Government is not a Synonym for Governance
Walther Lichem

Austrian Ambassador to Canada,
Chairman IPS Executive Committee

"I would define governance as a system of public and private decision making within the public space and interaction. Governance in distinction to government has a plurality of actors," says Lichem. In his contribution as a panellist, he elaborated his views, being presented here slightly abridged.

Over the past few decades we have been digesting a number of new concepts. Governance is one of them. But what is governance? And to what extent does it describe the new phenomena in our society? What is really happening in our society? Nationally, globally? What are the new phenomena in which governance takes place? I would like to talk about two phenomena. One I would call verticality and it is, for me, the essential element of what governance is all about. And the second equally indispensable element is horizontalization.

The new verticality is that things that are happening out there, in the global world, penetrate the protective shield of national boundaries - even the protective shield of governments - and reach down to each and every individual citizen. Each and every citizen of the world is becoming both a victim and an actor on a global scene. A case in point is global warming. We cause it and suffer as its victims.

The second phenomenon, horizontalization, has to do with the fundamental change in how we interact and relate. With the breakdown of the vertical structures of our societies, the breakdown of command societies and demand economies, we have brought about a situation which one could call the marketization of society interactions. This is accompanied by what Savio has described as the breakdown of government. Government is a vertical system of norm formulation and norm implementation.

Now we have horizontal interactions where a multitude of individual decisions are taken, on choices that on a political market, on an economic market, on a labour market, on a cultural market are offered to the decision-maker who increasingly is a private decision-maker.

The third phenomenon we could call denationalisation or 'de-etatisation' - the withering away of the state and the emergence of new actors. I remember the academic discussion in the late sixties, when the branch of political sciences, called administrative sciences, looked at how interests found a different access to articulating the political processes.

In the foreground was the issue of environment. The polluting industry, for instance, on a river-side knew exactly what had prompted it to pollute.

The economic benefit of pollution was clear. The economic cost downstream to the public at large was neither defined nor articulated nor brought up for public discussion. The response and the suggestions that emerged out of that academic debate were: We need a ministry of environment, we need environmental agencies to articulate and to introduce into the decision-making the broader interest of the public and to
balance it with a very concentrated and very well defined interests of the single polluter.

Now we do have this process of horizontalization and the emergence of new actors down to each citizen. We have the economic actors, to which Roberto Savio referred in many examples, being very far ahead. But there are other actors, very important actors: civil society which curiously enough has not been the political parties.

The political agenda of the past thirty years have been defined and driven by new political actors, by new mechanisms to aggregate interests, to define them and to insert them and to introduce them into national and international political processes.

The first conference I remember, where these new actors were present in decision-making was the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment. Maurice Strong, who was recruited then to become secretary-general and to prepare the process for this conference, invited two conferences in addition to the inter-governmental conference. The inter-governmental conference which then was a result of that debate 'we need environmental ministers' was attended by environmental ministers. All were new without much background.

And beside them you had a NGO conference for the first time. I was very impressed to see how the inter-governmental conference was driven by concepts produced next-door by the civil society, by the science community and by the NGOs that were far ahead in understanding was it was really all about.

In the Human Rights Commission you have three circles: in the inner circle you have the members of the Human Rights Commission, delegates of governments, and behind them you have the observer countries which are mostly the member countries of the United Nations. And behind the observers are the NGOs and they are really sitting in the neck of the governmental representatives. Every delegate who says something wrong thing, has to face the NGOs and the NGOs there have a right to speak and they do not mind criticising. So you have a new series of actors - non governmental actors, private actors, economic actors and financial actors.

Third: we have time in an entirely new role in decision-making. One new element in decision making is that rapid change requires a reaction in decision making with much shorter time. The fourth one is: with all that is related to global interaction and global integration we have a new identity issue. The nation state, a child of the French revolution, was basically a single identity concept of societal organisation. Aware of the consequences that nationalism has brought about in a single identity concept of the society, we know today that we have and we had to discard that concept. In fact we are on a move from nation to society, from single identity society to pluridentity society, and that diversity is another important element of how we take that issue.

Finally we have a move away from government to governance...I would define governance as a system of public and private decision-making within the public space and interaction - a decision-making that is based on interdependence and a communality of purpose. Governance in distinction to government has a plurality of actors. While government has the state, the public authority, governance is characterised by partnership of public institutions and private actors. It has created a situation where the private actors have resumed and are resuming an new public responsibility. Government is characterised by verticality.

Government in the economy is a state enterprise, it basically epitomises the command economy. Governance in the economy is the market transaction. Government in the political system has epitomised itself in the command society in dictatorship. Dictatorship is the expression of the vertical organisation of society. Democracy and the system of choice, freedom and responsibility and human rights is the system of governance.

The key function in a government is command and obedience. The key function in governance is goal setting and communication. The key element of governance is to know where we go to define the regime. The consensus package of values becomes centrally important to governance. Government does not need civil society. Governance has civil society as its key element. Government is heavy on administration, governance is light on administration. Government is basically non-participatory. Governance has to search for partnership and the establishment of participatory structures as a key element in its functioning and its structures.

A fourth and key element of that horizontal system is communication and information. I personally believe an institution like IPS is a key for global governance.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | Dezember 1998

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