By Arthur Nuwagaba Kahigima
The UN set Good Governance as one of the prerequisites in achieving the current Sustainable Development Goals.
At the international level, the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Among the SDGs, goal number 16 specifically deals with aspects of Peace and Justice Institutions. Further analysis reveals that all the other sixteen SDGs are hinged on this goal. Good governance plays a key role in achieving equitable and sustainable development in Africa (Africa Governance Outlook, 2012), hence, it is pivotal for Uganda’s sustained development plans and vision 2040.
Furthermore, respect for human rights and democratic principles are highlighted number one by the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Governance includes the state, private sector and civil society, all of which are critical in sustaining human development. The institutions of governance in the state, private sector and civil society must be designed to contribute to this goal by establishing the political, legal, economic and social framework for poverty reduction, job creation, environmental protection, and advancement of vulnerable groups.
NRM Government should therefore make sure that some critical elements are observed and this will contribute to the building of good governance and these include participation, rule of law, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, consensus orientation, equity, Effectiveness and efficiency, and strategic vision.
The above elements ensure the existence of effective mechanisms, processes and institutions, through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences.
NRM Government can position her governance strategy by endeavoring to nature an open, transparent and democratic system with enlightened leadership and public, anchored on multiple institutions based on constitutional framework. Some of these institutions include an elected presidency, parliament, independent judiciary and constitutional commissions, a reformed and pro-people civil service and armed forces, a vibrant civil society and the media. As a result, national peace, security and stability, a vibrant economy, and cordial regional, continental and international relations will remain sturdy.
NRM should also ensure participation for all. Participation ensures that 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 on the capacity to participate constructively. Anyone affected by or interested in a decision should have the opportunity to participate in the process for making that decision. This can happen in several ways; community members may be provided with information, asked for their opinion, given the opportunity to make recommendations or, in some cases, be part of the actual decision-making process. For example, the consultations during the age limit debate would have been made all inclusive, land amendment bill 2018 which Government withdrew from the parliament after being rejected by Majority Members of Parliament and Marriage and divorce bill 2009 which was rejected by majority Ugandans.
Since all Ugandan laws provide that public authority should consult with stakeholders. The rule of law should guarantee that the legal frameworks will be fair and enforced impartially, particularly the laws on human rights. The decisions ought to be consistent with relevant legislation or common law, and are within the powers of those making and implements them. Political Parties and Organizations Act which opened the way for citizens with varying political opinions to be able to express themselves in a multi-party system (political parties and organizations act 2002), this act should be respected and all political actors should be given freedom to mobilize in a free and fair political environment and on leveled ground.
NRM government should make sure that the concept of transparency and accountability be built on the free flow of information so that the processes, institutions and information should be directly accessible to those concerned, and enough information should be provided to render them understandable and easily monitored. Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil-society organizations should be accountable to the public as well as to institutional stakeholders. They should always try to serve the needs of the entire community while balancing competing interests in a timely, appropriate and responsive manner. NRM leaders should be having an obligation to report, explain and are answerable for the consequences of decisions they make on behalf of the public they represent and auditing bodies such as office of Auditor General and Public Accounts Committee which studies public audits should be empowered and their reports be implemented. All accounting officers at different levels who misuse Government money should be dealt with harshly. This will reduce corruption which has become a stumbling block to Uganda’s development.
NRM should emphasize the issue of responsiveness which ensures that all institutions and processes both within and outside the state structure serve all stakeholders. For the above to work well even outside the legal frameworks the NRM leaders should be driven more by consensus orientation in order to be able to mediate differing interests so that they can reach broad consensus on the best interests of the group and, where possible, on policies and procedures.
Lastly, while there are strictly legal provisions in Uganda that are complied with, there ought to be the feeling and perception that equity is applied to all persons, men and women without segregation. A community’s wellbeing results from all or majority of its members feeling their interests have been considered in the decision-making process. This means that all groups, particularly the most vulnerable, should have opportunities to participate in the process, and have equal opportunity to maintain or improve their well-being. For example, The NRM Government needs to enhance the capacities of women leaders at national and district levels to participate, engage and influence decision making structures and processes for gender-responsive democratic governance. This can be achieved since the Government of Uganda is a signatory to several international, regional and has national laws and policies that advance the participation of women in public leadership.
These include; the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) and many others.
In conclusion, the full realization of the Sustainable Development Goals strongly depends on good governance. without Good governance, implementation of the SDGs risks being inconsistent and ineffective and achieving vision 2040 will remain a reverie.
The writer is a National Co-ordinator Organizing for Action Think Tanker