10/19/2013 10:56 am ET Updated Dec 19, 2013

Good Governance Built to Last

As I reflect on the latest Ibrahim Index of African Government (IIAG), announced last Monday, and look forward to the African Governance Weekend in early November in Addis Ababa, it is a good time to question what more can be done to improve governance.

The 2013 IIAG demonstrated that African governments have made progress in many areas; 94 percent of the continent's population now lives in countries where governance has improved. There is still progress to be made, which is why the Ibrahim Prize for Excellence in African Leadership was left vacant for the fourth time in seven years. There are good people who have recently come to office and it will take time to see the evidence of their strong and successful leadership.

Over the past year I have been involved with the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, a group of international leaders working to identify how progress can be delivered on critical global challenges such as climate change, reducing economic inequality and providing employment for young people.

Governance has been at the heart of the work of the Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations and is a clear focus in its report, Now for the Long Term. We need governance to ensure that resources are well-managed, growth is sustainable and that poverty can be reduced.

The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators have revealed a "development dividend" from improved government, dispelling the myth that anti-corruption and good governance efforts are overrated. The 2013 Resource Governance Index, which measures accountability and transparency in the oil, gas and mining sectors of 58 countries, reveals that 80 per cent of those countries fail to achieve good governance in those sectors. This matters because if poorly governed, national resources can be a curse, delivering wealth into the hands of the few at the expense of the many.

Sadly, in many countries the benefits of resources 'windfalls' are failing to be delivered; education, health and economic opportunities do not always follow from rich natural resources. Goals and prizes can play an important role, as they promote best practice and set clear targets. The Ibrahim Index of African Governance not only serves as a yardstick for governments, citizens, businesses and other institutions to measure different countries' progress. It also acts as a "governing tool" that can assist African governments to drive key policy priorities. Similarly, the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report ranks countries based on a comprehensive assessment of national competition worldwide, looking at the drivers of productivity and prosperity.

Based on its extensive analysis of governance structures, measures and capacity-building approaches, Now for the Long Term recommends the creation of an index focused on long-term impact. This Index would rate the effectiveness of leaders of countries, companies and international organizations in addressing longer-term challenges. It would highlight the importance of infrastructure and decision-making processes that enhance long-term resilience. A small, manageable number of indicators and a select group of countries, companies and organisations would be included in the first instance to test and develop the Index.

Ultimately, a strong civil society is the best way to hold governments and leaders to account most effectively and there is much to be achieved through technology. Given the exponential rise in the use of mobile phones and social media, there is much to leverage when it comes to transparency and accountability within governments and community organizations. New social media platforms that engage, empower, alert and amplify voices outside of traditional power circles, might help to reach audiences by making information available in as many formats and platforms as possible. More ambitiously, technology can be used to increase civic engagement in policy development, enabling a more inclusive and empowered society.

Now for the Long Term and its recommendations are a starting point, an agenda for the long term. Much and sustained work will be needed to carry the recommendations forward. This is vital work if we want to create a prosperous, secure and inclusive future.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations, in conjunction with the release of the latter's report Now for the Long Term, published by the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford. The report's recommendations aim to break the gridlock that undermines attempts to address the world's biggest challenges; to bridge the gap between knowledge and action; and to redress the balance between short-term political pressures and a need to secure a sustainable, inclusive and resilient future. To see all the posts in the series, click here. For more information on the report, click here.