What is the relationship between human rights and good governance?

Governance refers to mechanisms, institutions and processes through which authority is exercised in the conduct of public affairs. The concept of good governance emerged in the late 1980s to address failures in development policies due to governance concerns, including failure to respect human rights. The concepts of good governance and human rights are mutually reinforcing, both being based on core principles of participation, accountability, transparency and State responsibility.

Human rights require a conducive and enabling environment, in particular appropriate regulations, institutions and procedures framing the actions of the State. Human rights provide a set of performance standards against which Governments and other actors can be held accountable. At the same time, good governance policies should empower individuals to live with dignity and freedom. Although human rights empower people, they cannot be respected and protected in a sustainable manner without good governance. In addition to relevant laws, political, managerial and administrative processes and institutions are needed to respond to the rights and needs of populations. There is no single model for good governance. Institutions and processes evolve over time.

Human rights strengthen good governance frameworks. They require: going beyond the ratification of human rights treaties, integrating human rights effectively in legislation and State policy and practice; establishing the promotion of justice as the aim of the rule of law; understanding that the credibility of democracy depends on the effectiveness of its response to people’s political, social and economic

demands; promoting checks and balances between formal and informal institutions of governance; effecting necessary social changes, particularly regarding gender equality and cultural diversity; generating political will and public participation and awareness; and responding to key challenges for human rights and good governance, such as corruption and violent conflict.


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