The Development Intelligence Lab recently asked sector governance experts - including Institute Deputy Director Lisa Denney, Jennifer Kalpokas Doan and Graham Teskey - to make the case for doubling down on governance efforts in the development program. The results were published in The Intel on the Development Intelligence Lab site with Lisa's response extracted below.
What 's the case for doubling down on governance efforts in the development program?
Two reasons. First, governance is important in its own right. It sets the rules of the game for how power is exercised and held to account, whose interests get factored into decision-making and how contestation of ideas is handled. This is crucial in shaping whether development is inclusive, equitable and rights-respecting. Currently, Australian foreign policy appears to be more concerned with competing modes of governance than it has been for decades. Is the future open and liberal? Is it closed and authoritarian? These are live issues in many of the countries where the development program works, underscoring how important governance is to the shape of future world order.
Second, governance is at the heart of every service the aid program aims to deliver. Health, education and water and sanitation – these are not delivered purely by technical know-how but require governance systems and processes to make sure they function effectively and sustainably. Take health for example: you can train nurses, build health centres, kit out facilities, but how are accountable supply chains to deliver drugs and vaccines managed? How are budget decisions made about how much funding goes to nutrition, as opposed to preventable diseases, or maternal health? These issues relate to the governance of the sector.
But the how is also important alongside the why. A development program that imposes 1990s ‘good governance’ dogma is unlikely to work. A development program can play a role, however, in promoting principles and values that shape who development benefits and how societies themselves debate and contest those principles and values. Without a strong investment in governance – as a standalone issue and a cross-cutting one – aid programs risk treating development as a pile of bricks with no mortar. That house won’t hold.
You can read all three responses in the original post on The Intel, Development Intelligence Lab.