More from UNDESA Vol 23, No. 05 - May 2019

What makes effective governance?

How does one know when countries have implemented good governance? Although a cornerstone of all developmental efforts and the sine qua non of sustainability, governance is often nebulous. As a concept, it is hard to decipher. As a practice, it is hard to pin down. We can debate endlessly over the different elements that can go into its conceptual foundations. We can apply all kinds of elaborate models of analysis to get to the bottom of it. All efforts will surely and squarely lead to our pure dazzlement by the richness of its multifarious applications around the world.

Principles of effective governance for sustainable development, developed by the Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) and endorsed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) last July in New York, aim to tackle precisely these features of governance: how to lucidly operationalize it so that everyone can find common ground when talking about its scope and scale; and of course, how to integrate it organically into the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so that no one is left behind.

These eleven Principles of effective governance are:

Effectiveness: 1) competence; 2) sound policy making; and 3) collaboration;
Accountability: 4) integrity, 5) transparency and 6) independent oversight; and
Inclusiveness: 7) leaving no one behind, 8) non-discrimination, 9) participation, 10) subsidiarity and 11) intergenerational equity.

The principles bring together commonly applied strategies, many of which have been recognized and endorsed over the years in various United Nations forums, resolutions and treaties. To be exact, CEPA has identified sixty-two such strategies; and its next challenge is to weave them together in coherent and cohesive ways so that the global tapestry of governance can be made more visible and legible for everyone.

Our next step in our staunch commitment to supporting ECOSOC in its vision to promote sustainable development with human dignity is to operationalize the principles so that effective governance and public institutions can directly and vigorously feed into SDG16 and the rest of the Goals.

In its eighteenth session last month in New York, CEPA outlined a three-pronged roadmap for progress: First, efforts should be channeled towards collecting further evidence of what works and what does not, under different sets of circumstances. Second, all relevant stakeholders should be engaged in formulating and upgrading the principles. And thirdly, principles backed up with evidence-based governance indicators must form the analytical basis for assessing impact of reforms.

It is heartening to see that Member States, such as Ecuador, have expressed interest in adopting the principles towards strengthening public institutions for partnerships and effective SDG implementation. CEPA will continue its cooperation with prominent organizations in the field such as the Praia Group on Governance Statistics and The International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) Development Initiative.

Governance is humbling in a way. There is no one right answer. Effective governance, on the other hand, is empowering. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is clear in its vision and objectives. Transformative pathways towards sustainability are many, but our steadfast commitment as humanity to march along them towards peace and progress is one.

For more information:

Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA)


*The views expressed in this blog are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of UN DESA.

Get the latest global economic trends!

The World Economic Situation and Prospects as of mid-2019 will be launched on 21 May in New York. The report updates the economic prospects for the world economy reported in January 2019.

In the mid-year update, the global growth outlook has weakened, amid unresolved trade tensions and elevated international policy uncertainty. Across both developed and developing countries, growth projections for 2019 have been downgraded. While part of the economic slowdown reflects temporary factors, downside risks to global growth remain high.

Heightened financial risks are compounded by greater frequency and severity of natural disasters, reflecting the rising effects of climate change.

Tackling the current growth slowdown and placing the world economy on a robust path in support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development require more comprehensive and well-targeted policy responses, including a combination of monetary, fiscal and development-oriented measures.

Join Assistant-Secretary-General for Economic Development and UN Chief Economist Elliott Harris and Chief of UN DESA’s Global Economic Monitoring Branch Dawn Holland as they present the global and regional economic update live at 11 am EDT on May 21 via UN Web TV.

For more information: World Economic Situation and Prospects

SDG 16 in numbers

Progress across Goal 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions needs to accelerate. The global homicide rate has recently increased, various forms of violence against children persist and the number of detected victims of human trafficking has grown. A renewed commitment is needed to reduce levels of violence worldwide and to strengthen the participatory institutions needed for inclusive governance.

The global homicide rate ticked up in 2017 to 6.1 intentional homicides per 100,000 people, following a general downward trend in homicide rates since 2000.

Nearly 8 in 10 children from 1 to 14 years of age were subjected to some form of psychological aggression and/or physical punishment at home between 2006 and 2018.

The number of detected victims of trafficking in persons has increased, which could reflect either a

positive (enhanced efforts by authorities to identify victims) or negative (larger trafficking problem) trend. The vast majority, 70 per cent of detected victims of human trafficking are females.

The share of unsentenced detainees in the overall prison population has remained largely constant at 30 per cent in recent years. Particularly high levels of pre-trial detention, over 40 per cent, exist in Central and Southern Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Even if many regions have reached universal or near-universal birth registration, globally the average is

just 73 per cent, and fewer than half, 46 per cent, of all children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa have had their births registered in 2018.

At least 1,456 human rights defenders, journalists and trade unionists have been killed in 61 countries across the world since 2015. This is equivalent to one person killed each day defending the rights of others.

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