Governance encompasses the values, rules, institutions, and processes through which people and organizations attempt to work towards common objectives, make decisions, generate authority and legitimacy, and exercise power.
Democratic governance is on the rise. Over the past 20 years, many countries have made significant gains. New democracies have taken major steps to establish stable and effective institutions; improve public sector management; reform their legal and judicial systems; protect human rights, including the rights of children; strengthen local civil society; and carry out post-conflict peacebuilding.
Building democracy, human rights, and good governance is a long-term commitment. Many challenges remain, especially for countries in armed conflict, failed states, very poor countries, and countries experiencing intense pressures like natural disasters or sudden threats to social, political, economic, or environmental stability.
A special challenge for all countries is ensuring that women and men have equal access to decision-making, equal exercise of their human rights, and equal access to the resources and benefits of development.
Good governance is increasingly recognized as a cornerstone for sustainable economic growth, poverty eradication, and sustainable development. The Millennium Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly places specific emphasis on the importance of good governance for development and poverty eradication.
In 2002, heads of state reiterated this commitment through the Monterrey Consensus. This consensus commits the international community to sound policies, good governance at all levels, and the rule of law to mobilize financial resources and use them effectively to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in health, education, gender equality, and environmental sustainability.
The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness builds on these commitments and underlines the importance of accountability, transparency, and institutional capacity-all key elements of good governance.
Developing countries and multilateral organizations make these declarations concrete by integrating commitments to good governance into key planning and strategy documents. For example, the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), a visionary, made-in-Africa plan to end Africa's marginalization from the mainstream of world development, emphasizes that good governance, peace, and security are essential to sustainable development. The Inter-American Democratic Charter, established by the Organization of American States, recognizes that democracy is indispensable for the stability, peace, and development of the region. And in Asia, governments, national human rights institutions, and civil society groups are working towards the establishment of a regional human rights mechanism.
Canada has identified governance as a crosscuting theme in Canada's development cooperation program. Through Canada Corps and other channels, CIDA collaborates with government departments, the private sector, civil society, multilateral development institutions, and Canadian citizens to support the governance needs of its partner countries. CIDA's objective is to assist countries to build the conditions for secure, equitable development by promoting good governance that focuses on:
In each of these areas, CIDA also identifies specific equality between women and men results.