Good Governance Starts with Good Global Governance

By: Taro Komatsu

February 9, 2015

Mental Models, Compassion, and Good Governance

Governance is a key to development. In recent decades, governance has received much attention from the community of international donors. This is a response to the perceived failure of international aid to eradicate poverty, still prevalent in developing nations. It is true that the promotion of economic, social, and human development requires an efficient and effective government. Such a government is expected to manage public money and international aid wisely and morally for the common good of their people.
A major threat to good governance is corruption, and this has a serious implication for international donors. Corruption not only decreases efficiency, but it also affects the public’s trust in government. A stable, cohesive, and peaceful society requires trust and solidarity between public entities and civilians. Corruption can seriously distort such trust relationships. Corruption is a particularly important issue in societies that have undergone a disaster, conflict, major outbreak of diseases, or political upheaval where people’s lives and dignity are at stake. In these societies, a large amount of international aid is spent to alleviate human suffering. This is a duty of the international community, since the poor and vulnerable people always deserve a preferential option, as framed in terms of Catholic social thought. Such a gesture of goodwill, however, may invite an unwelcome consequence called corruption. Ample empirical evidence has shown that mismanagement of funds occur in public sectors and even in donor agencies in emergency and reconstruction situations.  

Catholic social thought suggests that we need to have faith in the poor to organize themselves in the spirit of solidarity for the betterment of their lives (Sollicitudo Rei Socialis). We must not distort the process of building social trust, particularly in “fragile” contexts where a society is being rebuilt. We need to be vigilant in ensuring that funds are spent in a transparent and accountable manner. An intensification of globalization is both a blessing and curse. It is a blessing because we can now pool our resources and work together for the common good of alleviating human suffering. It is a curse, if we are not attentive, because an intensive but unchecked capital influx to aid-recipient nations may only benefit those with privileges and never reach those in dire need, resulting in further polarization of society. We all need to be aware that good governance has to be supported by good behavior of global governance actors.
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