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On Defining Governance, Democracy and Decentralization - Essay Example

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On Defining Governance, Democracy and Decentralization

Increasingly, among international organizations (such as the World Bank and the United Nations), governance is used as a concept to both provide a broad overview of and describe the way societies manage themselves. In the dialogue routinely engaged in by the United Nations and the World Bank "governance" is normally spoken of in terms of three systems - the political/administrative; the economic; and the civil society. When looking at governance from this perspective an important additional dimension is introduced into any discussion of the relationship between governance, democracy and decentralization because one is forced to pay attention to the significance of decentralization for economic development. This represents a very significant dimension in terms of the overall well-being of the society as a whole for it can be central to the defining of its development potential.
Governance has also been described and dealt with, particularly in the past two decades, in terms of how to improve the functioning of the actual political/administrative system extant in a particular country. ...
rnmental organization (which frequently means the downsizing of government bureaucracies); and the strong encouragement of transparency and accountability in government.

There is obviously a long history of discussion about and consideration of what are the attributes of democracy and democratic governance. During the course of the past half century, most attention in this regard has focused upon four basic attributes. These include the conduct within a country of free and fair elections; the existence of a reasonably well-organized and competitive party system; a delineation of, respect for, and protection of basic civil liberties and human rights within the society; and, the encouragement, support of and active participation of a vigorous civil society and, in particular, strong interest groups.

While democracy and its attributes have been the topic of much thought, writing and discussion, it is still the case that there are not totally precise measures of or delineations of where democratic governance begins or ends within a society. In fact, democracy is inevitably a "work in progress." The institutions and processes of democracy are constantly in a state of evolution. Such evolution is not always necessarily in a progressive or productive fashion. Clearly there are moments in almost all societies in which democratic processes and values suffer setbacks. Likewise, there are other times when what is normally evolutionary progress toward higher levels of democratic governance sometimes become dramatic movement.

The concept of decentralization is perhaps a little less clearly defined in part because it is the newest of these concerns. One of the things that has added some misunderstanding to the debate and discussion over decentralization is the frequent ...Show more

At the outset, it is necessary to specify and understand more clearly the key elements at which we will be looking - governance; democracy; and decentralization…
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