said “ the legitimate object of government is to do for a community of people whatever they need to have done but cannot do at all, or cannot, so well do, for themselves- in their separate, and individual capacities. This statement expresses the fundamental role of government in society and the importance of “good governance” in any community. Governance concerns the State’s ability to serve its citizens. A good government ought to provide good environment for development to every single citizen.
According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, there is no single and exhaustive definition of good governance nor is there a delimitation of its scope that commands universal acceptance. The term is used with great flexibility.  It has been said at various times to encompass: full respect of human rights, the rule of law, effective and multi stakeholder participation, transparent, accountable process, legitimacy, equality, political empowerment of people, values that foster responsibility and so on. They are the main characteristics of good governance. However, the establishment of good governance is not an easy one. It is easier said than done.
My understanding is that good governance is the precondition for meeting the challenge of enhancing education, improving health care, reducing poverty, establishing rule of law, protecting our environment,   financial economic development, stability, equality and sustainable human development. By linking good governance to sustainable human development, emphasizing principles such as rule of law, accountability, participation and enjoyment of human rights. And also human rights and human development are linked in ways that we have long understood. Mr. Selim Jahan, Director of Human Development Report Office, New York writes human poverty is a denial of human rights because it infringes on human freedom, it destroys human dignity and it implies discrimination and justice.
There is no doubt that nurturing good governance is essential to ensuring respect for human rights. They are mutually reinforcing both being based on core principles of participation, accountability, transparency and State responsibility. Universally agree that human rights are universal, individual, indivisible and interrelated. In view of the important role which good governance plays in human rights, United Nations resolution 2000/64 clearly states that the need for a closer examination of the role of good governance for the promotion of human rights and the relationship between good governance practices and the promotion and protection of all human rights in all countries. It recognizes that transparent, responsible, accountable and participatory government, responsive to the needs and aspiration of the people, is the foundation on which good governance rests, and that such a foundation is a sine qua non for the promotion of human rights.
Although human rights empower people, they cannot be respected and protected in a sustainable manner without good governance. Human rights strengthen good governance frameworks. They require: going beyond the ratification of human rights treaties, integrating human rights effectively in legislation and State policy and practice; establishing the promotion of justice as the aim of the rule of law; understanding that the credibility of democracy depends on the effectiveness of its response to people’s political, social and economic demands. There are four areas between good governance and human rights, Democratic Institutions, Service Delivery, Rule of Law and Anti Corruption.
Good governance reforms of democratic institutions create avenue for the public to participate in public affairs in policy making led by human rights value. Good governance reforms advance human rights when they improve the State’s capacity to fulfill its responsibility to provide rights for their people such as right to education, health and development. Good governance initiatives reforms legislation to better implement that legislation. To eradicate corruption, good governance efforts rely on principles such as accountability, transparency and participation to shape anti corruption measures.
We must bear in mind that when governance fails and human rights are violated there can be no full development without good governance. Promoting human rights and good governance is the only way to guarantee security, stability and sustainable developments.
Well, now we recognized that human rights and good governance are intrinsically inter-liked. The question is how to build good governance? Who have responsibilities to build good governance? What is the role of people? From my point of view, in order to solve all these issues first we need to create the conditions in which people are empowered to participate freely in their political, social and economic development and in so doing to achieve their potential.
We need to build a strong civil society where people can exercise their rights and lead fulfilling lives. The responsibility for delivering good governance is not the preserve of government alone. It is also the responsibility of citizens, civil society and the private sector and also parliaments, as one of the key state institution in a democratic system, governance have a critical to play in promoting good governance. In deed the international community too has a responsibility to not only promote but also practise good governance.
Let me conclude the article by expressing my favorite quote by Frank Herbert, Author of Dune.
“Good governance never depends upon laws, but upon the personal qualities of those who govern. The machinery of government is always subordinate to the will of those who administer that  machinery. The most important element of government, therefore is the method of choosing leaders.”

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