Since the early 1990s, the idea of ‘exporting democracy’ under the guise of

‘good governance’ has been the major point of reference for the work of

international agencies in developing countries. It is not limited to theory but

amounts to a major social phenomenon. In its name, thousands of people

are employed, hundreds of millions of dollars are channelled each year to

‘developing’ countries, local and international realities are transformed.

What is this governance which, since the mid-1990s, has become a central

element of political expression at international and national levels, and indeed is used to guide the functioning of authority in large companies?

Official texts at the United Nations and the World Bank, among other

international institutions, try to give it a practical definition. This suppo-

sedly new notion denotes ‘an economic, political and administrative

exercise with the aim of managing a country’s affairs at every level’ (UNDP

1998: 3) and over the last ten years a substantial corpus of guidelines

has been developed in its name by the major international development