Despite its rise in prominence over the past decade, the concept of governance remains rather nebulous, with both narrow or broad interpretations. A narrower definition (e.g., that of the World Bank) focuses on public administration management and institutional development, with measures concentrating on capacity building of executive institutions. A broad concept places greater emphasis on normative dimensions, that is the openness, accountability and transparency of government institutions, with a clear resonance with democratic principles and practices. Additionally, a broader approach entails not only encouraging reform within executive institutions, but also strengthening external mechanisms of executive accountability, including outside of state-related institutions, that is the arena of civil society.

The Working Group does not want to be restrictive in its interpretation of governance and it is this broad concept of governance that constitutes the subject area of the group, with attention given to both theoretical and policy issues. The Group also encourages a comparative dimension, investigating governance reforms in different regions of the world, focusing on both developing and transition countries.