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The “Good Governance” Agenda and its Discontents Implications for Political Voice Alina Rocha Menocal Presentation prepared for the “Governance, Accountability.

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Presentation on theme: "The “Good Governance” Agenda and its Discontents Implications for Political Voice Alina Rocha Menocal Presentation prepared for the “Governance, Accountability."— Presentation transcript:

1 The “Good Governance” Agenda and its Discontents Implications for Political Voice Alina Rocha Menocal Presentation prepared for the “Governance, Accountability and Citizen Empowerment” Learning Workshop Session 1: Bringing Politics Back In Dublin, 11 June 2014

2 Outline Defining Governance Understanding the “Good Governance” agenda Have “Good Governance” programmes worked? “Good Governance” agenda: challenges and limitations Voice & Accountability: bring politics back in Key implications and principles for engagement Challenges to donor uptake 2

3 Defining Governance Governance means more than just ‘government’ It has to do with the nature of relations between state and society It is also process-oriented – how not just what is done 3

4 Defining Governance Based on the above, governance can be understood as: The rules that regulate the public realm – the space where state as well as economic and societal actors interact to make decisions and the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, through which public authority is exercised 4

5 “Good Governance” agenda Term emerged in 1990s from growing concerns about governance “Good Governance” defined as essential to promote development, build capacity, and combat poverty (e.g. UN, Commission for Africa, DFID, World Bank, Commonwealth Secretariat, etc.) Concept of “good governance” is broad but there is agreement on several key principles 5

6 “Good Governance” agenda  Participation and inclusiveness: involvement and ownership by a broad range of stakeholders  Accountability: decision-makers responsible for their actions; checks and balances in place; etc.  Respect for institutions and laws: rules apply equally to everyone in society; corruption is controlled; etc.

7  Effectiveness: performing key functions and delivering basic services  Transparency: clarity and openness of decision- making  Efficiency: government is effective and responsive; functioning regulatory framework is in place; etc. Often ‘good governance’ also implies a properly functioning democratic system “Good Governance” agenda

8 Have “GG” interventions worked?  Since the 1990s, substantial resources have been devoted to improve governance, including public sector reform and the way the central government works  OECD governments spend over US$10 billion a year on governance interventions  Yet, results have been disappointing—e.g., anti- corruption commissions and civil service reforms.

9 “GG” agenda: challenges and limitations Three particular areas should be highlighted: Normative slant of the GG agenda Technocratic approach to development Excessively comprehensive and demanding agenda 9

10 “GG” agenda: Normative slant Overly idealistic and normative view of the political process Reliance on blueprints and best practices transplanted from the developed world despite mantra of “no one size fits all” Excessive reliance on standardised approaches focused almost exclusively on formal institutions. Fresh perspectives rooted in local realities have been lacking. 10

11 “GG” agenda: Technocratic approach Tendency to see development as a technocratic exercise. Implicit assumption that “all good things go together” without sufficiently recognising that politics matter. Lack of awareness of the political nature of reform processes: reforms entail changes in formal arrangements but more fundamentally are about changing informal behaviours and altering power relations. Changing the way governments work poses political risks: e.g., trade-offs between providing public goods and serving powerful vested interests. 11

12 “GG” agenda: Agenda overload The “GG” paradigm implies a very wide range of institutional preconditions for development. It calls for improvements that touch virtually all aspects of the public sector. But the long list may be beyond what is needed or feasible and is a-historic. Asking institutions to do too much too soon threatens to undermine longer-term capacity. There is little guidance about what is and what is not, what should come first and what should follow, etc. 12

13 Voice & Accountability: What Defined as people’s ability to express their views to influence decision-making processes. The past two decades have seen an explosion of political voice across the developing world. This is an extraordinarily diverse and complex landscape, with people everywhere grabbing opportunities to express their views in a multitude of ways: (See also “What is Political Voice?” publication for Development Progress – more analysis and infographics there!)What is Political Voice?” 13

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15 Voice & Accountability: Why Critical area of engagement both in domestic processes of change and international efforts to support them. Seen as having both intrinsic and instrumental value – eg post-2015 HLP. Informed and aware population who can participate and hold state to account is considered essential in strengthening governance and state-society relations 15

16 Voice and Accountability: How The chain of causality, whether implicit or explicit, is generally as follows: Direct effects: V  A  improved developmental outcomes (e.g. poverty reduction; meeting other MDGs) Indirect effects: V  A  intermediate variables (eg improved governance; stronger democracy)  improved developmental outcomes 16

17 V&A: donor assumptions Donor expectations are based on a set of assumptions that are not always realistic: Assumed automatic relationship between voice and improved accountability. Assumption that citizens’ voice represents the interests, needs and demands of “the people”. Assumption that more effective and efficient institutions will be more transparent, responsive and accountable. 17

18 V&A: donor assumptions Donor expectations are based on a set of assumptions that are not always realistic: Assumption that CV&A interventions can be supported via a focus on capacity building and formal institutions. Assumption that democracy leads to improved developmental outcomes (including poverty reduction). 18

19 V&A: Bringing politics back in But Informal institutions, processes and power relations are key: Fundamentally shape the way formal institutions operate. May limit the outcomes and impact of CV&A interventions intended to transform formal institutions. Significant political relationships and personal incentives shape the behaviour of both state and non-state actors. These include social and cultural norms, clientelism, corruption, etc. 19

20 V&A: Bringing politics back in Voice is often treated as an unproblematic concept  often assumed that the poor can exercise their voice easily. Essential to ask whose voice is being heard (eg ICTs!) The voices of the poor are far from homogeneous. Many voices may compete with one another. There are power differentials within civil society, and different organisations have different motivations, interests and capacities to engage. The state may be responsive/ accountable to some groups and not others. 20

21 V&A: Bringing politics back in So the struggle for greater voice, inclusion, accountability and representation is an ongoing process of negotiation, contestation, and even confrontation, And it is about nothing if it is not about altering existing power relations. 21

22 Key lessons and implications Starting with the local context: – Develop solid understanding of domestic dynamics at work, and – Tailor interventions accordingly. Moving away from normative prescriptions encouraging multiple paths to institutional performance: – “Best fit” over “best practice” Recognising development as fundamentally political: – Be realistic about what is feasible – Focus on fostering enabling environment and influencing incentives 22

23 Key lessons and implications Focusing first on basic reforms and sequencing reforms accordingly: – Modest and selective entry points can have partial success and can lay the basis for later progress. Recognising long-term nature of promoting development. 23

24 Principles of engagement Build/sharpen ability to engage in a politically aware manner in CV&A policies and interventions on the ground: Undertake strategic PEA: focus on interaction between formal and informal institutions and actor incentives. Analyse operational implications for CV&A interventions. Share lessons emerging from such work to develop shared understanding. Monitor and update analysis continuously in order to inform on-going donor programming. 24

25 Principles of engagement Work with the institutions you have, and not the ones you wish you had: Learn to live with the informal institutions and practices that continue to predominate/trump formal ones in the country settings they work in. Engage with these informal systems more thoroughly and explicitly rather than ignoring them or dismissing them. Focus on how to best work ‘with the grain’ (i.e. what is already in-country) rather than transplant formal institutional frameworks from the outside. 25

26 Principles of engagement Focus capacity building not only on technical but also on political skills: Continue to support technical capacity building of both civil society and state actors, particularly at the local level. But focus on political capacity of both state and non- state actors: the capacity to forge alliances, build a case and influence others. 26

27 Principles of engagement Continue to explore and exploit opportunities to support CV&A mechanisms that address both sides of the equation within the same intervention: Support interventions that work with both V and A more consistently, strategically, and systematically. Strengthen national mechanisms that bring the state and citizen together: e.g. parliaments, ombudsmen. Strengthen mechanisms at the local level: local development committees and consultative councils. Support to media & RtI also essential (but based on principles) 27

28 Principles of engagement Diversify channels and mechanisms of engagement: Move beyond “usual suspects” Work more with non-traditional civil society organisations like religious organisations, trade unions and social movements, and MPs! Pay attention to issues of integrity, quality and capacity. Choose experienced partners that can reach otherwise marginalised and isolated groups (especially in the rural areas). 28

29 Principles of engagement Improve key design and implementation features of CV&A interventions: Establish more realistic expectations for interventions. Provide longer term and more flexible support. Build in sustainability features and exit strategies. Empower partners to take over donor roles and work to build the sustainability of projects. Explore ways to join up small and focused projects at the local level to a broader national programme to facilitate scaling up. 29

30 Challenges to donor uptake Donors have begun to grapple more seriously with the limitations of the GG agenda, take context as the starting point, and recognise the political nature of development. But there is still a big gap between rhetoric and practice. It has proven difficult for donors to absorb and act on lessons. Truly internalising these would require undertaking reforms to their own organisation, values, practices and behaviour, which is not easy. 30

31 ODI is the UK’s leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues. We aim to inspire and inform policy and practice to reduce poverty by locking together high-quality applied research and practical policy advice. The views presented here are those of the speaker, and do not necessarily represent the views of ODI or our partners. Overseas Development Institute 203 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NJ T:


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