Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC)

Good Governance: A Prerequisite for Progress - by Ulla Tørnæs, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation (DACNews October 2006)


By Ulla Tørnæs, Danish Minister for Development Cooperation

In the coming years, the Danish Government will intensify international efforts to promote good governance, democracy and respect for human rights. Numerous international studies – including the Commission for Africa report (2005) – have found that good governance is absolutely vital for achieving development and poverty reduction. I believe that without good governance, other political and economic reforms will often have only limited effect.

In Danish development assistance good governance is seen as the supervision and management of society’s resources for use in promoting social and economic development. Good governance implies respect for human rights, democracy, pluralism, open public debate, rule of law, competent public administration, elimination of corruption, and sustainable economic development.

Good governance can only be secured through a strong sense of national obligation. Fundamentally I emphasize that the developing countries themselves are responsible for taking the necessary steps to implement the reforms that can promote good governance and foster development.

However, lack of resources and capacity often means that many developing countries have difficulty in efficiently delivering basic services to their populations and in implementing and sustaining the reforms necessary for ensuring good governance. In many developing countries, there will be a need for assistance over many years before the countries have the capacity themselves to create and finance an efficient public sector.

Thanks to  Danish efforts, the government will contribute to creating an efficient, open and responsible public administration in our 16 programme countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The Danish Government will strive to ensure that the programme countries, which demonstrate commitment to change, are not kept in poverty due to the lack of resources and capacity.

In 2005, Denmark allocated approximately DKK 1 billion (*) to strengthening good governance and
civil society in developing countries – and this assistance will be further strengthened in the coming years.

The Danish Government will formulate a strategy for good governance to serve as a basis for this scaled-up prioritisation. The aim of the new strategy will be to ensure that the Danish efforts in this area are more focused, effective and visible, with the aim of generating the best possible results from Danish development policy.

The new strategy will focus in particular on strengthening public administration in developing countries, so that the countries in the long term are themselves able to deliver basic services such as health care, education, water and infrastructure.

Another key element of the strategy will be to strengthen the public sector’s capacity to offer good and reliable framework conditions for business development. This is a huge challenge in many developing countries – especially in Africa. The Danish Government will continue to assign very high priority to efforts aimed at strengthening the framework conditions for private companies – especially within the framework of the Danish business sector programmes.

Danish assistance will apply The World Bank’s “Doing Business” indicators – which describe the regulations for starting and running a business – in order to identify the precise obstacles to a favourable business climate in the respective Danish programme countries.

Indicators provide a good starting point for a targeted Danish assistance, in which help to self-help
is given, aimed at eliminating the concrete obstacles to generating economic growth.

In its efforts to foster good governance, the Danish Government will make a concerted effort to strengthen the role of civil society in the Danish programme countries – both through bilateral assistance and through Danish NGOs. An active civil society is crucial for promoting reliable public administration and a strong focus on poverty.

In 2007, the Danish Government will initiate activities in the Danish programme countries amounting to a total of approximately DKK 500 million (*), with the aim of promoting good governance and democracy in these countries. At the same time, the government will continue already initiated activities promoting good governance in the other programme countries and within other sector programmes. The Danish assistance to good governance will build up the administrative and judicial capacity in the Danish programme countries – and thereby their ability to assume responsibility for their own development.

The Danish Government will also strengthen its multilateral efforts to promote good governance. Within the EU, Denmark will strive to promote good governance in Africa, and the government will press for the adoption of credibility, willingness to embrace change and progressive reforms as important criteria in connection with the allocation of the EU Commission’s development funds. Within the UN, Denmark will strive to ensure strong initiatives on the part of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) to promote good democratic governance.

The government will also continue to assign very high priority to efforts aimed at promoting democracy and human rights – both internationally and through bilateral development assistance. The Danish Government will strengthen the cooperation and dialogue with countries in the Middle East and North Africa through a Partnership for Progress and Reform Programme – as well as efforts to ensure that populations in poor countries can live in freedom and dignity in open societies with responsible governments.

The Danish Government will work multilaterally to strengthen the linkage between human rights and development. In 2007, the government will give a multi-annual commitment of DKK 25 million (*) to the World Bank’s work on integrating human rights in policies, guidelines and aid programmes. On an international level, the World Bank will be in a position to contribute to integrating human rights more strongly in development assistance.

An important part of the Danish Government’s efforts to promote good governance will be to strengthen the long-standing Danish policy aimed at fighting corruption in developing countries, which hits the poor hardest. The Danish development assistance is based on a principle of zero tolerance for corruption, and Denmark will contribute to strengthening developing countries’ own capacity to eradicate corruption.

As an important element in the efforts against corruption, the Danish Government will place emphasis on promoting ethical conduct in public administration. This implies, for example, introducing improved and transparent procedures for public procurement, strengthening the role of inspection authorities, and implementing initiatives to fight the culture of corruption that prevails in certain public administrations. In this regard, civil society has an absolutely key role to play as a provider of information and education on the eradication of corruption.

In the implementation of Danish assistance, the Danish Government will attach critical importance to the ability of developing countries to demonstrate a commitment to fighting corruption. The same applies to the organisations receiving Danish assistance, and also to civil society organisations such as NGOs and industrial organisations, which can play an important role in the efforts to fight corruption in both the public and private sectors.

(*) DKK 1,000 = USD 168.25