Accountable Governance

Accountable Governance

The need for responsible, open and accountable governance is a clear way forward for modern governance and societies that seek to provide broad opportunity and socioeconomic stability for its citizens.  Common among globally powerful organizations is the need for open and accountable governance, even and equitable enforcement of the rule of law, respect for human rights, respect for diverse opinions and a democratic process, the need for a society where all people are free to participate fully in civic, political, economic and cultural life; the need for freedom of the press; and an independent, politically-unattached judicial system.

International organizations who support open and accountable governance and the rule of law

The tenants of “good governance” must be the principals by which all democratically-elected governments and political parties are guided.  Citizens must be provided the opportunity to understand and be well-versed in the necessity for these principals to exist.  Citizens must cause politicians, political parties and government to adopt and adhere to the principals of good governance.  Citizens must demand openness and accountability from all those that propose to hold public office or those that hold public office.  Citizens must demand that those involved in upholding the rule of law must enforce the rule of law evenly and equitably, “one law or no law”.

The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) is a not-for-profit foundation that represents civil society and that focuses on the core issues/problems affecting the Bahamas.   It is commonly accepted worldwide that successful democratic governance must involve an ongoing, participatory civil society, otherwise known as “embedded autonomy”.

Improved governance requires an integrated, long-term strategy built upon cooperation between government and citizens. It involves both participation and institutions. The rule of law, accountability, and transparency are technical and legal issues at some levels, but also interactive to produce government that is legitimate, effective, and widely supported by citizens, as well as a civil society that is strong, open and capable of playing a positive role in politics and government.

Good governance involves far more than the power of the state or the strength of political will. The rule of law, transparency and accountability are not merely technical questions of administrative procedure or institutional design. They are outcomes of democratizing processes driven not only by committed leadership, but also by the participation of, and contention among, groups and interests in society — processes that are most effective when sustained and restrained by legitimate, effective institutions.*1

ORG shall strive to get the incumbent government and political opposition parties to understand the need for ongoing engagement and participation of civil society in good governance.

ORG shall educate the public as to the performance of government and political parties by the creation of political report cards. These report cards will compare and contrast what the government and or political parties do and/or stand for, against the tenants of good governance.  These report cards shall be made public to allow citizens to decide for themselves how a particular party or government is performing against the principals of good governance.

ORG shall encourage citizens to understand the importance of uniting around the needs of the nation and providing the greatest opportunity available to its citizens.  It is only when good governance is attended to and attained that the socioeconomic condition of the nation will improve.

 

The balance of this paper outlines the functions that must be employed and adopted by government and civil society in order to move The Bahamas into the realm of open, accountable and modern governance.

Accountable governance

Accountable governance is interdependent on a number of primary factors:

Transparency: Accountability requires transparency. Both function best where laws are sound, widely supported and equitably enforced. The interconnection is critical as upholding these values requires a durable balance between self-interest and cooperation: Citizens and officials must see good governance not only as an ideal, but also as improving their own lives and the quality of life and the environment around them.  Where the rule of law is strong, people uphold the law not out of fear, but because they have a stake in its effectiveness.

Government can, after all, enact laws; corrupt and repressive regimes can legislate and manipulate policy at will. Genuine rule of law, by contrast, requires the cooperation of state and society and is an outcome of complex and deeply rooted social processes. Wrongdoers face not only legal penalties, but also social sanctions such as criticism in the news media, popular disapproval and punishments from professional and trade associations. An approach that relies solely upon detection and punishment may work for a time, but will do little to integrate laws and policies with social values, or to create broader and deeper support for the system.*1

 

The effectiveness of transparency rests on a partnership: Officials must make information available and there must be people and groups (see list below) with reasons and opportunities to put the information to use.

  1. An independent judiciary
  2. A free, competitive, responsible press
  3. An active civil society

Rules and procedures must be open to scrutiny and comprehensible: A transparent government makes it clear what is being done, how and why actions take place, who is involved and by what standards decisions are made. Then, it demonstrates that it abides by those standards. Transparency requires significant resources, may slow down administrative procedures and may offer more advantages to the well-organized and influential interests than to others. It also has necessary limits: Legitimate issues of securityand the privacy rights of citizens form two such boundaries. But without it, good governance has little meaning.

 

Accountability: Formal checks and balances can and should be built into any constitutional architecture. The people, interest groups, civil society, the courts, the press and opposition parties must insist that those who govern follow legitimate mandates and explain their actions. The government must also insist on the same practice within government.   Accountability depends upon the ability of one part of government to find out — and, where necessary, to stop or correct — what other sectors are doing (Schedler, Diamond and Plattner, 1999). Those demanding accountability must be confident that they can do so safely, that officials will respond honestly and that social needs and demands are taken seriously.

 

Corruption: Nepotism, cronyism and oppression corrodes trust between citizens and government and reduces economic growth. In Partners Global’s experience, establishing cooperation between the government, civil society and private sectors promotes accountability and transparency, therefore preventing and decreasing corruption. *2

 

Goals for Governance:

  • Legitimate, effective, responsive institutions and policies (“embedded autonomy”)
  • Understandable processes and outcomes:

-- with visible results in citizens’ lives

-- with clear standards for success or failure

-- with clear lines of responsibility and accountability

  • Transparency:

-- openness from above

-- participation and scrutiny from below

-- honesty from all

  • Incentives to sustain good governance:

-- for leaders: The opportunity to take credit

-- for citizens: A credible chance for justice and a better life

-- for neighboring societies: Sharing insights, experiences, expertise, values

  • Vertical accountability:

-- government that answers to citizens

-- citizens who accept and abide by laws and policies

  • Horizontal accountability and leaders, and among segments of government:

-- access to information

-- the right to be consulted

-- the power to check excesses and abuses

Even enforcement of the rule of law.

Accountable for the performance and efficiency within governance.

Accountable to provide safety, social and health services that benefit the populous.

Accountable to provide education and employment opportunity to all citizens.

What is open governance?

  • Participatory policy-making
    Partners Global's participatory methodologies transform top-down policy-making (which often results in imperfect implementation on the ground) into living, responsive, democratic processes. Partners provides essential skills to local government officials, citizens and civil society organizations and helps set up official processes and structures to promote cooperative problem-solving and long-term collaboration between sectors. ..
  • Anti-corruption
    Corruption corrodes trust between citizens and government and reduces economic growth. In Partners’ experience, establishing cooperation between the government, civil society and private sectors promotes accountability and transparency, therefore preventing and decreasing corruption. ..
  • Rule of Law & Mediation
    Democratic societies provide meaningful access to justice and efficient dispute resolution systems that provide legal, certainly while allowing for the reconciliation of relationships.  Partners promotes mediation and restorative justice as essential components of an inclusive modern system of justice, establishes community mediation services and teaches mediation skills to a wide variety of groups involved in the administration of justice within the judicial branch and community justice systems.

A government accountable to its citizens is one of the cornerstones of an open society — helping to ensure fairness, economic equality and civic participation. The Open Society Foundation works with governments and businesses to advance transparency, rule of law and good governance around the world.

Accountability

The Open Society Foundation works to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people.

We seek to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically-elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check.

We help to shape public policies that assure greater fairness in political, legal, and economic systems and safeguard fundamental rights.

We implement initiatives to advance justice, education, public health, and independent media.

We build alliances across borders and continents on issues such as corruption and freedom of information.

Working in every part of the world, the Open Society Foundation places a high priority on protecting and improving the lives of people in marginalized communities.

Our Values

We believe in fundamental human rights, dignity, and the rule of law.

We believe in a society where all people are free to participate fully in civic, economic, and cultural life.

We believe in addressing inequalities that cut across multiple lines, including race, class, gender, sexual orientation, and citizenship.

We believe in holding those in power accountable for their actions and in increasing the power of historically excluded groups.

We believe in helping people and communities press for change on their own behalf.

We believe in responding quickly and flexibly to the most critical threats to open society.

We believe in taking on controversial issues and supporting bold, innovative solutions that address root causes and advance systemic change.

We believe in encouraging critical debate and respecting diverse opinions.

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