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Good Governance and Sustainable Development


Dr Maria Gavris

Module Leader

Term 2
10 weeks
9 lectures, 10 seminars
Not available to students outside the School for Cross-Faculty Studies

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The information on this page relates to the 2021-22 academic year

What makes governance 'good'? What are the factors that inhibit good governance? What institutional changes are required (at the local, national, regional, global systemic level) to achieve sustainable development? What is governance for?

These are the Big Questions that will be addressed as part of this module, in an interdisciplinary context. The module explores neoliberal restructuring as the mainstream on development governance, and alternatives to it (Keynesian global governance proposals, the debate between green growth and de-growth proponents) ; the multidimensional nature of governance (local, national, multilevel, global governance); different perspectives on the role of institutions in development, on why institutions and governance mechanisms differ across countries and on possibilities for institutional change.

As such, the module is directly linked to SDG16: ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’, which refers to the need to develop effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels, to ensure participatory decision-making, and to strengthen global governance - but governance as a theme is more broadly relevant to all SDGs.

Principal Aims

This module aims to explore Good Governance as a necessary fourth pillar of Sustainable Development. The module focuses on institutions as the basis for good governance, as well as on the power relations in which institutions sit and are constituted by, and the challenges these pose for sustainable development, at different levels.

Principal Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to:

  • Apply key concepts related to the theme of good governance (e.g. 'government' vs 'governance’; ‘multilevel governance’; ‘participatory decision-making’; ‘institutional path dependence’ etc.)
  • Distinguish between, and critically assess, different theoretical perspectives on governance, the role of institutions in sustainable development, and possibilities for institutional change.
  • Analyse the power relations at the heart of the global system and the challenges they pose for development governance.
  • Engage in debates on the complex issue of what constitutes good governance and on governance reform proposals at the national and global levels.
  • Carry out independent research.
  • Communicate effectively both verbally and in writing


The module starts with a historical overview of the shift from 'government' to governance, before considering the legal, public sector management, sociological, politico-economic, international relations and environmental dimensions of governance via case studies from around the world. The final session will consider the normative dimension implied by the concept of 'good governance', by focusing on the philosophy of what makes governance good.

Introduction: from 'government' to 'governance' - the retreat of the state?

Law, public sector management and governance: the case of labour rights, labour administration and labour institutions

Neoliberal development governance as the mainstream on development

Alternatives to neoliberal development governance: Keynesian global governance proposals; green growth versus prosperity without growth

Why does governance differ across countries? Institutionalist perspectives

Global and regional hegemony as governance issues

Supranational, multilevel governance

Local governance: Place-based approaches to natural resource management

What makes governance 'good'? A philosophical approach

Guidance on writing a critical review on governance