Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending, and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct. It comes from the Greek word ethos, which means “character“.
Governance is the act of governing. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes. These processes and systems are typically administered by a government. When discussing governance in particular institutions, the quality of governance within the institutions is often compared to a standard of good governance.
Ethical governance is, in short, anti-corruption whereas authority and its institutions are accountable, effective and efficient, participatory, transparent, responsive, consensus-oriented, and equitable. These are the major characteristics of good governance.
To distinguish the term governance from government: “governance” is what a “government” does. It might be a geo-political government (nation-state), a corporate government (business entity), a socio-political government (tribe, family etc.), or any number of different kinds of government, but governance is the physical exercise of management power and policy, while government is the instrument (usually collective) that does it.
Necessities for ethical governance
Governance policies at all times are subject to change and revision due to various external factors, including regulatory, environmental or social demand. One of the biggest challenges comes from globalization. As such, governance policies are confronted with different standards of values and practices.
In view of a growing string of failures of dubious governance ethics, a growing number of people have woken to the necessity of ethical leadership. Nevertheless, ethical leadership is not merely a necessity, it is now an opportunity – a source of innovative advantage for communities and a tool with which to add sustainable social value.
This is why ethical leadership is a necessity. Only if governance provides clear, unequivocal policies and controls good practice can be ensured. By seizing on ethical governance policies as an opportunity, a community enhances its sustainability as well as inspire and generate confidence in individuals at all levels of its society.
Ethical governance is integral to sustainable growth, stopping financial reliance and meltdowns causing economic degradation. The eradication of poverty and income inequalities and also to achieve high standards of ethical conduct, in the areas of human rights, labor environment and anti-corruption are other areas of fundamental importance to ethical governance.
Ethical governance is not without its challenges. Ethics are often highly personal. Nor can ethics be instilled in an organization or community overnight.
How does that work
Ethics require habit, and proper regulations. Education and communication must be further enhanced, ethical issues must find and gain support at a personal level as in the society, and finally there must be proper motivation and recognition given for those wishing to pursue ethics.
For ethical governance to succeed in both theory and practice, there must be transparency, openness in information flow, degree of congruence in communication. Although widespread information flow and accessibility could remain a barrier for many, one of the ways to overcome, is through effective use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and the implementation of e-governance.
Exercising power and decision-making policies need to be clearly communicated and aligned with the responsibilities and concerns for this group, it is necessary to crystallize what is otherwise an ambiguous, intangible subject to enable securing the well-being of the community.
Ethics and therefore morality generally result from an individual’s own moral standards in the context of the political and cultural environment in which the community is operating.
There is a whole separate debate, of course, on which macro systems works best to deliver good ethics and governance for communities – especially currently after what some would argue as the failure of the (so called) capitalist model (regardless of your views it is clearly undergoing a most significant trauma).
That is beyond the scope of this article, though, where we focus on value of ethical governance, extrapolating on the various elements implied therein and welcoming you to the debate.
To quote Lord Moulton, covernmental ethics are “obedience to the unenforceable”.
Think about that for a while!