Governance, good governance and ethical governance are not the stand alone terms rather could be seen as lying in a continuum as follows:


Though definitions vary slightly but a wide variation is seen in terms of practice and the overall systemic arrangement of a nation. In this perspective the three terms can be defined as:
Governance can be defined as the exercise of political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. One may notice that the definition is “form of government that is State neutral” and thus covers all States, democratic and authoritarian. It is a bare minimum requirement for a State involving no value judgement while Good Governance is the result of an assessment of actual governance made by the stake holders and the independent judgement of outside agencies like the UN on how effectively the state has been able to perform regulatory and development functions. However, what matters most is the citizen’s objective perception of how their government is functioning; and this critically depends on the form of Government. Here objective perception is important, as a government not in line with the principles of good governance could be perceived as ‘good’ if it serves the short term goals of the citizens as a common entity – for example ‘ Commons Dilemma’.

In a democracy with periodic elections the citizens enjoy the power to change the ruling party and influence making of laws, regulations and policies which is not there in an authoritarian State like Saudi Arabia. A similar situation is observed in States classified as ‘extractive’ like some African and Latin American States which are primarily run for resource extraction by the ruling elite. Hence, democratic state stands better chances to have an overall ecosystem supportive of good governance mainly because without citizens participation and freedom to choose between several options governance has no meaning as Amartya Sen has rightly defined ‘ development as freedom’. From this perspective the elements of good governance can be defined as:

gov 1

As regards ethical governance, what we can say is that it is not “only about ethical objectives but also ethical means” by which it is achieved. Though in real world, there is no State in the world that can claim for such governance. The backbone of ethical governance is not only ethical principles in formulating policies, building institutions but also ethical display in behavioural terms by people manning those institutions and working in them. It seems to be utopian idea and time immemorial nations and leaders have tried to achieve what is called ethical governance. While more or less efforts remain only in name but a closest effort is that of ‘The Ashokan State’. It continues to be the only effort in history when the Sovereign authority took upon itself the duty to create an ethics based State and public order and urged the citizens to act ethically in their relationship with the fellow citizens and all living beings. The Nehruvian idea of Panchsheel in international relations is one such attempt at building an ethics based international order. The chapter on the fundamental duties in the constitution could be taken as an attempt to this direction. Thus from an objective perspective good governance is seen as an attempt to get close to ethical governance which would remain always like a “bridge too far “because of frailty of human nature.

1 Comment

LiviaDecember 31st, 2016 at 9:46 pm

Your article was exclleent and erudite.

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