Good Governance and Social Protection - RADAF
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Good Governance and Social Protection


Governance and social protection are key emerging issues necessary to ensure the realisation of the forth coming sustainable development agenda. While not all the millennium development targets were achieved in any country, a number of positive strides have led to an improvement in some of the MDGs country outcomes. The MDGs and most policy objectives are manifested through development interventions. Often the impact of many interventions is unknown as determining impact is costly and requires time. When interventions fail no substantial explanation of why they failed are known and often broad based reasons are cited such as lack of capacity to implement. In the case of a lack of capacity, it is important to identify what about capacity is lacking? Is it data collection skills, is it data capturing skills or is it data analysis? Social protection is the right of every human being therefore it is important to know what the efficiency, effectiveness and impact of social protection programmes are on the lives of the beneficiaries especially in countries that have been upgraded to Middle Income Status but exhibit high levels of poverty and inequality. This dualism brings with it, its own challenges. Effective targeting becomes important. This therefore leads to the crux of this essay; what does good governance mean for social protection?

Governance versus Government: Are they the same?

To understand what governance means, it is critical to first understand that governance is distinct from government. There is a vast amount of literature in the field of public administration which draws and maintains distinctions between governance and government which together refer to the various facets of public problem solving and systems for managing society as a collective organism (Newland, 2002).

Government has now come to play the leading role in executing state distribution of public goods incorporating both old-fashioned leadership perspectives, historic public administration functions with a new management style. Government has come to be viewed as an organisational unit increasingly regarded as the public problem solver when it comes especially to service delivery of basic goods and services.

Government is motivated by the collection and distribution of goods through direct or indirect methods. It is done through a hierarchal means which is heavily bureaucratised and rigid with a focus on the local and regional areas (Reddel, 2002:59). There are rules and procedures to be followed in the distribution of these goods and may outsource services and provision of goods to improve efficiency in administrative functioning (Reddel, 2002:59).

Governance then is broader and refers to the dynamic, interactive and symbiotic relationship between stakeholders who may be public, private, semi-public and religious and even international bodies (Kamarack, 2002:8). It involves partnerships formed between these stakeholders rooted in a collective action approach in resolving complex and messy public problems. It makes room for the use of new tools and embraces a global perspective. This concept of governance echoes the beliefs of the German Philosopher, Habermas who advocated for both a strong state and a strong civil society as well as increased access to decision making, informed public decisions, novel forms of participation outside the strict confines of institutions and greater freedom for citizens (Reddel, 2002:57).

Governance discards the traditional model of public management theory where systems are centrally controlled and organised in hierarchies. It looks to the establishment of networks to achieve the optimal collective outcome (Mayntz,2003). New public management and new governance demands have emphasised the need for new management skills in deciphering contemporary public problem solving.

Hence governance can be summarised as collective actions taken through a collaborative effort in a decentralized manner through public, private or multi-level transnational agents at either a regional or global level in order to distribute a good.

Public accountability in the field of governance has been a major area of concern with constant innovation in improving methods, techniques and delivery of services and goods (Haque, 2000:599). Accountability in the context of public administration refers to the lawful and hierarchical views of responsibility as well as the satisfactory use and discretion of power vested in the authorities. Accountability then raises the questions of who punishes when the individual’s management of himself conflicts with that of the state and the general rules and procedures. The public has the right to know to whom ultimately is the state and bureaucracy accountable to especially in one party democracies. Contemporary changes in governance has led to more public accountability in terms of its objectives, constructions and roles towards efficiency, outcome, customer orientation and value for money (Haque, 2000:599).

Good governance therefore becomes the mode through which government and partners operate therefore are subject to accountability by the citizens. But more specifically, what does good governance mean for social protection? How does a citizen hold anyone accountable when the lines between governance roles, responsibilities, duties and outcomes are blurred? The next section explains what social protection is and the implications of good governance thereof.

Social Protection: More than Accountability

Social protection has become a growing focus area in development policy for a number of reasons namely, increasing inequality, globalisation and the impacts of the financial crisis as well as the demographic transitions of many countries. Part of social protection’s increasing relevance stems from the realisation that it can serve as a poverty reduction tool helping people shift away from dependency to some form of productive livelihood (Devereux and Sabates-Wheeler, 2007:1). Social protection seeks to combat poverty and inequality in an effort to tackle the multiple dimensions of poverty and exclusion. Rights to elements of social protection are ensconced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and therefore governments have a duty towards rights bearers in the delivering of these rights. Therefore good governance becomes critical in the ultimate realisation of these rights by citizens.

Good governance is a key pillar to improving service delivery and outcomes of policy induced interventions. Governance is more than an anti-corruption campaign, it entails improving incentives for policy makers and provides and strengthens accountability of services to citizens (Basset, Gianozzi, Pop and Ringold, 2012:1). Secondly, governance has come forth as a critical tool in achieving the sustainable development goals. Lastly, governance is increasingly recognised as important in achieving development outcomes through instilling evidence based research, policies, and monitoring and evaluation of development interventions.

There are a number of challenges encountered in the practical application of good governance. Firstly, what necessitates good governance and keeps it good, is political will and commitment. Without the support of the ruling elite, very little can be done in terms of creating, implementing and influencing policy. Secondly, social protection programmes need to be clear and concise with respect to their roles, objectives and outcomes. Overlapping unclear programmes make it incredibly difficult to assess the impact of any one programme on the beneficiaries. In some instances, one beneficiary may even benefit from multiple programmes adding on to inefficiencies and creating an environment of dependency. Thirdly, the absence of implementation guidelines adds on to programme inefficiency as each district may freestyle implementation leading to incomparable results and varying outcomes at the local level. This makes analysis messy and very little can inform decision making on what has worked and what has not. Lastly, governance requires structures that maintain and enhance accountability of both government and development partners. However, an often missing-in-action partner is civil society and a loosely connected weak civil society is unable to hold government accountable when service delivery fails. These institutions need to remain strengthened, independent and devoted to the implementation of development interventions in a politically impartial manner. Furthermore, it is imperative that government, development partners and civil society organisations understand that there are various types of schemes and interventions within the social protection domain that have different target groups, varying outputs, outcomes and impacts on the end line beneficiaries. Therefore their understanding of this has implications for how good governance is practiced.

Some recommendations that this paper presents for good governance in social protection are as follows:

    1. Social protection programme or project guidelines or frameworks need to be developed and should inform on how a programme is to be implemented; what the roles and responsibilities of each organisation, institutions and person is and develop standardised reporting formats and data collection instruments while establishing accountability mechanisms that are transparent and effective.
    2. Ensure that regular reporting, monitoring and evaluation of social protection occurs with the results being disseminated nationally and online so that reports and data are available for analysis by the public.
    3. Development of a database of civil society organisations that are involved in social protection programmes to enhance communication and attendance and establish a platform where practical knowledge sharing at national stakeholder meetings can occur.
    4. Mechanisms for shock such as natural disasters should form part of the public policy for social protection programmes instead of assistance for merely coping afterwards.
    5. Poor implementation as a result of poor capacity should be followed up with a bottleneck analysis, or an implementation evaluation to identify and understand what exactly hinders effective and efficient implementation.
    6. If implementation is stated as a problem due to a lack of capacity, then capacity building needs to be made a priority by the government.
    7. A coherent and systematic monitoring and evaluation framework needs to be developed with clear objectives, outputs and outcomes including a concise theory of change and log frame to guide management on progress of the programme.
    8. It is crucial that impact evaluations of projects and programmes occur to demonstrate whether a particular intervention made the intended impact and if not, to identify what the unintended impacts were and why the occurred.


Governance has become increasingly important in realising effective and efficient development interventions in terms of achieving the intended objectives, outcomes and impact. Understanding the various types of social protection programmes is critical as they have different activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts on the beneficiaries and therefore has implications for how governance is practiced. There are a number of challenges in maintaining good governance namely, lack of political will and commitment, poor or over lapping implementation of programmes, lack of implementation guidelines and poor accountability at the level of government and partners. Some key recommendations include i) development of monitoring and evaluation framework and programme implementation guidelines, ii) regular reporting, monitoring and evaluation, capacity building to improve programme implementation and iv) clear and concise accountability structures and mechanisms.


Basset, L., Gianozzi, S., Pop., L and Ringold, D. 2012. Rules, Roles and Controls. Governance in Social Protection with an application to Social Assistance. World Bank.

Devereux, S. and Sabates-Wheeler, R. 2007. Editorial Introduction: Debating Social Protection. Available from: (Accessed 26 September 2015).

Haque, S.M. 2000. Significance of Accountability under the new approach to Public Governance. International Review of Administrative Sciences. 66: 599-617.

Kamarack, E.L. 2002. Applying 21st Century Government to the Challenges of Homeland Security. Available at: (Accessed 26 September 2015).

Mayntz, R. 2003. From government to governance: political steering in modern societies. Presented at the Summer Academy on IPP at Wuerzburg, September 7-11 2003. Available from: (Accessed 26 September 2015).

Newland, C. (2002). Building the Future of Local Government Politics and Administration. In H.F.J. Nalbadien (Ed.), The Future of Local Government. Washington, DC: International City/County Management Association, pp. 231-245.

Reddel, T. (2002). Beyond Participation, Hierarchies, Management& Markets: New Governance &  Place Policies. Australian Journal of Public Administration. 61: 50-63.

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