By Dana-Marie Seepersad
Governance is a popular term used in many circles. We often hear discussions by scholars on the issue of "good governance." More recently, we hear the talk of "global governance" building momentum daily. What is governance? How do we wrap our heads around this very interesting and highly crucial concept?
When we consider governance, we immediately think of rules, ethics, and procedures, actions, entities, states and international organizations. Our world is now dependent on intergovernmental organizations, as well as nongovernmental organizations. This has created a demand for a global network of governance. This occurrence is accompanied by confusion surrounding the authority and transparency of NGOs and their relations with our world. Yet still, NGOs are significant players in deciding and implementing policy around our world.
What then is the contribution of NGOs to governance? NGOs can be seen as representatives of the general public. To this end, they are committed to advising, implementing as well as partnering with civil society, in order to keep in check, global enterprises such as multinational corporations and governmental organizations. In so doing, they gain significant power and influence and hence, guide the process of governance. This therefore explains some of the popular names they are referred too: watchdogs, implementers, voice of the people, grassroots organizations, civil society.
Governance is defined by the World Bank as the way "power is exercised through a country's economic, political and social institutions." They go on to classify good governance as "participatory, transparent, accountable, effective and equitable." The World Health Organization tells us that global governance "refers to the way in which global affairs are managed." This involves a number of actors such as international organizations, states and regional organizations. It is therefore an international process, backed by globalization and neo-liberal ideology.
There is no doubt that NGOs have gained importance around our world. Despite the many conflicts surrounding NGOs regarding power and corruption, NGOs act as a bridge between two important sections of our society; transforming and developing. There is a vibrant future for NGOs, but what is that future? This future is defined by their relationship with the State.
The NGO-State relationship should not be handled as a power struggle between sovereignty and international diplomacy. Instead, Mark Bevir in his work “Democratic Governance” outlines new theories on governance and demonstrates how they have displaced traditional forms of government worldwide. In his analysis, Bevir examines concepts such as constitutional reform, judicial reform, joined-up government, and police reform. He ultimately concludes that in order for democracy to flourish, interpretive styles of expertise, dialogic forms of policymaking, and more diverse avenues for public participation, is vital.
In his article “Democratic Governance and Discursive Democracy,” B. Joon Kim maintained that governance as a concept can only augment the future of public administration by promoting the role of civil society. He holds the view that governance can significantly enhance public administration by employing a dialectic approach. This approach combines the benefits from positivistic and anti-positivistic views of public administration. This further ensures a form of balance for the diversities in public administration around our rapidly changing world.
Policy-making relies on a diverse set of actors because the issues affecting our world are becoming more complex and multi-faceted. Our world is more interactive and influential than ever before. We must promote the needs and demands of the various groups in our world, understanding that each group is unique and has different policy goals, perceptions and priorities. To achieve this, Bates maintains that we must cultivate strategic interactions to deliver policy benefits to these groups. The presence and work of NGOs and civil society, demonstrates the strides we are making toward democratic governance. This is undeniable. Bates advances a "policy network" as an open and flexible system of relationships that links a variety of actors representing independent bodies for collective action. This will allow for collaboration, competition and interaction in creating policies.
Evidently, there have been major changes in how we perceive governance, due to the growing number of policy actors and advocates. Today, there are more organizations engaging in policy-making, both directly and indirectly. This has dramatically restructured the old and created new policies. It is agreed that political systems alone, are unable to deal with all issues affecting our world. They are far too many and too varied. As a solution, we must work alongside and not against these actors, in order to achieve results and ensure that democracy prevails. This is the new face of governance.
Dana-Marie Seepersad is a PhD candidate in the field of Public Policy and Administration. She has a Masters in International Relations and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Literature. Dana-Marie is a teacher at the University of the West Indies, Open Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. She is also published writer and her work is centered on addressing global issues.