The one thousand two hundred seminars and workshops organised at the World Social Forum of Mumbai at the initiative of a very large number of movements from India, Asia and other continents give a very clear idea of the topics that concern them.
A keyword has been linked to each of these initiatives and the analysis of all of these keywords show that three of them appear more often than the others:
globalisation and world governance;
citizenship and the exercise of citizenship;
management and control of natural resources.
It is striking to see that these three keywords refer to three key aspects of governance: the first concerns the need to create international regulations that match the level of interdependency between our societies; the second shows that the installation of democratic systems does not respond to the issue of citizenship, that is to say the question of how and under what conditions, with respect to the problems facing the world, each of us can express themselves in actions and words in the affairs that affect us all; the third emphasises the management of relations between humankind and the biosphere and on the need to reflect on this management with the people themselves, at both local and global levels.
The concept of governance at stake in these three topics has nothing to do with the notion of “good governance” popularised by the World Bank. The frequency of these three words shows that henceforth the first priority of the WSF is to speak of governance and make proposals in this direction.
Governance is a wide concept that covers all the regulations that govern the political, legal, social and cultural aspects of society in order to ensure sustainable peace, social cohesion and global development compatible with the constraints, especially ecological, that confront us. Thus it is a wide and all-encompassing concept.
What is more, it is not a new issue. The question of governance and its objectives are age-old and refer us to the eternal goal of creating the conditions by which peace, happiness and fulfilment can exist in society. Isn’t this the eternal question that has eluded man from the beginning? The notion encompasses and goes beyond concepts such as local authority, the state, government, politics, democracy and administration.
The issue of governance is present everywhere, for example, in Brazil with the accession of President Lula. His effective margins of manoeuvre in terms of economic policy are more limited than it seems, as Brazil is part of the global market and needs international loans to continue its development. Consequently, his real margin of manoeuvre is to manage the country’s affairs otherwise and thus rely on governance.
Take the example of France. It has one of the oldest, best trained and respected administrations, but confronted by the new challenges of society and globalisation, it is incapable of responding adequately, thus requiring a complete overhaul in the way government operates. Thus France has difficulty in carrying out such reforms as it does not know on what bases they should be founded.
So what can be said of Africa in this case! Sovereignty in many African countries is an illusion. Most government institutions have been inherited from the colonial past and have little in common with the people they govern. Governance must be reforged so that its legitimacy is restored in the eyes of the people.
China, too, is in obvious need of reform. The party and the administration exercise total control over society though it is gradually becoming emancipated. The need for more autonomy at local level is apparent, though the question remains as to how to go about radically changing governance?
Let us now turn to the issue of globalisation. The interdependency between the different societies around the world has become irreversible. However, it would be both illusory and dangerous to consider the world as a saleable good and believe that everything can be settled by market forces. We must invent world governance that is legitimate, democratic and efficient, though this is not the case with the current UN organisations that are still functioning under the same system that predominated after World War II.
And what about the challenges facing the European Union, now in the process of welcoming ten new members from central and eastern Europe. The EU has now become an incredible patchwork of countries and situations with different administrative and political traditions.
Institutions must be invented that are capable of harmonising diversity while laying the foundations for unity. The crisis affecting Europe, whose governments are as yet unable to agree on a common constitution, brings to light the deeper problem of conceiving governance adapted to the 21st century together.
Account must also be taken of the trend for decentralisation. Nearly every country is undergoing a process of decentralisation, with local authorities seeking increased autonomy. For all this, could it be said that decentralisation is the response to all our ills? The answer, quite obviously, is no, since societies risk sacrificing their internal social cohesion in return for increased local freedom and autonomy. Here again, new methods of combining unity with diversity must be invented.
The administrations of our large cities are confronted by the same challenge, since they are often divided into several local authorities that find it hard to cooperate with each other to manage problems common to the entire city. Must we give in to this fragmentation, or place all powers in the hands of a metropolitan authority and disappoint the different aspirations of the population, or must we once again attempt to combine unity with diversity?
The example of India is particularly interesting regarding this. The reform of Penchayat has made it possible to recreate healthy grassroots communities, though how many administrative and political levels must one pass through between these communities and an approach capable of encompassing this sub-continent?
Let us look at the dilemmas of our current international institutions. How is it possible to reconcile the management of the environment with that of trade? If the World Trade Organisation only busies itself with trade, it risks being indifferent to the impact of trade liberalisation on nature and the environment. On the other hand, if the World Trade Organisation, whose role is to develop world trade, attempts to incorporate the environment in its responsibilities, the risk is that it will do so as a function of its own concepts and criteria, transforming even further nature and the environment into saleable goods. Since neither of these solutions is satisfactory, we have to go further towards a vast reform of world governance that will define common objectives for all the specialised international institutions.
Lastly, the most recent example is that of the World Summit on the Information Society that took place at Geneva in December 2003. How can international regulations be set up that are capable of preventing this new area undergoing dynamic development from being treated just like any other market? How can the rationale of the information society be given greater importance than that of producing wheat and cars? What should be done? Should we accept the monopoly of Microsoft? Should national regulations be joined end to end to impose control? Should civil society be a partner in negotiations? And which civil society and who should it represent?
All these situations and apparently diverse questions bring us back to the issue of governance. Thus we discover the gulf between the need for a genuine revolution of governance, especially world governance, and the concepts, methods, and institutions of governance inherited from the past.
The work I have done in these fields over the last thirty years in different countries and at every level of governance, from local to global, has led me to define the foundations for a revolution of governance.
In this introduction I shall sum them up in three theses:
first thesis: the comparison of problems of governance at different scales and contexts demonstrates that a small number of general principles of governance exist applicable to all these scales and every context;
second thesis: the central challenge of governance is to manage relations: between human beings, between societies, between humankind and the biosphere, between levels of governance, between actors, and between problems. The reason why the parallels between the resent crises of governance, our systems of development and education, and our methods of research are so evident is that they all have great difficulties in placing the management of relations at the heart of their concerns. Thus the principles of governance are all involved in one way or another with the management of relations;
third thesis: governance and ethics are inseparable. The ethics of the future are precisely the ethics of a relation. Rather than being the addition of categorical moral precepts, it is the art of choosing and managing the relations between apparently contradictory principles. An even finer analysis shows that each ethical principle corresponds to a principle of governance.
These three theses give rise to three imperatives:
first imperative: develop international dialogue on governance so that the experiences of some strengthen those of others and ensure that the comparison of progress and difficulties in each context constantly reinforce common principles;
second imperative: contribute towards the emergence of a world community since, confronted by increasing interdependence at global level, we are not equipped with a political community capable of managing them;
third imperative: together formulate the foundations of legitimate, democratic and efficient world government and implement a determined strategy to reform world governance while there’s still time.
2. The closing speech of the seminar
On the basis of the speeches made by the different persons present, I would like to emphasise a few common principles for the revolution of governance.
Firstly, several speeches dealt with an essential issue: that of reconciling unity and diversity. The art of governance is not to choose more unity or more diversity, but to achieve both of each at the same time.
Constant hesitation between bottom-up, local to national and even global approaches clearly demonstrate this. In the first case, we start from the diversity of situations and gradually attempt to manage interdependencies; in the second case, we start from a global situation to define problems of national policies adapted to local level as a function of context. However, Wang Yi’s speech on natural resources clearly pointed out that efficient balances are not possible if we only seek to distribute different environmental management competencies between different administrative levels. As in the example of major catchment areas, we constantly come up against insufficient integration of policies, or insufficient consideration of diverse situations or insufficient linking together of the actors needed to manage these resources, apart from those involved at administrative level.
Breaking through this dilemma requires that we raise the initial question differently: we should no longer ask how we can distribute competencies between the different levels but how we can get the different levels to cooperate with each other. This is what I call the principle of active subsidiarity in my book “Fragmented Democracy”.
This was followed by several questions related to institutional engineering. How is it possible to design decision-making mechanisms capable of taking into account the different aspects of problems and different actors? This question was raised by Wang Yi and also, in another way by Gustavo Marin, when he questioned the capacity of civil society to provide coherent answers to complex problems. These difficulties can only be solved by changing our definition of politics.
Politicians are faced less and less with having to choose between alternative solutions. On the contrary, the real problem is to get the different actors to cooperate in inventing satisfactory solutions. The function of politics therefore becomes more that of organising the process of formulating shared objectives and values so as to achieve cooperation between the different actors involved. Up to now our democracies have above all placed emphasis on the rules of decision-making, whereas we should place emphasis on seeking convergence and building consensus.
Political debate in the West is a kind of theatrical stage on which divergences are played out, sometimes by placing emphasis in a caricatural way on the differences between programmes and policies whose real differences are minimal. On the contrary, we should recognise that the primordial challenge facing the world today is that of forging the conditions by which we can live together on a global scale. This is what we have done in the Alliance for a responsible, plural and united world, by organising the World Citizens Assembly in December 2001. The aim of this assembly and the method used sought to identify the elements for a common agenda on the basis of the extraordinary diversity of contexts and socioprofessional milieus.
The subject of the debate, introduced in Wang Yi’s exposé, was that of the partnership between all the actors. The problems of present day societies cannot be solved by purely administrative policies and by the rigid separation of actions taken by public and private actors. This partnership cannot result simply from goodwill or from this or that person. Genuine partnership demands that rules be set out and that these rules be formulated jointly by the different actors. Moreover, it is through the emergence of these rules of partnership that local communities can become effective actors in their development.
I recently spoke at an international symposium called “The region as actor in globalisation” and was led to saying, “nobody is born an actor, they become one”. A local community creates its own capacity to act on its destiny by developing relations between its different sectors.
It becomes a global actor by setting up rules of partnership. This leads to reinventing the concept of local territory in a globalised world. The territory can be defined initially as a system of relations: it is not a geographic area or an administrative entity, it is above all the links that the actors are capable of developing between themselves and the outside world.
The example of food security, mentioned by Pierre Vuarin, raises another very interesting question. On the one hand, the demand for food security asserts the right of peoples to feed themselves and thus develop local exchange systems, with a certain amount of freedom of choice and protection vis-à-vis the international trade system. However, at the same time, the development of international trade in agriculture and food cannot be reversed and in truth constitutes another condition of food security.
It is therefore necessary to innovate boldly and imagine a principle of active subsidiarity applicable to the economy in which the rules governing the links between the different levels of trade are defined. We are bound to admit that we have not yet built the conceptual system for achieving this goal and until we do so, speeches on food security and the right of peoples to feed themselves will remain little more than incantations.
Lastly, I would like to capture the revolution of governance in just one sentence.
Traditional governance privileged three dimensions: the setting up of institutions, especially those devoted to public management; the strict distribution of competencies between these institutions; the declaration of uniform rules supposed to guarantee equality between citizens before the law, equal conditions of competition, etc. The governance of tomorrow will privilege three other dimensions: the formulation of common goals, setting out the reasons for living together and the problems to be solved; the declaration of ethical principles defining the rules of the game and the relations between the actors; and the setting up of working processes to formulate joint solutions, the identification of convergences and areas of consensus, and the formulation of strategies.