Kamal Azari Ph.D
The spread of modernity and the recognition of individual rights as the foundation of our current social and political order created the need to redefine the concept of good governance. Over the centuries, governments have moved from simple systems of creating and enforcing laws, distributing rights and privileges, and collecting and distributing tax monies to endlessly complex bureaucracies touching nearly every aspect of human life. The journey from simple to complex has not always been an easy one, and has not always resulted in good governance.
The history of Iran from the early Twentieth Century until the present is a case in point. During this time, Iran experienced the growing pains of moving from a simple traditional government structure to a very complicated and complex modern political system with divided political authorities. It also provides a clear example of how efforts to provide good governance can come breathtaking close to succeeding, only to dramatically fail.
Good governance has any number of definitions. As defined by Michael Johnston of the Colgate University Department of Political Science and later included in the United Nations’ Doha Declaration, is (1) “legitimate, accountable, and effective ways of obtaining and using public power and resources in the pursuit of widely accepted social goals.” Other scholars have suggested that good governance refers to (2) “all kinds of institutional structures that promote both good substantive outcomes and public legitimacy.” Good government is also associated with impartiality (3), ethical universalism (4), and open-access orders (5) This definition links good governance with the rule of law, transparency, and accountability and embodies partnerships among state, society, and free citizens.
In practical implementation, government frameworks and processes generally adapt to a particular nation and its unique culture, political, economic, and social orders. Under good governance, political and economic development follow an inclusive and just social order in which individual growth is possible. Consequently, good governance is the practice and process of how public institutions interact with the public, how available resources are managed, how the rule of law is promoted, and how individual human rights are directly related to ensuring the rule of law. The efficiency, transparency, honesty, and accountability of the governmental apparatus are integral elements of a structure within which economies can develop.
A key aspect of good governance is that it happens from the ground up. Effective leaders welcome their citizens into the governing process. Effective leaders understand that it is the people on the ground who are working to solve their problems, and people on the ground who had the knowledge and creativity to design and implement solutions. Eeffective leaders understand that creating solutions to local problems is the key to building national strength, fostering entrepreneurial creativity, and protecting individual liberty.