Governance and Human Development

  • Maria Rosaria GarofaloEmail author
  • Flor Avila Hernandez
  • Silvia Marinella Fontana
Living reference work entry


Peace Research Institute Oslo Sustainable Human Development (SHD) General Empirical Evidence Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Small Arms Survey 
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Governance and human development decodified as good governance and sustainable human development (SHD) (Anand and Sen 2000; Knack 2002) and their multiple interactions (Sundaram and Chowdhury 2013) are the core of the development thinking from the 1990s, although they belong to different disciplines (political philosophy, science of public administration, international law, development economics). The cross-fertilized literature emerged from a coevolution of theories and policies, shifting the focus from increasing GDP, employment, “growth from distribution,” “growth with distribution” toward the “people-value-place-based” development from which the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are framed. Section “Overview: Theories and Operational Approaches” discusses methodological questions on the interdisciplinary literature and policy implications; section “SDG16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions,” according to the evolution from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to SDGs, discusses good governance as mean and goal of SHD focusing on SDG16; section “Conclusion” refers on open questions for future research.

Overview: Theories and Operational Approaches

There is not a predominant paradigm on the relation governance and human development, but many combinations. (i) From A. Smith the dimensions of governance – rule of law, transparency, accountability, lack of corruption – are presumed merely for market performance and for growth’s paths: the determinants of processes and reasons for these dimensions are not explained, and the underlying heterogeneous values are not contested. From the new institutional economics (NIE), they matter as means for economic development: according to an asymmetric power’s distribution across individuals/groups, the quality of governance reflects efficiency and accountability of the involved actors and political negotiations of their voices (North et al. 2008). (ii) From the end of 1980s, contradictions between pro-market design of structural adjustment policies and the call for government in their implementation challenge orthodox views looking for a pattern of “adjustment with a human face” (UNICEF 1987) and for bottom-up institutional reforms. Built on Sen’s capability approach (CA), human development profile over n dimensions of well-being – i.e., freedoms to live lives that person’s value – becomes the ultimate goal of development, consistent with four principles: equity, efficiency, sustainability, and empowerment. (iii) Multiple equilibria approach (Ray 2000) might bridge NIE and CA: history and subjective aspirations are drivers of change, while policies and rules of governance are mechanisms of propagation of externalities created by roles and responsibilities across actors.

At operational level, development organizations suggest different working definitions and indicators on governance of/for human development (Human Development Index by UNDP and Worldwide Governance Indicators by World Bank); however, there is no consensus. Moreover, casual relations between governance and human development are not clear. Following Bruntland Report (1987), “development meets needs of present without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” Its underlying idea of “fulfilling basic needs” of each person is “too strong” because the moral and cognitive burdens for SHD are on individuals and “too light” because it does not specify what should be sustained and how needs evolve in valuable aspirations (Leßmann and Rauschmayer 2012).

The role of governance emerges here explicitly; the sustainability becomes a bridge between governance and human development, built on public actors’ responsibility to provide merit goods and conditions for rule of law, transparency, accountability and higher participation, and on interdependent individuals/groups (Sachs 2012). The first Human Development Report (1990) is about “the process of enlarging people’s choices”; subsequent HDRs focus on “the expansion of people’s freedom to live long, healthy and creative lives” and on equitable provision of merit goods; the latter HDRs expand these dimensions of freedoms by including “freedoms to,” “intrinsic freedoms” (e.g., multiculturalism, gender equality), and governance. Therefore, human development is not reductively legitimated within the economic well-being domain, but philosophically founded, for example, on Aristotelian ethics. In this line, the evolution from MDGs to SDGs is from measures against economic poverty toward universalistic entitlements to development, globally shared with intergenerational responsibility (Fukuda and Parr 2016). The paradigm of human development is translated into one of sustainable human development where a positive level of “genuine saving,” enforced by good governance, is required to maintain economic productive base.

Anand and Sen (2000) contested that sustainability is implied by optimality; Ranis and Stewart (2005) investigate the two-way chains “growth-human development” providing a taxonomy of virtuous versus vicious countries. Dasgupta (2007) disentangles SHD determinants in capital assets (manufactured, natural, human, and their imperfect rate of substitution) and enabling factors (institutions); Neumayer (2012) classifies countries on different combinations of (high/low) level of human development and sustainable development. From these perspectives, SHD is not a spontaneous order because the paths from micro to macro well-being and from current to future well-being require shared knowledge, coordination, and cooperation. Moreover, the steering logic of governance is complex according with specific “theories and circumstances of justice” (Leßmann and Rauschmayer 2012). From “Governance and Development” (WB 1992), governance is part of the post-Washington Consensus as “the manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development.” Subsequent WB Development Reports are on “institutions for sustainable development,” “centrality of citizens,” “equity and development,” and “conflict in fragile states.” The 2017 report defines governance as “a process within a given set of rules (formal and informal) that shapes and is shaped by power” to implement policies World Bank (2017). Good governance as governance for development consists of seven components: democracy, human rights, rule of law, effective management, transparency/accountability, developmentalist goals, and a varying mix of policies (Gisselquist 2012).

NIE defines governance as a cluster of political institutions, state capacity, and regulation of economic institutions and suggests the nexus “governance-sustained improvement in human well-being”; governance matters to explain why countries “fail to choose policies that economist argue are Pareto-improving” (North et al. 2008). However, there is no a unique theoretical pattern of good governance for SHD but a “good enough governance” (Grindle 2002) because of the different institutional contexts and resources endowments. As Sundaram and Chowdhury discuss, there is no general empirical evidence on causal relations from governance to SHD (2013); however, two governance alternative strategies for development are identified: the “market-enhancing governance” and the “growth-enhancing governance” (Kahn 2009).

SDG16 on Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda) was adopted by 193 United Nations (UN) member states in September 2015 to address the global challenges of poverty, conflict, inequality, and environmental depletion. With the definition of specific goals that refer to the most pressing issues of our world, from the access to water to hunger, education, and health for all, it provides a framework of action and monitoring of progress in terms of economic, social, and environmental development for each country. The 2030 Agenda builds on the MDGs (UN 2015), by providing a more comprehensive framework with 169 targets referred to 17 SDGs (UN General Assembly 2015). With the ultimate goals to end poverty by 2030 worldwide and pursue a sustainable future, the Agenda presents an integrated view on people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership.

In particular, the SDG16 refers to peace, justice, and good governance and institutions as crucial elements of sustainable development (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Sustainable Development Goal 16

SDG16 defines as primary goal for sustainable development to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all, and build effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions at all levels.

With the SDG16 the UN wanted to underline (i) the importance of societies free from conflict and violence to achieve sustainable development and (ii) the importance of strengthening institutions at national level on rule of law and justice for all, transparency and higher and inclusive participation and, at international level, with the participation of developing countries in the global governance.

SDG16 calls for a multidimensional plan of actions to promote peace in terms of absence of violence (negative peace, targets 16.1 and 16.2) and build and enforce good institutions for more inclusive and resilient societies, sustaining positive peace as “attitudes, institutions and structures which create and sustain peaceful societies (IEP 2016).”

Effective, accountable, and inclusive institutions are key actors for the progress of humanity as a whole and in relation with the environment. Institutions, as primary organizations of societies and “rules of the game,” matter for the capacity of the state to deliver basic services and the definition of concrete actions toward conflict prevention and long-lasting peace, resilience, and inclusion at national level.

SDG16 comprises 12 targets and 33 related indicators on direct violence, drivers of violence, governance, and justice.

The following are the SDG16 targets (Table 1):
Table 1

SDG16 targets


Significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere


End abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and all forms of violence against and torture of children


Promote the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensure equal access to justice for all


By 2030, significantly reduce illicit financial and arms flows, strengthen the recovery and return of stolen assets, and combat all forms of organized crime


Substantially reduce corruption and bribery in all their forms


Develop effective, accountable, and transparent institutions at all levels


Ensure responsive, inclusive, participatory, and representative decision-making at all levels


Broaden and strengthen the participation of developing countries in the institutions of global governance


By 2030, provide legal identity for all, including birth registration


Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements


Strengthen relevant national institutions, including through international cooperation, for building capacity at all levels, in particular in developing countries, to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime


Promote and enforce nondiscriminatory laws and policies for sustainable development

Source: UN General Assembly 2015, page 25

The systemic approach needed represents itself the intrinsic challenge for the achievement of SDG16, with actions from different institutions and stakeholders at different timing and a high degree of coordination.

Institutions at governmental level have complex and sometimes highly bureaucratized structures that do not enable the correct provision of services. The management of power in many institutions is not balanced, and it represents a brake to effective actions and participation. The principle of interconnectedness, pillar of 2030 Agenda, is translated in the SDG16 in complex relations among and within different structures of power. To this regard, it is important to underline the role at playing by politics in institutions. The strategies followed by those who dominate the political settlement in using or neglecting institutions impact greatly on development outcomes (Whaites 2016). The political willing is crucial to put in place actions toward positive change in the formal structuring of institutions and on how the institutional powers are used and managed. Politics represents another strategic challenge that might hinder or empower sustainability and the coherence necessary to implement a comprehensive SDG16 policy program. Another element for the SDG16 paradigm is the political dimension of civil society movements to pressure governments on improvements at institutional level, requesting transparency and accountability of the system and/or at policy level on actions against direct violence or drivers of violence (i.e., human trafficking and arm trade campaigns). At institutional level, progress can be monitored analyzing advancement (if any) in service delivery and performance of the civil service as a whole. To this regard, changes in the administrative process as well as improvements in the structural and technical mechanisms within the institutions are determinant to achieve the goal.

SDG16 calls therefore for an integrated approach where the political dimension might be the push factor of change in the structure, organization, and mechanisms at institutional level, being different stakeholders involved from the public and the private sector.

Technical challenges refer to the measurement of SDG16 and to the monitoring of related actions. Data availability and reliability might represent obstacles to this regard. Moreover, as underlined by IEP, many National Statistical Offices (NSOs) do not possess statistical capacity and resources necessary to measure SDG16: a strong investment is needed to develop NSOs capabilities and techniques of measurement, escaping the potential for a capability trap. Third-party organizations already active in data collection and analysis on direct violence, drivers of violence, governance, and justice might play active roles as independent verification and additional support for NSOs (e.g., Small Arms Survey, the World Justice Project, Transparency International, the Peace Research Institute Oslo, Uppsala University).


The nexus Governance–SHD represents a challenge from different points of view.

At methodological level for “reversal imperialism” and pluralism challenges, there is a need to map and define intra- and interdisciplinary perspectives that best contribute to explain the complexity of the nexus, to disentangle the relational and behavioral components of the different actors involved, according to their power position and interests, by analyzing the evolution of capabilities through intersectional inequality. Further analysis on the multi-level governance is needed to better understand the networking mechanisms, formal and informal rules of such a system embedded in specific contexts.

At policymaking level, the influence of politics on institutions and governance should be more investigated through the lenses of the normative theories of justice and well-being, ex ante in policy making design and ex post in political bargaining. Referring to the SDG16 framework, a deeper analysis and a shared knowledge on factors of negative and positive peace should be integrated in a capability approach.



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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Rosaria Garofalo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Flor Avila Hernandez
    • 2
  • Silvia Marinella Fontana
    • 3
  1. 1.University of SalernoSalernoItaly
  2. 2.Universidad Catolica de ColombiaBogotàColombia
  3. 3.University of PaduaPaduaItaly