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Guiding Good Governance in Macedonia

The concept of good governance stretches beyond the mere prevention of corruption. Instead, good governance is defined by policy development that considers a variety of voices, is efficient and responds to citizens in a transparent and accountable way.

This is in addition to the central principle that governments must follow the rule of law. Democratic governments which enjoy stability, legitimacy and domestic support possess these principles of good governance. However, institutionalizing good governance practices in developing democracies is a common challenge across countries. While a patchwork of laws and codes regulating the duties and responsibilities of public officials may technically be in place, they are often insufficient in their scope and enforcement.

Such was the case in Macedonia, where although an ethical code existed, it was limited in scope, lacked enforcement mechanisms and was largely overlooked, ignored or forgotten by both the officials and the public. While it provided answers to some questions of ethics, broader principles of good governance remained undefined. The lack of a strong code and limited guidelines left officials without clear instructions and guides on how to govern and conduct themselves once in office. In their decision-making and in the management of others, officials had limited knowledge and resources to structure governing and ethical behavior. As a result, government members were vulnerable to straying from the principles of good governance, such as accountability, transparency and inclusivity. In contrast to good governance principles, the 2006-2016 government descended into a political crisis fueled by allegations of corruption.

Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s government came to power in 2017 and pledged a reform agenda. Zaev took the first step to adopt a strategy on good governance in the government’s reform agenda. However, the adoption of the document subsequently fell out of the government’s focus. In response, IRI successfully urged the Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) to include the adoption of good governance guidelines in their Plan 3-6-9+ reform agenda in September 2017.  

With funding from USAID, IRI conducted a “Comparative Review of Codes of Conduct and Governance for Elected and Appointed Officials.” This review guided MISA’s development of Macedonia’s guidelines by describing the elements of codes of conduct utilized by advanced democracies. IRI worked directly with MISA to draft Macedonia’s own good governance guidelines. Representatives of the government and non-governmental experts both had opportunities to input their knowledge and firsthand experience during the development process.  

The Government of Macedonia termed the complete document, “Good Governance Guidelines for Elected and Appointed Persons in the Executive Branch,” and adopted the Guidelines during its 61st session on March 27, 2018.

With the adoption of the Guidelines, Macedonia now has a comprehensive code of conduct to guide behavior and institute good governance in the highest levels of government. The Good Governance Guidelines also now provide the resources necessary for effective monitoring and enforcement of behavior. This will not only improve the governing, functioning and ethics of the Government of Macedonia, but will also increase citizen confidence in the democratic integrity of their government. This increased citizen confidence will encourage stability and democracy in a region of the world characterized by the fragility of both concepts. While IRI recognizes this as significant progress for the Government of Macedonia, it will continue to work under its current USAID program to improve the Government’s ability to deliver on promises of reform.