Promoting good governance

Good governance, the competent management of a country’s
resources, cannot be taken for granted. It has to be based on a solid and
reliable framework of laws and regulations and on a system that ensures the
enforcement of those rules.

Good governance concerns more than just the government.
Governments, good or bad, come and go.

Governance, in contrast, encompasses the
process of decision making and how these decisions are implemented.

governments are an essential part, they are not the only actors in governance,
as other participants such as non-governmental organisations, religious
leaders, business leaders, international organisations and others can all have
an impact on government decision making.

The promotion of good governance is important because
governance of a high quality not only leads to more trust by citizens in
government institutions and fosters social cohesion; it also instils more
confidence in investors, both domestic and foreign, and thereby encourages
investment and economic growth.

The United Nations has therefore identified good governance
as one of the prerequisites for sustainable development, as its processes and
structures guide all aspects of socio-economic and political life.

Good governance in Cayman 

In the Cayman Islands the issue of governance is addressed
by Cayman’s Constitution, which assigns the governor the function of “promoting
good governance” in article 31 (3). One of the means provided to the governor
to ensure that standards are being maintained is, for instance, the ability to
appoint commissions, such as a Commission of Enquiry.

Under the heading ‘Institutions supporting democracy’ the
Constitution dedicates a whole section (part VIII) to commissions and other bodies
that are tasked with promoting democracy and good governance and ensuring that
there is sufficient oversight of the public sector.

In addition to concepts and institutions that already
existed before the Constitution was adopted in 2009, such as the register of
interest, the Freedom of Information Law and the Complaints Commission, part
VIII of the Constitution created four commissions, the Human Rights Commission,
the Constitutional Commission, the Commission for Standards in Public Life and
the Judicial and Legal Services Commission, as well as advisory district

While the Human Rights Commission is designed to uphold the
rights and freedoms included in the human rights section of the constitution,
which will come into effect in November 2012, the primary responsibility of the
Commission for Standards in Public Life is to promote and monitor “the highest
standards of integrity and competence in public life to ensure the prevention
of corruption or conflicts of interest”.

This includes monitoring the ethical
conduct of members of the Legislative Assembly, the Cabinet, public authorities
and all other public officers.

The Constitutional Commission meanwhile advises government
on questions of constitutional status and the development of the constitution
and promotes general awareness and the understanding of its values.

There are many mechanisms to improve governance, says
Constitutional Commissioner Wil Pineau, for example proper financial
management, openness and transparency, and freedom of information.

Good governance is one of the central underpinnings of the
Constitution, he says, but ensuring it depends further on the effective
interplay between the rules and institutions established by the Constitution.
This interaction needs to be monitored and if necessary reassessed.

Before the Constitution came into force, the objective of
good governance was already a central part of the relationship between the UK
and the Overseas Territories as set out in a 1999 White Paper. The key aspects
of what constitutes good governance were agreed by the Overseas Territories
Consultative Council Meeting in London on 21-22 November, 2006, in a document
that outlines the different elements that come into play and is based on
principles developed by the United Nations Development Programme.   

The key principles of good governance 

Governance of a high quality can generally be assessed by
the presence of a number of core elements, such as accountability,
transparency, efficiency, responsibility and the rule of law.

  • Rule of
    law – Good governance is not possible without a legal framework that is fair
    and enforced impartially. This includes the full protection of human rights,
    specifically the rights of people belonging to minorities.
    To enforce the law
    impartially an independent judiciary is needed as much as a police force that
    treats all people equally and without favour. In addition the good governance
    white paper also mentions that the public service should be free from political


  • Transparency
    – Decisions by the executive and legislative should be taken and implemented in
    line with defined rules and regulations. Transparency therefore also requires
    that, subject to certain limited exceptions, information must be freely
    available and accessible to those, who are concerned by these decisions and
    their implementation.
    It also requires the
    provision of an appropriate level of information, in an easily understandable
    form, by government and the public service to the public and media, the white
    paper says.
    In Cayman the Freedom of
    Information Law aims to implement the principle of transparency and the
    Information Commissioner is given the powers to ensure compliance with the law.


  • Accountability
    – Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society
    organisations are accountable to the public and institutional stakeholders. The
    idea is that each organisation or institution should be accountable to those
    who are affected by its decisions or actions.
    Accountability means in
    practice that institutions are subject to checks and balances, by the
    legislature, committees of legislators and other appropriate bodies. In Cayman
    this would include for example the above mentioned bodies and institutions
    created by the Constitution and the office of the auditor general as far as
    government’s financial management is concerned.
    Accountability further
    requires an independent and free media, able to operate without political
    interference and non-governmental organisations, advocating and defending the
    rights of individual interest groups.
    To build confidence in a
    functioning governance system, an important element of accountability is also
    that institutions are accessible.
    Most importantly, the rule
    of law, transparency and accountability are closely related. Each one cannot be
    established without the other two.


  • Responsiveness
    – Responsiveness essentially means that institutions and processes try to serve
    all stakeholders within a reasonable time frame, according to defined


  • Equity – All
    members of society should have equal opportunity to improve their well-being
    and have equal access to government institutions and its services.


  • Consensus
    orientation – Good governance mediates differing interests to reach a broad
    consensus on what is in the best interests of society as a whole. It requires
    that the views including those of minorities are taken into consideration.


  • Effectiveness
    and efficiency – It is important that processes and institutions actually
    produce results that are meeting the needs of society as a whole. At the same
    time, these results should be achieved by making the best use of available
    This concerns financial
    management as much as the sensible use of natural resources and the protection
    of the environment.


  • Strategic
    vision – In order to make effective use of resources, political decisions must
    be taken with the long-term interests of society in mind, based on current and
    future needs.


Both the UK-Overseas
Territories White Paper and the United Nations Development Programme
acknowledge that no country meets all these criteria, but insist it is
something that all countries should strive to achieve. In the Cayman Islands;
therefore, improving governance will be a constant process. However, the
adoption of Cayman’s Constitution has provided the direction that this process
will take for some time to come.