International standards for good governance

The interconnection between good governance, human rights and sustainable development has been made directly or indirectly by the international community in a number of declarations and other global conference documents.

For example, the Declaration on the Right to Development proclaims that every human person and all peoples "are entitled to participate in, contribute to, and enjoy economic, social, cultural and political development" (article 1).

SDG 16 encapsulates the essence of "good governance". It recognises the importance of the rule of law, controlling corruption, participation, effective, accountable and transparent institutions, access to information and the protection of fundamental freedoms.

The concept of good governance in the main international human rights instruments

Title Year
Universal Declaration of Human Rights1948
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)1966
International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)1966
UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights2011
United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)2003
UNODC Compendium of international legal instruments on corruption2005
OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises2011
UN Global Compact's Ten Principles2000

From a human rights perspective, the concept of good governance can be linked to principles and rights set out in the main international human rights instruments above.

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the importance of a participatory government and article 28 states that everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in the Declaration can be fully realised.

The two International Covenants on Human Rights contain language that is more specific about the duties and role of governments in securing the respect for and realisation of all human rights.

Article 2 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights requires states parties to respect and to ensure the rights recognised in the Covenant and to take the necessary steps to give effect to those rights. In particular, states should provide an effective remedy to individuals when their rights are violated, and provide a fair and effective judicial or administrative mechanism for the determination of individual rights or the violation thereof.

Under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, states are obliged to take steps with a view to achieving progressively the full realisation of the rights recognised in the Covenant by all appropriate means.

The human rights treaty monitoring bodies have given some attention to the different elements of good governance. In general comment No. 12, on the right to food, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights stated that "Good governance is essential to the realisation of all human rights, including the elimination of poverty and ensuring a satisfactory livelihood for all."

The Committee on the Rights of the Child has on several occasions addressed the issue of governments' capacity to coordinate policies for the benefit of the child and the issue of decentralisation of services and policy-making. It has also addressed corruption as a major obstacle to the achievement of the Convention's objectives.

The Human Rights Committee generally addresses issues related to the provision of adequate remedies, due process and fair trial in the context of the administration of justice in each state. It regularly emphasises the importance of independent and competent judges for the adequate protection of the rights set forth in the Convention.