Good governance - better human development

Good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development
Kofi Annan, Secretary General, United Nations

Of all the ills that kill the poor, none is as lethal as bad governance.
The Economist

Assalamu'alaikum... may peace be upon you.

I start with the word "Peace" because there is no other word in the vocabulary that is more relevant, more important and more necessary during this time.

'Peace' however, is not just about the absence of war. It is something more proactive, more holistic, and deeper. It has three dimensions, all linked together intimately and are vital core of human security and human survival. The three dimensions are:

  • Peace within ourselves (inner peace)
  • Peace with other people (social peace)
  • Peace with the environment (earth peace)

Today, unfortunately, we are in a world which peace is severely shattered in the personal, social and environmental dimensions. There are many ways of illustrating this, and one stark reminder was provided for us by the World Health Organisation (WHO) - "World Report on Violence and Health" launched last month.

One person commits suicide roughly every 40 seconds.
One person is murdered every 60 seconds.
One person dies in armed conflict every 100 seconds - the bulk of them civilians and 'intrastate' as against 'interstate' victims.

Overall, WHO estimates 1.6 million people met premature and ugly deaths in 2000. The most exhaustive international study on the subject, it highlighted the extent of violence in the home and in the street, abuse of children and the elderly, suicide and war. And these figures, we are told, are only a part of the story. Physical, sexual and psychological abuse occur daily, extensively undermining the health and wellbeing of many millions of persons. (the full report can be accessed at http://www.who.int/violence-injury-prevention)

It will be a gross understatement to state that we live in the most uncertain and most dangerous of times! If Almighty God established an interplanetary commission to investigate how we earthlings are managing this planet, the members would be shocked at our irresponsiblity - our rating for 'planet-hood' would probably be between poor and dismal!

First, they would find an 'economics' driven largely by 'casino capitalism', 'mad' or speculative money, pornography, gambling, puerile entertainment and various kinds of criminal activities. The greatest growth indicator they find will be the "Gross Criminal Product" - GCP! And they will find mushrooming new cradles of modern civilisation - all tax havens, the fiscal laundrettes and not to mention creative accounting.

Secondly, they will find a 'society' marked by violence and inequity where we have billions for space exploration and armaments but not the dollars and cents for basic health, education and shelter for billions of poor.

Thirdly, they will find an 'environment' so destroyed that the air, water and soil is often taking paths of no return and leading communities of living things into self-destruction sometimes called 'ecocide'.

But it is not the economics, equity or ecological failures that will strike them as the foundation of our seemingly reckless and maddening approach to global human security and sustainable human development. The "father of all failures", they will discover, is a governance failure.

The Interplanetary Commission will find, among the littered landscape, a culture of violence, manipulation and waste.

What can we do?

Can we do something to reverse this madness? Can we create a new paradigm of development and happiness that enables peace with ourselves, peace with ourselves, peace with other people and peace with Mother Earth? As citizens, as civil servants, as community leaders, we can and we must. We must make that our Agenda for the 21st Century.

Principles of Good Governance

First, we need to understand what is "Good Governance" and what is "Better Human Development".

At UNDP, we have identified at least nine fundamental principles or core characteristic that we use as benchmarks for good governance and these must also form the anchors of a good water policy strategy. Let me quickly share them with you:

1.Strategic Vision
Leaders and the public have a broad and long-term perspective on good governance and human development, along with a sense of what is needed for such development. There is also an understanding of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.

2.Rule of Law
Legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially, particularly the laws on human rights.

Transparency is built on the free flow of information. Processes, institutions and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them.

Institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders.

5.Consensus Orientation
Good governance mediates differing interests to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the group and where possible, on policies and procedures.

All men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

7.Effectiveness & Efficiency
Processes and institutions produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.

Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society organisations are accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders. This accountability differs depending on the organisation and whether the decision is internal or external to an organisation.

All men and women should have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Such broad participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capacities to participate constructively.

For more specific ideas, you can reach some good governance through this website: www.undp.org/water where a dedicated UNDP team is working on Effective Water Governance.

I like to add one more to make it 10 principles - Respect and Tolerance to proactively respect diversity and difference, to seek out common values and building on them and where there are differences that can lead to conflict to have mechanism for them.

At UNDP, we have experimented with the concept of community roundtables and with report cards to both understand these principles and nurture.

The "Sustainable Penang Initiative" (see www.seri.com.my) and the pioneering TUGI Report Cards on Good Governance (see www.tugi.apdip.org) will give you valuable insights.

The Human Development Principles

Secondly, I like to share with you five core principles, 'five pillars', a panchasila of Better Human Development. The five principles are that our society must be developed in a way that is:

1.Socially JUST
2.Ecologically Sustainable
3.Politically Participatory
4.Economically Productive
5.Culturally Vibrant

The Country's Capital

Thirdly, I want to share with you on what is the countries 'capital'. There are five elements:

1.PHYSICAL CAPITAL: – financial, technological, material, resources

2.ORGANISATIONAL CAPITAL: – human resources, capacity to manage, core team, membership, structure, leadership, training

3.POLITICAL CAPITAL: – power, authority, influence, interest, articulation, legitimacy

4.INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL: – knowledge or know-how

5.SOCIO-CULTURAL CAPITAL: – feelings/spirit of trust, friendship and willingness to collaborate, community ideals or values

We have to recognise and build these if we have to have strength as a nation.

How do we fare as Malaysians and as Malaysia?

We can hold our heads high and feel good about many things. One of those has been our civil service. We have also great worries and challenges ahead of us and one of these is what is to become of our civil service.

First the good news.

We are viewed in many places as one of the great success stories of "Unity in Diversity", of "Growth with Equity" and "Development with Vision" - the words unity, diversity, growth, equity, development and vision, represent the essence of the successful Malaysia's story. When the United Nations Children's Education Fund (UNICEF) wanted a model country to host a meeting on conflict resolution and human development, they chose Malaysia. And recently, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) announced plans to commission a series of popular books on the Malaysian success story to share with other developing countries. Our multi-cultural, multi-religious, multi-resource base has made us into a glowing microcosm of a caring society. Global institutions have located here and increasingly doing so - both intergovernmental and global civil society groups like IPPF, Consumers International, Third World Network, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and several others. And we have AIBD, APDC (which is being reinvented) and recently, the World Fish Centre. And we had the Red Book, Felda and Tabung Haji as global inspirations. And we also hosted the Non-Aligned Movement and the OIC conference - in many ways, an apex of recognition of all that is right about Malaysia.

So much about the good. What about the bads, the challenges, the worries? I like to share five of them:

My first worry is that we have always been a 'global player' economically but now that we have become a major global force politically and culturally, a model of multiversity or a caring of 'bolehness', will we have the mass of civil servants who can have the competence, the creativity and the communication skills of being the anchors of facilitation, advocacy and service? Does our civil service have the multiple skills, cultural diversity, and the creative capacity to be the heart and face of the new global role demanded of us? Privatisation was one path and as we learnt from MAS, Indah Water, the mass transit system in KL, Perwaja and others, the path is fraught with its own expensive dangers.

The second worry is do we have enough people in the civil service with the courage, caring and a conscience who are prepared to speak out and challenge hypocrisy, lack of integrity and inequity even at risk to themselves - who take accountability, transparency and effectiveness seriously and who have developed IQ, EQ and SQ's. And who don't treat the people - your clients, as stupid and a nuisance.

The third worry is about local governance - Malaysia is getting urbanised at a phenomenally rapid rate - just look at our towns and cities and the crisis of transport, waste, water and destruction of community life. That level of government is the most critical challenge for it links with daily living and ordinary living. Unless we get sustainable transport, community facilities, and waste management and building planning right, we are going to be stressed and disintegrating society literally (as in the case of Highland Towers) and in many other ways. Local government has to be taken far seriously and be more participative.

The fourth worry is the recognition of intellect - of Brain Power. The recent Nobel Prize winners agreed that one of the greatest challenge is going to be the study of the brain and it is going to require brains to achieve that. We have to become a global centre for intellectual achievement and not be afraid to draw the best brains from any country here. If you don't, others will and we can diminish into a centre of mediocrity.

The and fifth worry, is about language skills - let us become a world of languages - centre for Bahasa, English, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Swahili, just to mention a few. There should be a Dewan Bahasa for the rapid promotion of skills of these languages too. It will help tourism, enhance our intellectual standing and will advance our role as a global player. If we can be good at driving sports cars, why not languages? We are in a setting for that.

I leave you with these thoughts and if you wish, discuss them further. My email is anwar.fazal@undp.org

Thank you.

Back to Speeches