The Effects of Good and Bad Government

Author: Clare Manuel, Director, The Law & Development Partnership

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About the images

Source: Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.
Title: Effects of good and bad government (details) from Sala dei Nove, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena.
Creator(s): Ambrogio Lorenzetti
Date: c.1337-40
Medium: Fresco

These frescos from City Hall in the city republic of Siena are all about results. They lay bare how good or bad government; justice or lack of justice impacts on the lives of citizens. The contrast is stark. Good and just government and the rule of law leads to a thriving and prosperous city, economic activity, and harmonious social relations. Siena’s citizens are free to trade, chat, work and even dance in the street. Beyond the city walls the countryside is lush and crops are harvested. The fresco depicting the effects of tyrannical corrupt government shows how, when justice is constrained, the result is rampant crime, violence and ruin.

My work is focused on supporting developing country governments often in fragile states to deliver justice systems that are accessible, affordable and fair for everyone, including the poor and marginalised. In many states where I work, justice systems date from colonial times with institutions that are typically regime-serving, rather than focused on providing safety, security and justice to citizens. The formal justice system is frequently captured by ruling elites and dominated by patronage networks. Justice dispensed at the community level may be exclusionary or discriminatory.

Focusing on end results for users of justice systems is central to what I do – helping governments to develop clear targets, results and performance indicators to measure success in their justice systems is the starting point for reform. These frescos commissioned by Siena’s governing body and prominently and permanently displayed in their central city hall, set the standard for government and justice in fourteenth century Siena. Despite violent political turbulence the public frescos are a constant and transparent reminder by government -both to itself and to citizens – of what good government and justice is all about, and the stark difference it makes to the lives of ordinary people.