Australia's governance aid: Evaluating evolving norms and objectives

Local government Australia

'Good governance' – the current buzzword of the international development community, despite its elusiveness – promises prosperity and democratic justice for all citizens of the world. Good governance commonly espouses the efficient management of a country’s institutions and social and economic resources in an open, accountable manner. Upon its emergence as the prevailing developmental paradigm in the early 1990s, Australia’s official aid agency, AusAID immediately caught the good governance wave. Initially a peripheral concern for AusAID, the governance agenda had, by the mid-1990s come to dominate the character and objectives of the Australian aid program – with a decidedly greater emphasis on democratic governance. The promotion of 'good governance' in developing countries – with the pursuit of open trade – is declared by AusAID as the ticket to poverty reduction. This paper aims to deconstruct the Australian approach to promoting 'good governance' with a view to answering four key questions: (1) What does the elusive concept of ‘good governance’ mean in the context of development theory and practice? (2) How did this concept evolve and become institutionalised as a core objective of AusAID’s work? (3) How does Australia’s conception of 'good governance' facilitate the pursuit of national interest? (4) To what extent does AusAID’s foreign policy-focused conception of governance conflict with a more developmentally-focused conception of governance?

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