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Washington, September 8, 2021

200 Leaders Call for New UN Office to Coordinate Global Research to Prevent Human Extinction

Earth’s magnetic shield weakening, ocean-poisoning hydrogen-sulfide gas from advanced global warning, out-of-control nanotech and AI, are among the possible future threats to humanity, warn The Millennium Project, World Futures Studies Federation, and the Association of Professional Futurists.

In an open letter to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, internet pioneer Vint Cerf, Nobel Prize Laureate Oscar Arias, and other technological, business, political, technological, environmental, and academic leaders around the world are calling for a new UN Office of Strategic Threats to coordinate global research on long-range strategic or existential threats to humanity, and to their prevention.

The letter [attached] requests that the UN Secretariat conduct a feasibility study for the proposed UN Office. « The immediate crises always seem to overrule the long-term concerns about the future of humanity. So, we need a specific UN Office that just focuses on what could make us go extinct and how to prevent it, » said Jerome Glenn, CEO of The Millennium Project. »

The UN already has agencies that are addressing many of the serious trends today—such as decreasing fresh water per capita, concentration of wealth, and ethnic violence—but these do not pose a threat to the survival of our species.

Long-term threats

However, there are long-term threats that do, such as the ten below:

  • Weakening of the Earth’s magnetic shield that protects us from deadly solar radiation
  • Massive discharges of hydrogen sulfate (H2S) from de-oxygenated oceans, caused by advanced global warming
  • Malicious nanotechnology (including the « gray goo » problem)
  • Loss of control over future forms of artificial intelligence
  • A single individual acting alone, who could one day create and deploy a weapon of mass destruction (most likely from synthetic biology)
  • Nuclear war escalation
  • Uncontrollable, more-severe pandemics
  • A particle accelerator accident
  • Solar gamma-ray bursts
  • An asteroid collision.

« There is no single point for collaboration in the UN system that addresses such long-term threats to human survival, » said Ambassador Héctor Casanueva, former Chilean Ambassador to UN multilateral organizations in Geneva. « A UN Office on Strategic and Existential Threats to humanity could identify, monitor, anticipate, and coordinate strategic research on a global scale to prevent these threats, he suggested. « It would serve international agencies, multilateral organizations, nation-states, and humanity in general. »

The idea of a new UN Office was raised during the celebration of the annual « World Future Day » on March 1, 2021, a global online conference of nearly a thousand experts from 65 countries. The Millennium Project, which hosts World Future Day, suggested that a resolution be offered at the next UN General Assembly, to be held in September 2021. It would give the UN Secretariat the mandate to conduct a feasibility study of the proposed UN Office of Strategic Threats.

Open letter to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres for feasibility study of a UN Office of Strategic Threats

September 8, 2021

Dear Mr. Secretary General,

Long-range strategic threats to the survival of humanity are well-documented, ranging from the potential of advanced artificial intelligence growing beyond human control to weakening magnetic fields that protect life on Earth.

Although the United Nations includes agencies that are addressing many of the problems facing humanity today, there is no central office to identify, monitor, anticipate, and coordinate research on long-term strategic threats to humanity.

A UN Office on Strategic Threats, which would centralize and coordinate information and prospective studies on a global scale, could serve international agencies, multilateral organizations, nation-states, the private sector, academia, and humanity in general. We think that the Office could be created without putting pressure on the budget of the organization, reallocating resources and coordinating its work with universities and research centers around the world.

This idea was raised and discussed in detail during World Future Day, March 1, 2021, a 24-hour conversation of nearly a thousand experts from 65 countries, organized by several international associations of futurists and think tanks to discuss strategies for improving the global future.

The signatories of this open letter – academics, diplomats, scientists, and experts in foresight and strategy from different countries and sectors – ask Your Excellency to welcome and facilitate the adoption of a UN General Assembly Resolution at this September’s General Assembly that would give the General Secretariat the mandate to conduct a feasibility study on establishing a UN Office on Strategic Threats.

Sincerely,

  1. Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, Author, Geostrategist, Former Dir. of Foreign Policy & Security Think Tank, Sri Lanka
  2. Nancy Ellen Abrams, Author, Philosopher of Science, Attorney at Law, USA
  3. Sergio Abreu, Secretary General, Latin American Integration Association (ALADI), Uruguay
  4. Philip Omoniyi Adetiloye, Professor, Federal University of Agriculture, Nigeria
  5. Rosa Alegria, Representative, Teach the Future Brazil, Brazil
  6. Soledad, Alvear, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Former Senator, Chile
  7. Jan Amkreutz, Author, futurist, speaker, The Netherlands & USA
  8. Janna Q. Anderson, Executive Director, Imagining the Internet Center, Elon University, USA
  9. Yul Anderson, President, African American Future Society, USA
  10. Amara D. Angelica, Editor-at-Large, KurzweilAI, USA
  11. Shahar Avin, Senior Research Associate, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk University of Cambridge, UK
  12. Diana Baciuna, Local Councillor, Bucharest Borough 4, Romania
  13. Guillermina Baena Paz, VP Latin America WFSF, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico
  14. Ying Bai, Vice President, Academy of Soft Technology, China
  15. SJ  Beard, Academic Programme Manager, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk Cambridge, UK
  16. Clem Bezold, Co-Founder, Institute for Alternative Futures, USA
  17. James Boyd, Complex Systems, SingularityNet, USA
  18. Pedro Bretes Amador, CEO and Co-Founder, NewWay, Foresight, Portugal
  19. Gregory Brown, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University, Senior Analyst, CENTRA Technology, USA
  20. Steve Brown, Founder, The Futures Collaborative, USA
  21. James E. Burke, Foresight and Solutions Navigator, DeepDive Foresight, USA
  22. Iurie Calestru, Program Director, Institute for Development and Expertise of Projects, Moldova
  23. Franklin A. Carrero-Martinez, Sr. Dir. Global Sustainability, National Academy of Sciences, Eng., and Med., USA
  24. Hector Casanueva, VP Chilean Council of Foresight and Strategy, Former Amb. Geneva, Prof.-Res. University of Alcalá, Chile & Spain
  25. Shiela R. Castillo, Futures Learning Advisor, The Center For Engaged Foresight, Philippines
  26. Vint Cerf, Internet Pioneer, Google, USA
  27. Sadok Chaabane, Former Min. of Justice & Higher Educ., GM, Polytechnique Internationale University, Tunisia
  28. Richard J. Chasdi, Professorial Lecturer, George Washington University, USA
  29. Puruesh Chaudhary, Founder &President , AGAHI, Pakistan
  30. Marvin Cheung, Board Member, Unbuilt Labs, USA
  31. Thomas J. Christiffel, Principal, Regional Intelligence-Regional Communities, USA
  32. Epaminondas Christophilopoulos, Deputy Chair Foresight Team, Office of the President of  Greece, Greece
  33. Reynaldo Treviño, Cisneros, Consultant, Systems and Strategic Planning, Mexico
  34. Anthony Clayton, Professor, University of West Indies, Jamaica
  35. Deborah Clifford, Head of Finance, Woolworths, South Africa
  36. Jose Cordeiro, Executive Director, Ibero-American Foresight Network, Venezuela and Spain
  37. Raluca Coscodaru, Consultant/Professor, Innovation and entrepreneurship, Romania
  38. Catherine, Cosgrove, Futurist, Canada
  39. William Cosgrove, Former Vice President, World Bank, Canada
  40. Shermon Cruz, Executive Director, Center for Engaged Foresight, Philippines
  41. Cornelia Daheim, Founder & Dir. Future Impacts; Chair, Futures Circle, Min. of Educ. and Res., Germany
  42. Jim Dator, Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Hawaii
  43. Philippe Destatte, Director, The Destree Institute, Belgium
  44. Mara Di Berardo, Technologist, Institute Nanoscience of the National Research Council , Italy
  45. Simone Di Zio, Associate Professor, University G. d’Annunzio, Italy
  46. Pedro Miguel Diegues, Consultant, Foresight & Strategy, Portugal
  47. Peachie Dioquino-Valera, Advisor, Center for Engaged Foresight, Philippines
  48. Hugh T. Dugan, Former Special Assistant to the President, National Security Council, USA
  49. Paul Epping, Chairman, Xponential, The Netherlands
  50.  Jelel Ezzine, President, Tunisian Association for the Advancement of ST&I (TAASTI), Tunisia
  51. Daniel Faggella, CEO, Emerj Artificial Intelligence Research, USA
  52. Horacio Martin Ferber, Faculty, National University of Avellaneda, Argentina
  53. Elizabeth Florescu, Director of Research, The Millennium Project, Canada
  54. Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, Former President of Chile, Chile
  55. Michael Friebe, Prof. Health Tech., Otto-von-Guericke University Magdeburg, Germany
  56. Caroline Figuères, Former Director, International Inst. for Com. and Dev.(IICD), The Netherlands
  57. Luciano Gallón, Professor, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Colombia
  58. Adolfo Arreola García, Professor, Anáhuac University, Mexico
  59. Banning Garrett, Faculty, Singularity University, USA
  60. Lydia Garrido Luzardo, UNESCO Chair Anticipation and Resilience, SARAS Institute, Uruguay
  61. Jose María Gil Robles, Former President , European Parliament, Spain
  62. Fausto Carbajal Glass, Member, Royal United Services Institute (RUSI)., Mexico
  63. Jerome C. Glenn, CEO, The Millennium Project, USA
  64. Willis Goldbeck, Founder, Foresight Education, USA
  65. Blaž Golob, CEO GFS Institute, Chair, Forum on Future of Europe, Slovenia
  66. Abhik Gupta, Vice-Chairperson, Tripura State Higher Education Council, India
  67. Antonio Gutelli, Docente, Juan A. Maza University, Argentina
  68. Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Director, Centro Latinomericano de Globalización y Prospectiva, Argentina
  69. Mohammad Habib, Partner, Director, MENA Region, Siegel® MCAN, Jordan
  70. Cathy Hackl, Chief Metaverse Officer, Futures Intelligence Group, USA
  71. William E. Halal, CEO, TechCast International, USA
  72. Aharon Hauptman, Fellow, Zvi Meitar Institute for Implications of Emerging Technologies, Israel
  73. Peter Hayward, Co-host, Futurepod.org, Australia
  74. Sirkka Heinonen, Professor Emeriti, Finland Futures Research Centre, Finland
  75. Lucio Mauricio Henao Vélez, CEO, Prospectiva.org, Colombia
  76. Éva Hideg, Professor, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  77. Brock Hinzmann, Partner, Business Futures Network, USA
  78. Cyrus Hodes, Chair AI Initiative, The Future Society, France
  79. Razvan, Hoinaru, Former Chief of Staff, EPP Romanian Delegation, EU Parliament, Romania
  80. Philip Horvath, Partner, Luman, Germany
  81. Adriana Hoyos, Professor/Senior Fellow, Instituto de Empresa (IE) Harvard University, Spain & USA
  82. Arnoldo de Hoyos, Professor, Pontificial Catholic University of Sao Paulo, Brazil
  83. Claudio Huepe, Director, Center of Sustainable Energy, Universidad Diego Portales, Chile
  84. Barry B. Hughes, Professor, University of Denver, USA
  85. Jan Hurwitch, Director, Visionary Ethics Foundation, Costa Rica
  86. Asif Iftikhar, Teaching Fellow, Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan
  87. Enrique V. Iglesias, Former President, Intern-American Development Bank, Uruguay
  88. Lester Ingber, CEO, Physical Studies Institute LLC, USA
  89. Jose Miguel Insulza, former Secretary General, Organization of American States (OAS), Chile
  90. Silvia Iratchet, Institutional Relations, Suma Veritas Foundation, Argentina
  91. Abulgasem Issa, Associate Professor, Libyan Authority for Scientific Researches, Libya
  92. Garry Jacobs, President & CEO, World Academy of Art and Science, India
  93. Maciej Jagaciak, Member of the Board, Polish Society for Futures Studies, Poland
  94. Alejandro Jara, Former Associate DG WTO Geneva, Former Ambassador, Chile
  95. Robert E. Jarrett, Senior Fellow (ret.), US Army Environmental Policy Institute, USA
  96. Weiquing Jiang, Chairman, UN Ethics Chinese Union, China
  97. Zhouying Jin, Prof. and Former Director, Center for Technology Innovation and Strategy, Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, China
  98. Maria João Rodrigues, Pres. Foundation for European Progressive Studies, Former Min. Employment, Former MEP and VP of the Group of the Socialists and Democrats, European Parliament, Portugal
  99.  Christopher B. Jones, Faculty, Walden University, USA
  100.  Michel Judkiewicz, Managing Director, Silver-Brains, Belgium
  101. Ted M. Kahn, CEO, DesignWorlds for Learning, USA
  102. David Kalisz, Head of Department , Management & Strategy, Paris School of Business, France
  103. Nikolaos Kastrinos, (signed in personal capacity) Foresight Team Leader, DG Research & Innovation, European Commission, Belgium
  104. Charlotte Kemp, Vice President, Global Speakers Federation, South Africa
  105. Stephen Killelea, Founder & Executive Chairman, Institute for Economics and Peace, Australia
  106. Tony Kim, President, Future Design Lab, South Korea
  107. Yusuke Kishita, Associate Professor, University of Tokyo, Japan
  108. Eric Klien, President, Lifeboat Foundation, USA
  109. Dana Klisanin, CEO, Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, USA
  110. Norbert Kołos, Managing Partner, 4CF, Poland
  111. Tamás Kristóf, Associate Professor, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  112. Martin Kruse, Senior Executive Advisor & Futurist, Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies, Denmark
  113. Osmo Kuusi, Adjunct Professor, Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
  114. Annah Kyoya, CEO, Leadership Impressions Ltd, Kenya
  115. Mounir Labib, Academy of Scientific Research & Technology, Egypt
  116. Patricio Leiva Lavalle, Dir. Latin American Inst. of Intl Relations, Miguel de Cervantes Univ., Chile
  117. Gerd Leonhard, CEO, The Futures Agency, Zurich, Switzerland
  118. Tiziano Li Piani, R&D Engineer, Leonardo Labs, Italy
  119. Marilyn Lienbrenz-Himes, Assoc. Prof. Emeritus , George Washington University, USA
  120. Lt-Gen Naeem Khalid Lodhi, Former Secretary of Defence, Pakistan
  121. Thomas Lombardo, Director, Center for Future Consciousness, USA
  122. José A. LugoSantiago, Chief Futurist, Institute for Leadership & Strategic Foresight, USA
  123. Pavel Luksha, Founder, Global Education Futures, Russia
  124. Patricia Lustig, Chief Executive, LASA Insight Ltd, UK
  125. François Mabille, General Secretary, International Federation of Catholic Universities, France
  126. Luciano Rodrigues Marcelino, Director General, Interinstitutional Relations, DGRI, Private Technical University of Loja – UTPL, Ecuador
  127. Carlos Alonso von Marschall Murillo, Head, Prospective Analysis and Public Policy, Min. of Planning and Political Economy, Costa Rica
  128. Jorge Máttar, Executive Director, Centro Tepoztlán Víctor L. Urquidi, Mexico
  129. Philip McMaster, Co-Founder, World Sustainability Coop, China
  130. John F. Meagher, Consultant, Futurist/Occupational and Environmental Health, USA
  131. Ricardo Torres Medrano, Professor, Catholic University of La Plata, Argentina
  132. Alvaro Mendez, Co-Dir. Global South Unit, London School of Economics, United Kingdom
  133. Maria Mezentseva, Member of Parliament, Chair of Ukrainian Delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Ukraine
  134. Alvaro Cedeño, Molinari, Former Ambassador in Geneva, Costa Rica
  135. Cesar Monsalve Rico, Consultant, Development and Innovation Professional, Colombia
  136. Caryl Monte, CEO, International Wisdom Academy, Curaçao
  137. Iván Alonso, Montoya-Restrepo, Professor, National University of Colombia, Colombia
  138. Luz Alexandra Montoya-Restrepo, Professor, National University of Colombia, Colombia
  139. Juan Carlos Mora Montero, Professor of Planning & Foresight, National University, Costa Rica
  140. Morne Mostert, Director, Inst. for Futures Research, Stellenbosch University, South Africa
  141. Victor V. Motti, Director, World Futures Studies Federation, USA
  142. Leopold P. Mureithi, Professor of Economics, University of Nairobi, Kenya
  143. Eric Noël, Founder, Canada Towards 2030, Canada
  144. Kacper Nosarzewski, Partner, 4CF, Poland
  145. Pavel Nováček, Head Development & Environmental Studies, Palacký University, Czech Republic
  146. Erzsébet Nováky, Professor Emeritus, Corvinus University of Budapest, Hungary
  147. Concepcion Olavarrieta Rodriguez, Pres. Nodo Mexicano. El Proyecto del Milenio; Exec-Sec, RIBER, Mexico
  148. Erick Øverland, President, World Futures Studies Federation, Norway
  149. Karla Paniagua Ramírez, Head of Futures Studies, Center of Design and Communication, Mexico
  150. Ioan Mircea Pașcu, Former V.P., European Parliament; Former Minister of Defence of Romania, Romania
  151. Robert A., Pavlik, Futures/Environmental Studies, Marquette University, USA
  152. Martha Beatriz Peluffo Argón, Dean, Faculty of Education Sciences, Universidad de la Empresa, Uruguay
  153. Charles Perrottet, Principal, Futures Strategy Group, USA
  154. Jahna Perricone, Director of Mindfulness Programs, Center for Conscious Creativity, USA
  155. Jeremy Pesner, Doctoral Student, Carnegie Mellon University, USA
  156. Adrian Pop, Professor, National University of Political Science and Public Administration, Romania
  157. Mila Popovich, Founder, EVOLbing leadership, USA & Montenegro
  158. Patty Rangel, Author, International Astronautical Congress, Australia & Germany
  159. Kristian Ravić, Advisor, Office of the Mayor of Zagreb, Croatia
  160. Andrew W. Reynolds, Adjunct Professor, University of Virginia and DOS (ret.), USA
  161. Álvaro Ramírez Restrepo, Director, Futurion Ltda, Colombia
  162. Roman Retzbach, CEO, FutureInstitute Zukunftsinstitut, Germany
  163. Saphia Richou, Chercheur au LAREQUOI, Conseil en Prospective Stratégique et Coopétition, France
  164. Xiaobing Rong, Deputy Secretary General, UN international collaboration & coordination agency, China
  165. Stuart Russell, Center for Human Compatible Artificial Intelligence, University of California, USA
  166. Torben Riise, CEO, ExecuTeam; Founder, Institute for Futures Studies, Copenhagen, USA
  167. Clarissa Rios Rojas, Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, University of Cambridge, UK
  168. Stanley G. Rosen, Consultant, Strategy Analyst, USA
  169. Rebecca Ryan, Founder, CEO, NEXT Generation Consulting, USA
  170. Paul Saffo, Professor, Stanford University, USA
  171. Óscar Arias Sánchez, Former President of Costa Rica (1986-1990, 2006-2010), Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Costa Rica
  172. Rocco Santoro, Senior Statistician, Daccude, Italy
  173. Ramón Santoyo, President, WFS Mexican Chapter, Mexico
  174. Carlos Alberto Sarti Castañeda, Director, Fundación Propaz, Guatemala
  175. John M. Schmidt, Founder, CANSYNTH, Australia
  176. Kamal Zaky Mahmoud Shaeer, Chair, Council of Futures Studies and Risk Management, Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, Egypt
  177. Yair Sharan, Director, FIRS2T, Israel
  178. Mario Silberman, Former Ambassador, CTA, UNIDO/UNDP, Chile
  179. Mihaly , Simai, Former Chairman, United Nations University, Hungary
  180. Alexandra Sokol, Chief Sustainability Officer, EnviroDynamix, Santa Monica, CA, USA
  181. Roger Spitz, Founder, Disruptive Futures Institute, USA
  182. Maarten Steinbuch, Professor, Technical Univ. Eindhoven, Netherlands
  183. Veerappan Swaminathan, Founder & CEO, Sustainable Living Lab Pte Ltd, Singapore
  184. David Tal, President, Quantumrun Foresight, Canada
  185. Amos Taylor, Project Researcher, Finland Futures Research Center, Finland
  186. Rohit Talwar, CEO, Fast Future, UK
  187. Sadia Tariq, Research Associate, Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts, Pakistan
  188. Paul Tero, Principal Consultant, Dellium Advisory, Australia
  189. Mohan Tikku, Journalist, Author, Futurist, Former Senior Fellow, Indian Council of Soc. Sci. Res., India
  190. Nicoleta Topoleanu, Human Resources Coach and Consultant, Romania
  191. Peter VanderWel, Principal Futurist, FutureVision, Netherlands
  192. Koen Vegter, Founder, Might Futures Design, Netherlands
  193. Sanja Vlahovic, Former Amb. of Montenegro to Italy, Malta and UN organizations in Rome, Montenegro
  194. Paul Werbos, Program Director(ret.), National Science Foundation, USA
  195. Jeremy Wilken, Broadcaster, Design for Voice podcast, USA
  196. Wilson Wong, Head of Insight & Futures, Horizon Scanning UK, UK
  197. Peter P Yim, CEO (retired), CIM3, Hong Kong & USA
  198. Jesús E. Caldera Ynfante, Dir., Intl and Interinstitutional Relations, La Gran Colombia University, Colombia
  199. Amy Zalman, CEO, Prescient, USA
  200. Xialin Zhang, Secretary-General, Intl. Cooperation Center for Future Strategic Research, China
  201. Duoyin Zhou, Deputy Director, UN International Collaboration &Coordination Agency, China
  202. Ibon Zugasti Gorostidi, Director, Prospektiker, Spain

Namur (Wallonia), August 28, 2021

Anticipating means visualising and then acting before the events or actions occur. This implies taking action based on what is visualised, which just goes to show how complex the process is and how problematic our relationship is with the future. The saying “to govern means to foresee » is at odds with this complexity principle. It also refers to individual responsibility. Blaming politics is a little simplistic and unfair, as it is up to each of us to govern ourselves, which means we must “anticipate”. Yet we are constantly guilty of not anticipating in our daily lives.

 

1. Our relationship with the future

 Our relationship with the future is problematic. There are five different attitudes, of which anticipation is merely the fifth. The first is common: we go with the flow; in other words, we wait for things to happen. We hope everything will go well. It is business as usual, or we have always done this as they say in Wallonia. We can also echo the words used by the miners whenever the colliery tunnels were shored up: it can’t hurt, it’s not dangerous, it’s strong, it’s reliable, etc. My father taught me to ridicule this cavalier attitude and, above all, to challenge it.

The second attitude is more active: it involves playing by the rules and working within the norms. The elected officials pay close attention to this, and so do we all. We have to have an extinguisher in our car in case of fire, but mostly to comply with the legal obligations, regulations, technical checks, and so on. Note that public buildings and businesses are also required to have them and to ensure that they are checked regularly. Very few people have one or more fire extinguishers in their house or apartment, and, even if they do, they may not be in working order or suitable for the different types of fire that may occur. We know that it is not a legal requirement, so most people don’t bother about it.

The third attitude towards the future is responsiveness: we respond to external stimuli, and we adapt quickly to the situations that arise. Images of firefighters and emergency workers come to mind, of course, and entrepreneurs as well. Responsiveness may be a virtue, but we know that it is sometimes ineffective in the face of fast-moving events. In defence of their discipline, futurists often quote a saying which they attribute to the statesman Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754-1838): when it’s urgent, it’s already too late.

The fourth attitude towards the future is preactivity: our ability – or lack of – to prepare for changes once they are foreseeable. The word foreseeable is clearly related to forecasting, in other words, an assumption is made about the future which is usually quantified and associated with a confidence index based on an expectation. This involves taking a number of variables and system elements into account against a background of previous structural stability and analysing them and their possible evolutions. The likelihood of these possible evolutions is then calculated. Validation is always uncertain due to the complexity of the systems created by the variables. A common example is the weather forecast: it gives me a probability of rain at a given time. If I am preactive, I take my umbrella or I pile sandbags in front of my doors.

The fifth attitude towards the future is proactivity. In his work on the Battle of Stalingrad – 55 years after the event –, British historian and former officer Antony Beevor criticises the German general Friedrich Paulus (1890-1957) for not, as the military commander, being prepared to confront the threat of encirclement which had been facing him for weeks, particularly by not retaining a strong, mobile, armoured capability. This would have enabled the Sixth Army of the Wehrmacht to defend itself effectively at the crucial moment. But, Beevor adds, that implied a clear assessment of the actual danger [1]. This means that, faced with expected and identified changes (I would say exploratory foresight), or even desired changes, which I will cause or create (I would then say normative foresight), I will take action. Anticipating means both visualising and then acting in advance, in other words, acting before the events or actions occur. That is why we could also say, with Riel Miller, that if the future does not exist in the present, anticipation does. The form the future takes in the present is anticipation [2].

 

2. A threefold problem to comprehend the future

We are all faced with a threefold problem when confronting the future. The first problem is that, in the tradition of Gaston Berger (1896-1960) [3], we are expected to look far ahead but, in reality, the future does not exist as an object of knowledge. Clearly, it does not exist because it is not written and is not determined, as Marx believed or as some collapse theorists today believe.

We are also expected to take a broad view and to reflect systemically. But forecasts only focus on a limited number of variables, even in the era of Big Data. Yet we find ourselves faced with systems which are all complex and interwoven in a tangle of unlikely events. We are all familiar with emergences [4] or sudden occurrences linked to the relationships between participants and factors within the system. When driving my car, I can anticipate a puddle, to avoid aquaplaning, or a patch of ice by telling myself that I must not break. But, in reality, I never know what my reaction will be when I feel my wheels shaking, or how my car, my tyres or the road surface will react. Similarly, I never know what the reaction will be of the drivers in front of me or behind me, or in the other lanes, or of the bird that happens to strike my windscreen at that precise moment. So, I have to deal with the complexity, but I cannot reduce it.

The third problem is that, faced with world systems of such complexity, my own knowledge tools are limited. We are trained in disciplines, epistemologies, knowledge methods, vocabularies, and scientific jargon which do not encourage multidisciplinarity (studying one discipline through several disciplines), interdisciplinarity (transferring methods from one discipline to another) or transdisciplinarity (a demanding approach which moves between, across and beyond disciplines), to echo the distinctions expressed by the Franco-Romanian physicist Basarab Nicolescu in response to the works of Jean Piaget (1896-1980) [5]. Our narrowmindedness and reluctance to open up affect our humility, encourage received ideas, create ambiguity (words do not have the same meanings), prevent the necessary constructive dialogue, and adversely affect collective intelligence.

A key achievement of the French economists and futurists Jacques Lesourne (1928-2020) and Michel Godet was to demonstrate the limits of forecasting, which looks to the past for invariants or relationship models to suggest its permanence or its relatively constant evolution in the future, leading to conditional forecasts: ceteris paribus, all things being equal”. Michel Godet’s major work is entitled The Crisis in Forecasting and the Emergence of the « La Prospective », (Pergamon, 1979). In it, he writes that it was on account of the philosopher Gaston Berger, who was himself nurtured on the reflections of Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955) and Maurice Blondel (1861-1949), and numerous Anglo-Saxon sources of inspiration, that the foresight approach developed. This intellectual stance involves taking the past and future into consideration over the long-term, comprehending the entire system in a seamless way, and exploring capabilities and means of action collectively.

Against our cultural, mental, intellectual, scientific, social and political background, this approach is not encouraged. It does, however, move us on from the question “what is going to happen” to the question “what may happen” and, therefore, “what if?”. This is also linked to one of our major preoccupations: the short-, medium-, and long-term impact prior analysis of the decisions we take.

Foresight has developed methods based precisely on the issue of these emergences. In addition to analysing trends and trajectories – which can identify crises such as the global financial crash in 2008 –, it also works with wildcards: major surprises and unexpected, remarkable, and unlikely events, which may have significant impacts if they occur: the 9/11 attacks, the Icelandic volcano in April 2010, the Covid crisis in 2019, the floods in July 2021, and so on.

There is also much talk today of black swan events as a result of the work of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, formerly a trader and now professor of risk engineering at the University of New York. This involves identifying events that are statistically almost impossible – so-called statistical dissonance – but which happen anyway [6].

 

3. Constructing a political agenda for complexity

First of all, we must be sceptical about the retrospective biases highlighted by the economist, psychologist and future Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky, which involve exaggerating, retrospectively, the fact that events could have been anticipated. These biases are linked to the need we all have to make sense of things, including the most random events [7]. When the unpredictable happens, it is intellectually quite easy for us to see it as predictable.

Next, it should be noted that political leaders are faced with the core issues of appropriation, legitimacy, and acceptability – especially budgetary – of a decision taken at the end of a dialogue and negotiation process involving multiple participants. The public will not necessarily be in favour of the government spending significant amounts on understanding problems they cannot yet visualise. Like St. Thomas, if they can’t touch it, they won’t believe it. At the outset, the population is not ready to hear what the politicians have to tell them on the matter, whether it involves a “stop-concrete” strategy or a perishable supply of masks. For experts and elected officials alike, it is no longer enough to make claims. They now have to provide scientific proof, and, above all, avoid denial, as the emotional link can be considerable. The significant role played by the media should also not be overlooked. For a long time, it was thought that a pandemic was an acceptable risk, as in the 1960s with the Hong Kong flu which caused at least a million deaths globally between 1968 and 1970, whereas the sight of Covid-19 victims in intensive care is unbearable and makes us less willing to accept the number of deaths. Remember how, in France, Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot was criticised and accused of squandering public money when she bought health masks and vaccines for swine flu (H1N1 virus) in 2009-2010. At the same time, humans have a great capacity to become accustomed to risk. Think of the nuclear sword of Damocles that was the Cold War, which continued until the early 1990s. We should also question whether this military nuclear risk – the anthropic apocalypse – has disappeared.

We constantly find ourselves needing to agree on the priority of the challenges facing us. Constructing a political agenda for such complexity is by no means clear, and political leaders wonder whether they will be criticised for starting works that may not seem urgent or sufficiently important to merit sustained attention, stakeholder mobilisation, and the resulting budgets.

Finally, governing not only means solving organisational problems, allocating resources and planning actions over time. It also means making things intelligible, as the French historian Pierre Rosanvallon points out [8]. The political world does not appreciate the importance of the educational aspect. In Belgium, politicians no longer go on television to talk to people directly and explain an issue that needs to be addressed. Government communications have disappeared; now, there are only televised addresses from the Head of State, who in this way becomes the last actor to communicate values to the public in this way.

 

Conclusion: uncertainty, responsibility, and anticipation

In May 2020, during the Covid-19 lockdown, the host of Signes des Temps on France-Culture radio, Marc Weitzmann, had the bright idea of recalling the first major debate of the Age of Enlightenment on natural disasters and their consequences for human populations [9], a debate between Voltaire (1694-1778) and Rousseau (1712-1778) about the Lisbon disaster of 1755 [10].

HRP5XD Lisbon Tsunami, 1755 – Woodcut – The Granger – NYC

On 1 November 1755 (All Saints Day), Lisbon was hit by a huge earthquake. Three successive waves between 5 and 15 metres high destroyed the port and the city centre [11], and tens of thousands of inhabitants lost their lives in the earthquake, tsunami and huge fire that followed. When he heard the news, Voltaire was deeply affected and, several weeks later, in view of the gravity of the event, he wrote a famous poem in which his intention was to go beyond mere evocation of the disaster and compassion for the victims.

Come, ye philosophers, who cry, “All’s well,”

And contemplate this ruin of a world.

Behold these shreds and cinders of your race,

This child and mother heaped in common wreck,

These scattered limbs beneath the marble shafts—

A hundred thousand whom the earth devours,

Who, torn and bloody, palpitating yet,

Entombed beneath their hospitable roofs,

In racking torment end their stricken lives.

To those expiring murmurs of distress,

To that appalling spectacle of woe,

Will ye reply: “You do but illustrate

The iron laws that chain the will of God »? [12]

In this “Poem on the Lisbon disaster”, from which these lines are a short excerpt, Voltaire ponders the appropriateness of attributing the event to divine justice, when, according to some so-called optimistic philosophers at the time, everything natural is a gift from God and, therefore, ultimately good and just [13]. Without calling divine power into question, Voltaire counters this concept, rejects the idea of a specific celestial punishment to atone for vices in the Portuguese capital, and instead declares fate responsible for the disaster.

As mentioned by Jean-Paul Deléage, who, in 2005, published in the Écologie et Politique review the letter which Rousseau sent to Voltaire on 18 August 1756, Voltaire went on to propose a new concept of human responsibility. This concept was social and political rather than metaphysical and religious. Thus, in his reply to Voltaire, Rousseau states as follows:

 (…), I believe I have shown that with the exception of death, which is an evil almost solely because of the preparations which one makes preceding it, most of our physical ills are still our own work. Is it not known that the person of each man has become the least part of himself, and that it is almost not worth the trouble of saving it when one has lost all the rest Without departing from your subject of Lisbon, admit, for example, that nature did not construct twenty thousand houses of six to seven stories there, and that if the inhabitants of this great city had been more equally spread out and more lightly lodged, the damage would have been much less, and perhaps of no account. All would have fled at the first disturbance, and the next day they would have been seen twenty leagues from there, as gay as if nothing had happened; but it is necessary to remain, to be obstinate around some hovels, to expose oneself to new quakes, because what one leaves behind is worth more than what one can bring along. How many unfortunate people have perished in this disaster because of one wanting to take his clothes, another his papers, another his money?  Is it not known that the person of each man has become the least part of himself, and that it is almost not worth the trouble of saving it when one has lost all the rest? [14] 

Whereas, for Voltaire, the Lisbon disaster was an accident and an unfortunate combination of circumstances, Rousseau feels that the natural seismic effects were compounded by the actions, urban choices and attitude of the people during the disaster. It is the responsibility of human behaviour that Rousseau highlights. In essence, he believes that, although Lisbon was destroyed, this was linked to the human decision to build a city on the coast and near a fault line. A lack of anticipation, perhaps.

Rousseau returned to these matters in his Confessions, in which he again absolves Providence and maintains that, of all the evils in people’s lives, there was not one to be attributed to Providence, and which had not its source rather in the abusive use man made of his faculties than in nature [15].

In the appropriately named Signes des Temps, or Sign of the Times, programme, Marc Weitzmann established a link between this debate, the question of uncertainty, nature and mankind, and the thoughts of French urbanist Paul Virilio (1932-2018). Scarred by the blitzkrieg and his lost childhood, and the idea that acceleration prevents anticipation and can lead to coincidence, Virilio, author of Speed and Politics (MIT Press, 2006), The Original Accidentl (Polity Press, 2007), and The Great Accelerator (Polity Press, 2012), emphasised that industrial and natural disasters progressed not only geometrically but also geographically, if not cosmically. In his view, this progress of contemporary coincidence requires a new intelligence in which the principle of responsibility permanently supplants the principle of technoscientific effectiveness, which is, considers Virilio, arrogant to the point of delusion [16].

Thus, as in Rousseau, our natural disasters seem increasingly inseparable from our anthropic disasters. All the more so since, as we now know, we have through our human and industrial actions altered the course of time in all its meanings: climate time, as well as speed time, or acceleration.

The fine metaphor used by futurists on the need to have good headlights at night – the faster we travel, the brighter they need to be – seems somewhat outdated. While, today, we are collectively wondering whether the road still exists, we can still enjoy inventing, plotting, and carving out a new path. For, in the words of Gaston Berger, the future is not only what may happen or what is most likely to happen, but is also, and increasingly so, what we want it to be. Predicting a disaster is conditional: it involves predicting what would happen if we did nothing to change the situation rather than what will happen in any event [17].

Risk management will remain a fundamental necessity on the path we choose. What is more, any initiative involves a degree of uncertainty which we can only ever partially reduce. This uncertainty will never absolve our individual and collective responsibilities as elected representatives or citizens. This uncertainty, in turn, creates a duty of anticipation [18].

Anticipation culture must feature at the heart of our public and collective policies. To that end, we must employ foresight methods that are genuinely robust and operational, along with impact prior analyses for the actions to be taken. That is the only way to tackle a new future without false impressions.

In his conclusions of The Imperative of Responsability, Hans Jonas decreed that, facing the threat of nuclear war, ecological ravage, genetic engineering, and the like, fear was a requirement for tackling the future [19]. We must treat anticipation in the same way. Thus anticipation meets hope, each being a consequence of the other.

 

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

Related paper: Increasing rationality in decision-making through policy impact prior analysis (July 12, 2021)

 

Direct access to PhD2050’s English papers

 

[1] Free translation from: Antony BEEVOR, Stalingrad, p. 231-232 et 252 , Paris, de Fallois, 1999.

[2] Riel MILLER, Futures Literacy: transforming the future, in R. MILLER ed., Transforming the Future, Anticipation in the 21st Century, p. 2, Paris, UNESCO – Abingdon, Routledge, 2018.

[3] Gaston BERGER, L’attitude prospective, dans Phénoménologie et prospective, p. 270sv, Paris, PUF, 1964.

[4] According to the systemist Edgar Morin, emergence is an organizational product which, although inseparable from the system as a whole, appears not only at the global level, but possibly at the level of the components. Emergence is a new quality in relation to the constituents of the system. It therefore has the virtue of an event, since it arises in a discontinuous manner once the system has been constituted; it has of course the character of irreducibility; it is a quality which cannot be broken down, and which cannot be deduced from previous elements. E. MORIN, La méthode, t.1, p. 108, Paris, Seuil, 1977. – The concept of emergence finds its origin in George Henry Lewes. To urge that we do not know how theses manifold conditions emerge in the phenomenon Feeling, it is to say that the synthetic fact has not been analytically resolved into all its factor. It is equally true that we do not know how Water emerges from Oxygen and Hydrogen. The fact of an emergence we know; and we may be certain that what emerges is the expression of its conditions, – every effect being the procession of its cause. George Henry LEWES, Problems of Life and Mind, t. 2, p. 412, London, Trübner & Co, 1874. – André LALANDE, Vocabulaire technique et critique de la philosophie, p. 276-277, Paris, PUF, 1976.

[5] See: Transdisciplinarité in Ph. DESTATTE & Philippe DURANCE dir., Les mots-clés de la prospective territoriale, p. 51, Paris, La Documentation française, 2009. http://www.institut-destree.eu/wa_files/philippe-destatte_philippe-durance_mots-cles_prospective_documentation-francaise_2008.pdf

[6] Nassim Nicholas TALEB, The Black Swan, The Impact of the Highly Improbable, New York, Random House, 2007.

[7] Daniel KAHNEMAN & Amos TVERSKY, Prospect theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk, in Econometrica, Journal of the econometric society, 1979, vol. 47, nr 2, p. 263-291. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1914185?seq=1

[8] Pierre ROSANVALLON, Counter-Democracy, Politics in an Age of Distrust, Cambridge University Press,  2008.

[9] Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Lettre à Monsieur de Voltaire sur ses deux poèmes sur « la Loi naturelle » et sur « le Désastre de Lisbonne », présentée par Jean-Paul DELEAGE, dans Écologie & politique, 2005, 30, p. 141-154.

https://www.cairn.info/revue-ecologie-et-politique1-2005-1-page-141.htm

[10] Cfr Marc Weitzmann, Le Cygne noir, une énigme de notre temps, ou la prévision prise en défaut, avec Cynthia Fleury, Bruno Tertrais et Erwan Queinnec, Signes des Temps, France Culture, https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/signes-des-temps/le-cygne-noir-une-enigme-de-notre-temps-ou-la-prevision-prise-en-defaut

[11] Sofiane BOUHDIBA, Lisbonne, le 1er novembre 1755 : un hasard ? Au cœur de la polémique entre Voltaire et Rousseau, A travers champs, 19 octobre 2014. S. Bouhdiba est démographe à l’Université de Tunis. https://presquepartout.hypotheses.org/1023 – Jean-Paul POIRIER, Le tremblement de terre de Lisbonne, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2005.

[12] Translation taken from the Online Library of Liberty, https://oll.libertyfund.org/quote/voltaire-laments-the-destruction-of-lisbon-in-an-earthquake-and-criticises-the-philosophers-who-thought-that-all-s-well-with-the-world-and-the-religious-who-thought-it-was-god-s-will-1755.

VOLTAIRE, Poème sur le désastre de Lisbonne (1756), Œuvres complètes, Paris, Garnier, t. 9, p. 475. Wikisources : https://fr.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Voltaire_-_%C5%92uvres_compl%C3%A8tes_Garnier_tome9.djvu/485

[13] We are talking about theodicy here. This consists in the justification of the goodness of God by the refutation of the arguments drawn from the existence. This concept was introduced by the German philosopher and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz (1646-1716) in an attempt to reconcile the apparent contradiction between, on the one hand, the misfortunes that prevail on earth and, on the other hand, the power and the goodness of God. LEIBNITZ, Essais de théodicée sur la bonté de Dieu, la liberté de l’Homme et l’origine du mal, Amsterdam, F. Changuion, 1710. – See Patrick SHERRY, Theodicy in Encyclopedia Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/theodicy-theology. Accessed 28 August 2021.

We know that in his tale Candide, or Optimism, published in 1759, Voltaire will deform and mock Leibnitzian thought through the caricatural character of Pangloss and the formula everything is at best in the best of all possible worlds … VOLTAIRE, Candide ou l’Optimisme, in VOLTAIRE, Romans et contes, Edition établie par Frédéric Deloffre et Jacques Van den Heuvel, p. 145-233, Paris, Gallimard, 1979.

[14] Translation from Internet Archive, Letter to Voltaire, Pl, IV, 1060-1062, p. 51.

 https://archive.org/details/RousseauToVoltairet.marshall/page/n1/mode/2up?q=lisbon,

Lettre à Monsieur de Voltaire sur ses deux poèmes sur la « Loi naturelle » et sur « Le Désastre de Lisbonne », 18 août 1756. in Jean-Paul DELEAGE, op. cit.

[15] J.-J. ROUSSEAU, Confessions, IX, Paris, 1767, cité par Sofiane BOUHDIBA, op. cit.

[16] Paul VIRILIO, L’accident originel, p. 3, Paris, Galilée, 2005.

[17] G. BERGER, Phénoménologie et prospective…, p. 275. (Free translation).

[18] Voir à ce sujet Pierre LASCOUMES, La précaution comme anticipation des risques résiduels et hybridation de la responsabilité, dans L’année sociologique, Paris, PUF, 1996, 46, n°2, p. 359-382.

[19] Hans JONAS, The Imperative of Responsability, In Search of an Ethics for the Technological Age, The University of Chicago Press, 1984.

Washington, 5 November 2018

We live in an age where populism, as both a totalitarian and a Manichean political attitude [1], is becoming more established on both sides of the Atlantic. An age, also, in which there is a proliferation of democratic innovations attempting to address the issues of the 21st century and the crises in representation and delegation. The question of public confidence in institutions is key, but it is based, first and foremost, on the way in which these issues should be resolved and, therefore, on the mechanisms that allow this to happen. In this respect, questioning governance in terms of its relationship with the law, as the World Bank and the World Academy of Art and Science are doing, makes sense, particularly in as turbulent a context as the one we live in today [2]. It seems that each piece of data, each reality, each fact and each change is doubted, challenged or even disputed. Individualism and the restricted thought communities in which some people seem to isolate themselves permanently prohibit any critical dialogue, permitting instead all forms of intellectual or cybernetic manipulation. Memory fades and the horizon becomes more limited, rendering any view fundamentally myopic. In an age of fake news [3], combined with superficial perspectives, all information, and also all knowledge, seems fragile and shifting. Yet, as a historian and Yale professor Timothy Snyder rightly pointed out, if there is no truth, there can be no trust, and nothing new appears in a human vacuum [4].

The democratic innovations are clearly here to fill this vacuum, by restoring meaning to collective action in which the involvement of each individual is recognised and by empowering citizens and politicians. The Destree Institute’s Wallonia Policy Lab – the Brussels Area Node for the Millennium Project – has been involved in these innovations in conjunction with the Parliament of Wallonia, based on an experiment which was launched in 1994 and which ended in 2017 and 2018, with citizens’ panels held within the parliamentary precinct itself, in dialogue with deputies and ministers. We are dealing here with the processes highlighted by Professor Archon Fung [5] which he calls “empowered deliberation” or “empowered participatory governance”, which enable officials and citizens to address complex and volatile governance issues to try and resolve them jointly [6].

In addressing some “new” governance models in Europe and the United States, we will firstly review the definition of the concept and the organisation of its models in three spheres. We will then move on to examine six mutations which have influenced and developed this model, before turning our attention to a 21st-century form of governance, as advocated by the Committee of Experts on Public Administration in the United Nations Economic and Social Council which, during its 2018 session, proposed a form of governance for Agenda 2030.

 

 1. The governance models

Behind the concept of governance, as we will use it here, lies an old idea reflecting the political science of social administration, and a more modern concept, stemming from the end of the 1980s, which represents an effort to reinvent a management model through dynamic organisation of the actors and stakeholders. This model has a history, which we will not elaborate on here, but which has its roots in the process of decolonisation and advancement of human rights and in the efforts, particularly by the United Nations and the related institutions, to shape new countries or even a new world [7].

 

1.1. Towards a definition of the concept of governance

In 1991, in a Report by the Council of the Club of Rome entitled The First Global Revolution, Alexander King (1909-2007) and Bertrand Schneider (born in 1929) use the term “governance” to denote the command mechanism of a social system (and its actions), which endeavours to provide security, prosperity, coherence, order and continuity to the system. This concept necessarily embraces the ideology of the system, which may (democratic) or may not (authoritarian) define means for the effective consideration of the public will and the accountability of those authorities. It also includes the structure of the government of the system, its policies and its procedures. Some might even say that governance is the means to provide a stable equilibrium between the various centres of power [8].

The British successor to Aurelio Peccei as President of the Club of Rome, and the French Secretary General of that organisation which was founded in 1968, note that the concept of governance, in the broadest sense, should not be reserved for national or international systems but should be used for regional, provincial and local governments and for other social systems such as education, defence, private enterprise and even the family microcosm [9]. Thus, governance includes the government and also any actor who uses the command mechanisms to articulate demand, formulate objectives, disseminate guidelines and monitor policies [10]. As the political scientist and futurist James Rosenau (1924-2011) indicates, in this fragmented world of ours, all these many and varied actors are of no less importance in the governance process than government policies. However, Rosenau, a professor at George Washington University, qualifies the idea of “command mechanism” found in the Club of Rome’s definition, preferring instead the concept of “control or steering mechanism”, which brings the concept closer to its etymological origin [11].

Steven Rosell, a Canadian researcher at the Institute for Research on Public Policy who was himself inspired by the works of the American diplomat and professor Harlan Cleveland (1918-2000) [12], offers a definition of governance that takes account of these aspects when he writes: the process of governance is the process whereby an organization or a society steers itself, adding that the dynamics of communication and control are central to that process. While the role of government is and remains central to the process of governance, in the information society more and more players, voluntary organisations, interest groups, the private sector, the media and so on – become involved in that process [13].

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has set itself the goal of advocating for change and connecting countries to knowledge, experience and resources that help people build a better life. In its second annual report, in 1991, the UNDP suggests that underdevelopment originates from a lack of political accountability rather than a lack of funding. Since 1992, the term “governance”, combined with the democratisation of State management, has appeared in the Global Report on Human Development [14]. The UNDP, which was a co-author, defined good governance as the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs at all levels. Governance comprises the complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, mediate their differences and exercise their legal rights and obligations. Good governance has many attributes. It is participatory, transparent and accountable. It is effective in making the best use of resources and is equitable. And it promotes the rule of law [15].

We are aware of the World Bank’s role in disseminating the concept of “good governance” as a public management model – developing accounting control to tackle corruption, building legal frameworks to promote the establishment of international free enterprise, a mechanism for decentralising services, etc. [16] The Washington institution was also at the forefront in terms of defining institutional governance:

We define governance broadly as the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes (1) the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced, (2) the capacity of the government to effectively formulate and implement sound policies, and (3) the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them [17]. We see the operational side of this definition for the World Bank, a definition which also includes a range of indicators that help to explain these various aspects of governance [18].

Other definitions have been developed over time, including those of the European Commission, the OECD and various countries. In its White Paper in 2001, the European Commission indicates that governance means rules, processes and behaviour that affect the way in which they are exercised at European level, particularly as regards openness, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence [19].

As the political scientists have demonstrated, governance is a descriptive label used to highlight the changing nature of the political process over the past few decades. This concept alerts us to the ever-increasing diversity of areas and actors involved in the development of public policies. It takes into account all the actors and all the areas outside the executive framework of the policy development process [20]. The key element in both understanding and promoting governance is probably the notion of stakeholders of the particular policy or issue, which turns such parties into potential actors [21]. Whether they are engaged in action or in campaigning, it is through such involvement that actors find the legitimacy of participating in the governance of the defined territory. As for the public sector, such involvement may offer it a new opportunity to rethink its role and, consequently, a new vitality [22].

Lester Salamon, professor at John Hopkins University, has highlighted the new governance paradigm by demonstrating the transition between, on the one hand, traditional public administration based on programmes, agencies, hierarchy, public-private sector antagonism, command and control mechanisms and skills-based management, and, on the other, governance based on new tools, network logic, a constructive relationship between the public and private sectors, negotiation and persuasion and development of skills [23].

This comparison is consistent with others, particularly that between the Weberian Bureaucratic State and the Postmodern State, between government and governance, drawn up by Richards and Smith in 2002 and developed by Michael Hill [24].

diapositive1

 1.2. The three spheres of governance

The UNDP model structures the State, the private sector and civil society as three spheres of governance based on a specific division of tasks.

– The role of the State and its three powers – legislative, judiciary and executive (public services and the military) – is to create a political and legal environment and climate conducive to human development by defending interests for the public good. It is the State’s responsibility to ensure law enforcement, maintain order and security, create a national identity and vision, define a public policy and programmes, generate revenues for public services and infrastructures, draw up and implement its budget and regulate and stimulate the market.

– The private sector which, from the smallest business to the largest, grows within the market, creates and provides goods and services, along with jobs and revenues for citizens. This commercial sector is not linked to a specific territory, yet it is an element of regional development.

diapositive3

Three spheres of governance

– The private sector which, from the smallest business to the largest, grows within the market, creates and provides goods and services, along with jobs and revenues for citizens. This commercial sector is not linked to a specific territory, yet it is an element of regional development.

– Civil society, which comprises all citizens, who may be organised through non-governmental organisations, professional organisations, religious associations, women’s associations, cultural or community associations, etc., facilitates political and social interaction, particularly by mobilising groups of citizens to participate in economic, social and political activities and express a range of dynamic and varied opinions [25].

Although it makes the system easier to understand, this arrangement of the three spheres of governance does not diminish the complexity of the system. Thus, it reveals the following seven types of relationships which remain common:

– the relationship between governments and markets;

– the relationship between governments and citizens;

– the relationship between governments and the voluntary or private sectors;

– the relationship between (elected) politicians and (appointed) civil servants;

– the relationship between local government institutions and residents in towns and rural areas;

– the relationship between the legislative and the executive;

– the relationship between the Nation State and the international institutions ([26]).

In its analysis, the UNDP points out that none of the three spheres is solely responsible for good governance and cannot own it by itself. Good governance extends beyond the functions of each sphere and is a matter for their meetings and interactions. As G. Shabbir CHEEMA, Director of the Improved Management & Governance Division of the UNDP, writes, it is first and foremost a question of promoting interaction between these three spheres. The actors involved at the point where the State, the private sector and civil society meet are the keys to governance [27].

Thus, from the experience of international cooperation, globalisation and economic interdependence, it is possible to derive this approach to governance, which can be seen as a process of coordinating actors, social groups and institutions that produce compromises and political and social consensus on achieving specific goals – which are discussed and defined collectively – in fragmented and uncertain environments. This view of the concept clearly addresses the issue of the State’s role in the organisation of society. Although it radically alters the nature of the relationship between citizens and State, the governance model cannot replace the function of government. We are dealing here with a complementary approach, which involves the decision-makers and increases their expectation of collective action by relying on the other pillars of society.

We can see this in the convergence between the various definitions of the concept of governance and the issue of the position of civil society, while the capacity of civil society to enter into a global dialogue with the political sphere is central to the revitalisation of democracy and the rehabilitation of politics. The key element in both understanding and promoting governance is probably the notion of stakeholders of the particular policy or issue, which turns such parties into potential actors. It is through their action or campaigning that actors find the legitimacy of participating in the political and social arena. As for the public sector, and particularly the government, such involvement may offer it a new opportunity to rethink its role and, consequently, a new vitality [28]. Indeed, politics retains its rightful place in the new model. Its own, new political vision leads it into the heart of the system, as a facilitator and organiser of the debate and of the decisions being taken between actors. In this respect, it appears to be the mastermind, like the State [29].

2. Six mutations that influence governance

At a particular moment in history – in the early 1990s –, a search for a new equilibrium was launched between market, political and civil society actors. It may be that the third of these served to complement the first two, to try and correct the excessive pendulum swing caused by the neoliberal deregulation introduced by Reaganism and Thatcherism. Economic and civil society actors have also been able to join forces in developing countries to maintain cohesion mismanaged by discredited regimes, and have therefore been parties at the international level. The same geopolitical causes that put an end to the bipolarity of the world clearly had an effect on ideologies. Their erosion, and even their partial or total discrediting, no doubt contributed to the development or consolidation of the individualist vision that marks the supremacy of personal sovereignty over state sovereignty and reconnects with the philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment and the social contract. This individualism, in which the individual is not created for the State, but rather the State is created for the individual, is emerging as a significant trend in contemporary society.

In parallel, and faced with increased globalisation, the key players are operating increasingly at the international level and are, themselves, structuring the political and social arena [30]. The European Union is a good example of a public actor, as are multinational businesses and organisations such as Google, Uber, Greenpeace and the Millennium Project.

We wanted to highlight at least six mutations that influence governance, before examining how they influence our model: (1) The Knowledge Revolution (2) the transition to sustainable development, (3) the new social trifunctionality, (4) open government, (5) the conservative and populist zeitgeist, and (6) the increasing influence of businesses.

2.1. The Knowledge Revolution

There is no need to dwell on this mutation, except to point out that it is a single trajectory which originates in the Information Revolution of the 1970s, the communication highways, the cognitive revolution, the knowledge society, the digital revolution, the internet, the genome, robotics, artificial intelligence, etc.: all these transformations, these waves of technological and societal innovations, stem from the same dynamic. This structure of structural change leads us collectively towards something else whose magnitude we have barely perceived. One of the major results is clearly the higher levels of education among citizens and the significant increase in the number of intellectuals, defined as individuals who are engaged in critical thought, supported by research and reflection on society, and who offer solutions to address its normative problems. Unlike the far too negative perception people have of it, social media is a source of training and education for many. The internet, meanwhile, contains a considerable amount of information and knowledge which helps to train citizens. Social media is producing a multitude of new tools for building communities and promoting a more deliberative and more participatory democracy, even if its harmful effects cannot be denied. As early as 1974, in The Coming of Post-industrial Society, the sociologist Daniel Bell dedicated a chapter to this key issue question: who will lead? [31]

2.2. The transition to sustainable development

This transition, which also began at the end of the 1960s with increasing awareness of the limits imposed on growth, grew very (too) slowly through the various reports produced, above all, by the United Nations, scientists, NGOs of all kinds, political parties, States and, now, businesses. Nearly all accepted the notion that sustainable development is a systemic dynamic and a quest for harmony, as advocated in the Brundtland Report in 1987. The implementation of Agenda 2030 and the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) adopted by heads of state and governments at the Special United Nations Summit of 25 September 2015, shares this systemic aspect and takes account of the critical need to save the planet and the urgency of climate change [32], highlighted further in the IPCC report of October 2018 [33].

2.3. The new social trifunctionality

It was the anthropologist and religious historian Georges Dumézil (1898-1986) who showed, through his work on ancient myths, how societies of Indo-European origin organise human activity based on a trifunctional approach. He consistently describes three functions in the societies studied. These are exercised as separate, hierarchical powers: a religion and sovereignty function, a military function and a production and reproduction function [34]. Thus, after the Aristotelian model [35], we note the feudal system model with its three orders, described by the historian Georges Duby (1919-1996), which is based on the work of Adalbéron, bishop of Laon (1027-1030) [36], and the French Ancien Régime model with its three states, conceived by René Rémond (1918-2007) [37] but previously described by the legal scholar Charles Loyseau (1566-1627) at the beginning of the 17th century. The governance model currently in force is a continuation of this trifunctionality, but it has the particular characteristic of seeking, as we have seen, a balance between stakeholders rather than a restrictive leadership of one party over the others.

As with all of Dumézil’s analysis, each of the models has been criticised. Take, for example, the well-known issues raised by Abbé Sieyes (1748-1836) [38] or by Karl Marx (1818-1883) and Friedrich Engels (1820-1895) [39]. The model of governance by stakeholders has also been criticised and will be again. It has also been described as a new form of corporatism, which clearly evokes some highly charged images.

 

 2.4. Open government

Taking its inspiration from the works of the OGP (Open Government Partnership) and the OECD, open government can be conceived as a citizen-centred culture of governance that utilises innovative and sustainable tools, policies and practices to promote government transparency, responsiveness and accountability to foster stakeholders’ participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth [40]. This process is intended to lead to the co-construction of collective policies that involve all governance players (public sector, businesses, civil society, etc.) and pursue the general interest and the common good. Such initiatives have been taken by leaders said to be above politics, such as Tony Blair, Barack Obama and Emmanuel Macron, and are continuing, particularly in the action plans developed under the guidance of the OGP, such as the UK-NAP: 3rd OGP National Action Plan [41].

  

2.5. The conservative and populist zeitgeist

Whether you like him as a person or not, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, in his speech to the TUC (Trade Union Congress) in Brighton on 12 September 2006, perfectly captured the unease felt at that time by citizens and politicians, an unease which was still in its infancy but which would continue to grow until today. The quality of this analysis deserves a lengthy quotation.

« What has changed is the interplay between globalisation, immigration and terrorism. Suddenly we feel under threat: physically from this new terrorism that is coming onto our streets, culturally as new waves of migrants change our society, and economically because an open world economy is hastening the sharpness of competition. People feel they are working longer, but are less secure. They feel the rules are changing and they never voted to change them. They feel, in a word, powerless. This is producing a pessimism that is pervasive and fearful because there seems no way through, or at least a way under our control.

There is a debate going on which, confusingly for the politicians, often crosses traditional left/right lines and the debate is: open vs closed. Do we embrace the challenge of more open societies or build defences against it? In my judgement, we need an approach that is strong and not scared that addresses people’s anxieties but does not indulge them, and above all has the right values underpinning it. The challenge won’t be overcome by policy alone, but by a powerful case made on the basis of values, most especially those that combine liberty with justice, security with tolerance and respect for others. We have to escape the tyranny of the « or » and develop the inclusive nature of the « and ».

The answer to economic globalisation is open markets and strong welfare and public service systems, particularly those like education, which equip people for change. The answer to terrorism is measures on security and tackling its underlying causes.

The answer to concern over migration is to welcome its contribution and put a system of rules in place to control it [42].

 And Tony Blair goes on to condemn economic protectionism, isolation and nativism, the political current of opposing any new immigration:

Protectionism in the economy; isolation in world affairs; nativism within our society; all, in the end, mean weakness in the face of challenge. If we believe in ourselves we can be strong. We can overcome the challenge of global change; better, we can relish its possibilities [43].

The opposite of this open concept is clearly populism, which we mentioned at the outset. In June 2017, Anthony Zurcher, the BBC News correspondent in the United States, described this attitude and its consequences: challenging the legitimacy of elected representatives, distrusting the parliamentary system, criticising the media and a financial oligarchy that seems to run the world, along with challenging scientific evidence, particularly by maintaining a sense of confusion over certain issues: the case analysed was typical: Does Trump still think climate change is a hoax? [44]

 

 2.6. The growing influence of businesses

 The growing influence of businesses is a clearly visible reality. There is little doubt that the role of businesses is better recognised in society and that their impact on governance has increased at the global and the local level. In June 2014, alluding to integrated governance, a new governance model for sustainability, the United Nations Environment Programme observed that companies have been the engine behind the unprecedented economic growth of the past century. The big companies through their operations have managed to raise billions of people from poverty, provide employment and education opportunities and unlock the human potential for innovation and creativity [45].

If we analyse the UNDP’s ‘three spheres of governance’ model, we can already see that, in what we call the first generation (Governance Model 1.0. #1stGen), from the 1980s to the middle of the 2000s the influence of the Knowledge Revolution was already being strongly exercised over the private sector and over civil society. The transition towards sustainable development was recognised mainly within civil society, whereas the social trifunctionality model was disseminated in the public sector through the international institutions.

It seems that this pattern has evolved since the middle of the 2000s towards a second-generation governance model (Governance Model 2.0. #2nd Gen) in which sustainable development is widespread throughout all levels of the public sphere to the point of becoming the official norm. The effects of the Intelligence Revolution have continued to be felt everywhere, but they are especially extensive in the public sector, particularly through the open government movement, and particularly under the influence of Barack Obama, starting from his first term in 2009. But in a world in which knowledge is valued, a new sphere is emerging that of the world of research and universities (Academia). This represents an interface, being both autonomous and a meeting and activation point for the private, public and civil society spheres, particularly through its capacity to activate collective intelligence and its academic freedom. This new sphere is challenging the social trifunctionality model.

It could be argued that the adoption and implementation of the SDGs since 2015 represents a tangible acceleration of the transition towards sustainable development and the prospect of a new generation of governance (Governance Model 3.0. #NextGen).

diapositive4

The growing influence of businesses may, in this key area of the SDGs which are the primary focus of their societal responsibility, provide valuable support, especially since awareness of sustainability in the business world has increased considerably and the resources available to public “authorities” are effectively eroded. Nevertheless, the conservative and populist zeitgeist which is disrupting the public sector and civil society may have some annoying effects, namely blocking or confusing the information and communication flows.

The impacts on the actors in governance of the six mutations in progress can be summarised in the following table.

diapositive5

 

 3. Governance for Agenda 2030?

The United Nations Committee of Experts in Public Administration (CEPA), set up by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 2001, is composed of 24 members who meet every year at the UN headquarters in New York. The Committee supports the work of ECOSOC to promote the development of effective public administration and quality governance among Member States, particularly in the context of Agenda 2030, in support of the implementation and evaluation of progress in achieving the sustainable development goals. CEPA updates ECOSOC on the various aspects of governance and public administration of sustainable socio-economic development. Its particular focus is on topics relating to development of human capital, participatory governance, development of skills in countries experiencing crises or emerging from conflict, and on the various innovations in public administration and governance.

At its 17th session, which was held in New York in April 2018, the CEPA worked on the subject of preparing public institutions for the implementation of the SDGs (Readying public institutions for implementation of the SDGs). CEPA put forward recommendations on three issues it considered fundamental: firstly, preparing institutions and politicians with a view to ensuring the implementation of the sustainable development programme by 2030, then the implementation, at all levels, of efficient, responsible institutions that are open to anybody, and, finally, measures aimed at strengthening the institutions and giving them the necessary resources to transform societies and make them viable and resilient. Based on its earlier work, CEPA drew up a set of principles of effective governance to support the urgent and total achievement of all the sustainable development goals.

3.1. Effectiveness

3.1.1. Competence: to perform their functions effectively, institutions are to have sufficient expertise, resources and tools to deal adequately with the mandates under their authority (commonly used strategies such as: promotion of a professional public sector workforce, leadership development and training civil servant, financial management and control, investment in e-governement, etc.).

3.1.2. Sound policymaking: to achieve their intended results, public policies are to be coherent with one another and founded on true or well-established grounds, in full accordance with fact, reason and good sense (commonly used strategies such as: strategic planning and foresight, strengthening national statistical systems, risk management frameworks, data sharing, etc.).

3.1.3. Collaboration: to address problems of common interest, institutions at all levels of government and in all sectors should work together and jointly with non-State actors towards the same end, purpose and effect (commonly used strategies such as: centre of government coordination under the Head of State of Government, collaboration, coordination, integration and dialogue across levels of government and functional areas, raising awareness of the SDG, network-based governance, multi-stakeholder partnerships etc.).

3.2. Accountability

3.2.1. Integrity: to serve in the public interest, civil servants are to discharge their official duties honestly, fairly and in a manner consistent with soundness of moral principle (commonly used strategies such as: promotion of anti-corruption policies, practices and bodies, codes of conduct for public officials, elimination of bribery and trading in influence, conflict of interest policies, whistle-blower protection, provision of adequate remuneration and equitable pay scales for public servants, etc.).

3.2.2. Transparency: to ensure accountability and enable public scrutiny, institutions are to be open and candid in the execution of their functions and promote access to information, subject only to the specific and limited exceptions as are provided by law (commonly used strategies such as: proactive disclosure of information, budget transparency, open government data, registries of beneficial ownership, lobby registries, etc.).

3.2.3. Independent oversight: to retain trust in government, oversight agencies are to act according to strictly professional considerations and apart from and unaffected by others (commonly used strategies such as: promotion of the independence of regulatory agencies, arrangements for a review of administrative decisions by courts or other bodies, independent audit, respect for legality, etc.).

3.3. Inclusiveness

3.3.1. Leaving no one behind: to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality, public policies are to take into account the needs and aspirations of all segments of society, including the poorest and most vulnerable and those subject to discrimination (commonly used strategies such as: promotion of equitable fiscal and monetary policy, promotion of social equity, data disaggregation, systematic follow-up and review, etc.).

3.3.2. Non discrimination: to respect, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, access to public service is to be provided on general terms of equality, without distinction of any kind as to race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, disability or other status (commonly used strategies such as: promotion of public sector workforce diversity, prohibition of discrimination in public service delivery, multilingual service delivery, accessibility standards, cultural audit of institutions, universal birth registration, gender-responsive budgeting, etc.).

3.3.3. Participation: to have an effective State, all significant political groups should be actively involved in matters that directly affect them and have a chance to influence policy (commonly used strategies such as: free and fair elections, regulatory process of public consultation, multi-stakeholder forums, participatory budgeting, community-driven development, etc.).

3.3.4. Subsidiarity: to promote government that is responsive to the needs and aspirations of all people, central authorities should perform only those tasks which cannot be performed effectively at a more intermediate or local level (commonly used strategies such as: fiscal federalism, strengthening urban governance, strengthening municipal finance and local finance systems, enhancement of local capacity for prevention, adaptation and mitigation of external shocks, multilevel governance, etc.).

3.3.5. Intergenerational equity: to promote prosperity and quality of life for all, institutions should construct administrative acts that balance the short-term needs of today’s generation with the longer-term needs of future generations (commonly used strategies such as: sustainable development impact assessment, long-term public debt management, long-term territorial planning and spatial development, ecosystem management, etc.) [46].

These principles of effective governance, drawn up by the UN CEPA to support the urgent and total achievement of all the sustainable development goals, is a genuine roadmap from which all actors in governance must be able to draw inspiration. Not only administrations and associations, as we have seen, but also citizens, businesses and researchers. Not only will the implementation of these principles contribute to increasing sustainable development and help it to achieve its goals by 2030, but they may also improve our world and our societies, here and now.

Conclusion: Rationality and Organization in Democracy

The governance models highlighted today are certainly not being advocated only for Europe and the United States. They are recommended for the entire world, but these models are enriched considerably by the work undertaken by the major international institutions, associations and foundations. Naturally, these include the Club of Rome, the UNDP, the World Bank, the ECOSOC CEPA and the Open Government Partnership. There are others, as well, such as the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the OECD.

The objective of these initiatives is, first and foremost, to improve democracy and governance. These cannot function without being organised through structured and often procedural dialogue between stakeholders. To achieve harmony, democracy also requires rationality and method [47] from citizens and politicians. Education and training are fundamentally what sustains them on a daily basis. This should never be forgotten.

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

 

See also : Philippe Destatte, What is Open Government?, November 7, 2017.

Direct access to PhD2050’s English Papers

 

[1] As Emiliano GROSSMAN and Nicolas SAUGER note in Pourquoi détestons-nous autant nos politiques?, p. 71-72, Paris, Presses de Science Po, 2017, populism is, if we accept the contemporary definitions of the term (including Cas MUDDE, Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2007.), first and foremost a partial ideology (in that it does not offer a full and comprehensive explanation of the world), built around two principles: total separation between the people and the elite (the people being good, the elite being corrupt), and subjection of politics to the general will. In other words, populism is based on a negation of pluralism (the people are a homogeneous whole) and a form of Manichaeism (the people are good, the elite are evil) Our translation. – See also Colin HAY, Why we hate politics, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2007.

[2] This text is an updated version of my speech at the “Round table on Governance & Law: Challenges & Opportunities” seminar held at the World Bank in Washington at the instigation of the World Academy of Art and Science and the World University Consortium, on 5 and 6 November 2018.

[3] Although the historian recalls that rumours are not specific to the information society or the knowledge society. See François-Bertrand HUYGHE, La désinformation, les armes du faux, Paris, A. Colin, 2016. – Fake News, la Grande Peur, 2018.

[4] Timothy SNYDER, The Road to Unfreedom, Russia, Europe, America, p. 279, New York, Tim Duggan, 2018.

[5] Archon Fung is Professor of Citizenship and Governance at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

[6] Archon FUNG, Democratizing the Policy Process, in Michael MORAN, Martin REIN & Robert E. GOODIN, The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy, p. 682, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2008. – A. FUNG, Empowered Deliberation: Reinventing Urban Democracy, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 2004.

[7] See inter alia Louis EMMERIJ, Richard JOLLY, Thomas G. WEISS, Ahead of the Curve?, UN Ideas and Global Challenges, New York – Geneva, UN-Indiana University Press, 2001. – id., En avance sur leur temps?, Les idées des Nations Unies face aux défis mondiaux, p. 229sv., Blonay, Van Diermen – ADECO – Geneva, United Nations, 2003. – Thomas G. WEISS, Governance, Good Governance, and Global Governance: Conceptual and Actual Challenges, Third World Quarterly 21, n°5, October 2000, p. 795-814.

[8] Alexander KING & Bertrand SCHNEIDER, The First Global Revolution, p. 114, New York-Hyderabad, Pantheon Books – Orient Longman, 1991. – It should be noted that, in the French translation of this report, which was prepared by Jacques Fontaine and published in Paris in 1991, the term governance is translated by « structures de gouvernement [structures of government]”, thus indicating that its use is France is not yet widespread. A. KING & B. SCHNEIDER, Questions de survie, La Révolution mondiale a commencé, p. 163, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, 1991.

[9] A. KING & B. SCHNEIDER, The First Global Revolution : A Report of the Council of Rome…, p. 181-182.

[10] James N. ROSENAU & Ernst-Otto CZEMPIEL ed., Governance without Government: Order and Change in World Politics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992. – J.N. ROSENAU, Along the Domestic Frontier, Exploring Governance in a Turbulent World, p. 145, Cambridge University Press, 1997.

[11] « Governance » is understood to come from the Greek kybenan or kybernetes (as in cybernetics), which means to steer or control. J.N. ROSENAU, Along..., p. 146.

[12] Harlan Cleveland, former United States Ambassador to NATO, president of the World Academy of Arts and Science, had himself used the term since the 1970s. – The organizations that get things done will no longer be hierarchical pyramids with most of the real control at the top. They will be systems—interlaced webs of tension in which control is loose, power diffused, and centers of decision plural. “Decision-making” will become an increasingly intricate process of multilateral brokerage both inside and outside the organization which thinks it has the responsibility for making, or at least announcing, the decision. Because organizations will be horizontal, the way they are governed is likely to be more collegial, consensual, and consultative. The bigger the problems to be tackled, the more real power is diffused and the larger the number of persons who can exercise it — if they work at it. Harlan CLEVELAND, The Future Executive: A Guide for Tomorrow’s Managers, p. 13, New York, Harper & Row, 1972.

[13] Steven A. ROSELL ea, Governing in an Information Society, p. 21, Montréal, Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1992.

[14] UNDP and governance, Experiences and Lessons Learned, UNDP, Management Development and Governance, Lessons-Learned, Series, n°1, p. 9. – Richard Jolly, Director General of Unicef, special advisor to the UNDP Administrator and the driving force behind the Human Development Report, and the conference entitled Good governance and democratisation: the role of the international organisations, Ottawa, United Nations Association in Canada (UNA-Canada), 16 and 17 October 1997. – Une nouvelle gouvernance mondiale au service de l’humanité et de l’équité, dans Rapports mondial sur le développement humain 1999, p. 97-123, New-York, UNDP – Paris-Brussels, De Boeck-Larcier, 1999.

[15] G. Shabbir CHEEMA, Politique et gouvernance du PNUD : cadre conceptuel et coopération au développement, http://www.unac.org/français/activites/gouvernance/partieun.html 17/02/02. Shabbir CHEEMA directeur de la Division du Renforcement de la Gestion et de la Gouvernance au PNUD. – Another definition given by the UNDP is that of Public Sector Management, which dates from 1995: governance or public management encompasses the direct and indirect management by the state of public affairs and regulatory control of private activities that impinge on human affairs. Governance can best be understood in terms of three major components: first, the form of political authority that exists in a country (parliamentary or presidential, civilian or military, and autocratic or democratic; second, the means through which authority is exercised in the management of economic and social resources; and third, the ability of governments to discharge government functions effectively , efficiently, and equitably through the design, formulation, and implementation of sound policies. dans Public Sector Management, Governance, and Sustainable Human Development, Discussion Paper 1, Management Development and Governance Division, Bureau for Policy and Programme Support, p. 19, New-York, United Nations Development Programme, 1995. – In 1997, a new study by the Management Development & Governance Division, prefaced by G. Shabbir Cheema, gave a very similar definition to the one presented in Ottawa: Governance can be seen as the exercise of economic, political and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels. it comprises the mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, exercise their legal rights, meet their obligations and mediate their differences. In Governance for sustainable human development, A UNDP policy document, p. 3, New-York, United Nations Development Programme, 1997.

[16] See, for example: J. ISHAM, Daniel KAUFMANN & Lant PRITCHETT, Governance and Returns on Investment, Washington, The World Bank, 1995. – Global Economic Prospects and the Developing Countries, Washington, The World Bank, 1996. – Francis NG and Alexander YEATS, Good Governance and Trade Policy, Are They the Keys to Africa’s Global Integration and Growth? Washington, The World Bank, 10 November 1998. – Michael WOOLCOCK, Globalization, Governance and Civil Society, DECRG Policy Research on Globalization, Growth, and Poverty: Facts, Fears, and Agenda for Action, Background Paper, Washington, The World Bank, 10 August 2001.

[17] We define governance broadly as the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised. This includes (1) the process by which governments are selected, monitored and replaced, (2) the capacity of the governement to effectively formulate and implement sound policies, and (3) the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them. Daniel KAUFMANN, Aart KRAAY & Pablo ZOIDO-LOBATON, Governance Matters, Washington, World Bank, 1999. http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/governance. 16/02/02. Daniel KAUFMANN, Aart KRAAY & Pablo ZOIDO-LOBATON, Gestion des Affaires publiques, De l’évaluation à l’action, dans Finances et Développement, June 2000, p. 1.

[18] Daniel KAUFMANN, Aart KRAAY & Pablo ZOIDO-LOBATON, Aggregating Governance Indicators, Washington, World Bank, 1999. http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/governance. 16/02/2002.

[19] Governance means rules, processes and behavior that affect the way in which they are exercised at European level, particularly as regards openess, participation, accountability, effectiveness and coherence. European Governance, A White Paper, July 25, 2001, p. 8.

[20] David RICHARDS & Martin SMITH, Governance and the Public Policy in the UK, p. 2, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002.

[21] La société civile et l’OCDE, in Synthèses, Paris, OCDE, December 2001, p. 1.

[22] Lester M. SALAMON, The Tools Approach and the New Governance: Conclusion and Implications, in Lester M. SALAMON, The Tools of Government, A Guide to the New Governance, p. 600-610 , New-York, Oxford University Press, 2002.

[23] L. M. SALAMON, The Tools of Government… p. 9, 2002.

[24] David RICHARDS & Martin J. SMITH, Governance and Public Policy in the UK, p. 36, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2002. – Michaël HILL, The Public Policy Process, p. 21, Harlow, Pearson Education Limited, 5th ed, 2009.

[25] G. Shabbir CHEEMA, Politique et gouvernance du PNUD: cadre conceptuel et coopération au développement…, p. 10. – Governance includes the state, but transcends it by taking in the private sector and civil society. All three are critical for sustaining human development. The state creates a conducive political and legal environment. The private sector generates jobs and income. And civil society facilitates political and social interaction – mobilising groups to participate in economic, social and political activities. Because each has weaknesses and strengths, a major objective of our support for good governance is to promote constructive interaction among all three. Governance for Sustainable Human Development, A UNDP Policy Document, United Nations Development Programme, January 1997.

[26] Sam AGERE, Promoting Good Governance, Principles, Practices and Perspectives, p. 1, London, Commonwealth Secretariat, Management and Training Services Division, 2000.

[27] G. Shabbir CHEEMA, Politique et gouvernance du PNUD: cadre conceptuel et coopération au développement…, p. 10.

[28] La société civile et l’OCDE, in Synthèses, Paris, OCDE, December 2001, p. 1.

[29] Philippe DELMAS, La maître des horloges, Modernité de l’action publique, Paris, Odile Jacobs, 1991.

[30] M. HILL, The Public Policy Process…, p. 20.

[31] Daniel BELL, The Coming of Post-industrial Society, p. 339, London, Heinemann, 1974.

[32] Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, 21 October 2015. http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/70/1&Lang=E

[33] Summary for Policymakers of IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5ºC approved by governments, 8 October 2018. https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/

[34] Georges DUMEZIL, Jupiter, Mars, Quirinus, Paris, Gallimard, 1941.

[35] ARISTOTLE, Ethique à Nicomaque (349 ANC), p. 43sv, Paris, Vrin, 1997.

[36] Georges DUBY, The Three Orders, Feudal Society Imagined, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 1980.

[37] René REMOND, L’Ancien Régime et la Révolution, p. 64sv., Paris, Seuil, 1974.

[38] Emmanuel Joseph SIEYES, Qu’est-ce que le Tiers état? (1789), Paris, Editions du Boucher, 2002.

[39] K. MARX & F. ENGELS, Manifesto of The Communist Party (1847).

[40] OECD, Open Governement, The Global context and the way forward, p. 19, Paris, OECD Publishing, 2016. – In November 2017, the OECD published this work in French, using the following definition: a culture of governance that is based on innovative, sustainable policies and practices inspired by principles of transparency, accountability and participation to promote democracy and inclusive growth. OECD, Gouvernement ouvert: Contexte mondial et perspectives, Editions OCDE, Paris. 2017. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264280984-fr

[41] Policy paper, UK Open Government National Action Plan 2016-18, 12 May 2016. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/uk-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18/uk-open-government-national-action-plan-2016-18

[42] Full Text of Tony Blair’s Speech to the TUC (Trade Union Congress), Brighton, Sept. 12, 2006. in The Guardian, 12 sept. 2006. https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2006/sep/12/tradeunions.speeches

[43] Ibidem.

[44] Anthony ZURCHER, Does Trump still think climate change is a hoax ? BBC News, June 2, 2017.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-40128034

[45] Companies have been the engine behind the unprecedented economic growth of the past century. The big companies through their operations have managed to raise billions of people from poverty, provide employment and education opportunities and unlock the human potential for innovation and creativity. Integrated Governance, A New Model of Governance for Sustainability, p. 8, United Nations Environment Programme, June 2014.

[46] UN, Committee of Experts on Public Administration, Report on the Seveneenth Session (23-27 April 2018), p. 18-21, New York, Economic and Social Council, Official Records, 2018, Supplement N°24. E/2018/44-E/C.16/2018/8.

[47] We are thinking, in particular, of issues relating to mutual adjustment in developing policies. See Philippe ZITTOUN, La fabrique des politiques publiques, Une approche pragmatique de l’action publique, p. 201sv, Paris, Presses de Science Po, 2013.

Hour-en-Famenne, August 29, 2017

If we set aside the political tactics, the individual frustrations of certain elected representatives and the bitterness of recent weeks during the summer of 2017 and regard them as setbacks, we might ponder the partial changes in majority in Wallonia in the light of the possible trajectories envisaged before the process initiated by Guy Lutgen, president of the Human Democratic Centre, or cdH, on 18 June 2017. An analysis of this kind had been carried out in 2016 by a group of independent actors and experts as part of the preparation for a conference organised by the Open University and the University of Mons (UMONS), in Charleroi [1]. This exercise was continued in 2017 with the Regional Foresight College of Wallonia, resulting in a Manifesto published in the journal L’Echo in March 2017 [2]. How should we try to interpret this at the end of August 2017?

First of all, we must consider the fact that those who had identified future bifurcations for Wallonia envisaged them only at the time of the next regional elections, in 2019 or 2024 – it is worth repeating that bifurcations are moments when the system can evolve in several directions and it follows one of the options open to it. Those observers did not necessarily see such bifurcations in changes in political majority, but thought instead that the scale of the expected transformation required an examination of the strength of the policies adopted, the problem being that the elected representatives in the majority that came to power in 2014 did not seem willing to implement them. As is often the case, incidentally, most of the elected representatives were concentrating on the demands of public opinion, as reported or stimulated by the press: providing responses to an effect of the disease symbolised by the benefits received by the ruling elite [3] rather than to the particularly disturbing socio-economic signals emerging from the actors and researchers [4].

The June 2017 wild-card

However, if we try to anticipate the bifurcations in order to prepare for them, and this was indeed the case for the elections in 2019 and 2024, we tend to forget that trajectories do not necessarily originate within the expected timescales: they may materialise spontaneously depending on their centre of gravity and the impetus they provide. This is what is called a wild-card, a major surprise or an unexpected, surprising and unlikely event that may have considerable impact if it occurs. In the exercise carried out on the trajectories for Wallonia, the experts chose various centres of gravity. However, they examined the uniqueness of the institutions of Wallonia and the political parties and identified the Elysette, the meeting place of the government, as the seat of regional power. This logic is fairly consistent, for example, with the bifurcation at the elections on 13 June 1999, with the emergence of the Rainbow government and the introduction of the Future Contract for Wallonia at the instigation of Minister-President Elio Di Rupo. This bifurcation offered a trajectory of potential transformation. We also know that clear bifurcations, major opportunities for change, might also not offer any positive change, as was the case with the communitisation of education in 1989 in which, ultimately, almost nothing happened due to the lack of an appropriate financing law and of any desire to change an educational model that clearly needed changing. But that, as Rudyard Kipling once wrote, is another story.

What we forget, however, and what may explain the events of this summer, is that the centre of gravity of the Wallonia trajectory has, to date, been located in the Elysette only to a very limited extent. Elio Di Rupo, who rose rapidly to become president of the Socialist Party, realised this in 1999 since he felt that the Boulevard de l’Empereur, headquarter of that party, restricted his political activity. In retrospect, there are two bifurcation moments that clearly illustrate the importance of the centre of gravity represented by the political parties. The first took place in 1997, just twenty years ago. The second was in 2005.

The Forgotten Bifurcation

1997: the president of the Christian Social Party (PSC) instigates a new Regional Policy Declaration (DPR)

Since 1994, Robert Collignon had led a Socialist-Christian Social coalition in the Wallonia Region. The Minister-President, who was in charge of the economy, was pursuing a policy of strengthening the existing centres of excellence: biogenetics and pharmaceuticals in Walloon Brabant, aeronautics in Charleroi, astronautics in Liège, environment in the Mons-Borinage region, water in Verviers, agrifoods in Gembloux, etc. He also restructured the steel industry and its three centres: Cockerill-Sambre, Forges de Clabecq and Boël La Louvière. However, at the end of May 1997, based on evidence that the economy of Wallonia was ailing, the President of the PSC (now the cdH), Charles-Ferdinand Nothomb, advocated a new regional policy declaration with some major reorientations to tackle both the economic and the political issues that had arisen in Wallonia. For the Christian Social president, it was a question of rebuilding people’s trust [5]. Since the first quarter of 1993, Wallonia industrial production had undergone a period of decline [6]. But of greater concern to the analysts assembled by the PSC were the comparisons they were drawing with Flanders over the long term: in particular, an unemployment rate that was twice as high in the south, an annual growth slowdown of 0.5 to 1%, a worrying investment rate and a negative trade balance[7]. For the PSC, and in particular for member of Parliament André Antoine, these economic problems were accompanied by a lack of public regulation [8]. A supplementary regional policy declaration was adopted in November 1997 and acted as a valuable recovery plan by promoting decompartmentalisation and transversality of action, calling for leadership from a Minister-President who had influence over his team, and offering new initiatives [9]. Seven years later, the 2004-2009 DPR indicated that an initial step towards recovery had been achieved by the 1997 supplementary regional policy declaration [10].

2005: the presidents of the cdH and the PS evoke the Marshall Plan

The second example is no longer fresh in people’s minds, even though the initiative continues to be at the heart of the political debates in Wallonia. It was June 2005 and Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe had been leading the government of Wallonia for five years. Since the 2004 elections, the Christian Socialists had replaced Liberals and Socialists as partners of the Socialists. The new DPR, mentioned above, stated as follows: Wallonia is recovering. But its economic weakness was so intense that the road to prosperity is still long! And then the phrase which has become a mantra for positive minds: One thing is certain: Wallonia has stopped declining [11].

But a year later, while the government was calmly undertaking its legislative work and implementing this regional policy declaration, cdH President Joëlle Milquet and PS President Elio Di Rupo, in turn, called for mobilisation. I’m calling for genuine Walloon action, declared the PS leader. We need a Marshall Plan for Wallonia that requires real ownership and accountability from everyone (government, unions, bosses, universities, teachers, organisations). It’s urgent. It is imperative that we all quantify the actions to be implemented and measure their effectiveness. We know that there are problems in Wallonia despite an improvement which, whatever people say, is still insufficient. The government has taken some positive steps through its strategic plan to stimulate activity. But the best measures in the world are worthless if they are not implemented on the ground. We must all roll up our sleeves; we are at a pivotal moment in Wallonia’s history [12]. Once again, it was clear, as reported by the journalist Didier Grogna at the time, that the President of the Socialist Party was aware of the worsening economic situation in Wallonia and the criticisms levelled at the Socialist partner by cdH vice-president André Antoine, especially concerning the problems experienced by the Minister-President in fulfilling his mandate. As the L’Echo columnist explained: We must shift mindsets and dare to say « no » to Socialist sub-localism; we must be bold enough to shake up the acquired rights and some of the « questionable » behaviour within the public bodies. It seems increasingly unlikely that Jean-Claude Van Cauwenberghe will be able to stay the course for the entire legislature. It appears inevitable that he will be replaced. But by whom? Who will dare to confront the local political bosses who have not been held to account for decades? Wallonia needs a Marshall Plan; that means putting political differences aside and all moving in the same direction[13]. Thus, throughout the summer of 2005, the government of Wallonia was bypassed by the presidents of both parties who, themselves, presented the Priority Plan for Wallonia to the press and, it seems, to the government. The PS and the cdH remained united or, in any event, given the agenda of the declarations in 2005 and 1997, the Socialist presidents adopted the Christian Socialists’ state of mind and expressed their own position alongside them. It is clear that the relations between Nothomb and Busquin were very constructive, as were those between Elio Di Rupo and Joëlle Milquet subsequently. Those relationships were clearly not working in 2017 since, for the first time since it came into being, therefore nearly 25 years, the constructive no-confidence ejector seat was activated to the detriment of the Socialists.

As we can see, 1997 and 2005 represent forced bifurcations, probably even wild-cards, originating from the centre of gravity of the political parties that formed the government majority, and they may help with our understanding of 2017.

A trajectory of hope, two years ahead of time

What seems to have been the problem in early summer 2017 is not so much the issue of the poor governance that has seriously affected almost the entire political world in Wallonia, but rather the convergence of opinion between these « matters » and the now evident inability to respond to the maldevelopment in Wallonia. Admittedly, in the strategy put forward by cdH President Benoît Lutgen, it was these cases of poor governance that constituted the casus belli, which caused scepticism among a number of observers since the cdH itself was also not exempt from criticism. However, as the leader of the Christian Social group reminded the gallery in the Parliament of Wallonia on 28 July, it would be wrong to downplay the signs which confirmed, in 1997 and in 2005, that Wallonia was not on the right road to recovery, since they came from the Economic and Social Council, the universities and the Business Association of Wallonia (Union wallonne des Entreprises). The trend trajectory, entitled Au fil de l’eau… usée, written in February 2016 by the working party assembled for the initiative organised by the Open University and UMONS, is particularly revealing. I quote as follows:

If we practice governance from another time, with an artificial evaluation and a lack of anticipation, if we are incapable of dealing with budgetary challenges and social and territorial cohesion challenges, if we are unable to survive electoral shocks in 2019 and 2024, the seventh reform of the State and the structuring of the skills and resources dedicated to teaching, training, research, etc., we will jeopardise regional cohesion. Wallonia would then experience a downward spiral that would challenge Walloon social and territorial cohesion.

It should be noted that the working party addressed the issues of future symmetries or asymmetries between coalitions at the various power levels and therefore the possibilities of accepting them more normally and more sincerely than in the current onerous climate of dissension. The participants also noted that political life in Wallonia is characterised by its stability concerning a central point, namely the permanence of the Socialist Party in power, with the resulting dominance across the entire political and administrative landscape. As one of the rapporteurs writes, by refraining, however, from expressing political opinions, and especially preferences, it is arguable that (sometimes, often, …) this stability may be confused, or risks being confused, with a certain rigidity. Yet the theory that the PS might be relegated to regional opposition is not beyond the realm of possibility: this is demonstrated by the results of the 2007 legislative elections and the remarkable scope given to the « little » Ecolo parties and the cdH to choose their « major » partner for federal coalitions in 2009. Whatever we think, and whatever the consequences (particularly institutional and administrative), this fundamental change in political habits would represent a major discontinuity in the regional common thread.

Admittedly, alternative trajectories were expected and they will, perhaps, be reviewed to establish whether they are the ones that the bifurcation of summer 2017 will bring. However, it is my conviction that, in addition to what might be a political game and contrary to what was said the day after this bifurcation, Wallonia, in the way that it was being run by the Magnette-Prévot government, was not on the road to recovery. Not because its policies were inadequate – both camps praised the Marshall Plan, its competitiveness centres, Creative Wallonia, the Digital Plan, etc., and the initiative of the Socialist Minister for the Economy, Jean-Claude Marcourt –, but because the mobilisation of the actors was not addressed and sufficient resources had not been allocated to the recovery and therefore to allow the economy to take off.

If we accept this idea, the new bifurcation undoubtedly represents the hope that stems from a transformative, regenerative trajectory that may finally materialise for Wallonia. This is the current rhetoric of the new government led by Willy Borsus. Admittedly, rhetoric is not a trajectory. If the new Minister-President succeeds in mobilising the men, women and resources in Wallonia to realise our redeployment ambitions, the change in majority will allow the regeneration to happen two years ahead of time, which is valuable particularly for those who have suffered from Wallonia’s maldevelopment for too long.

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

[1] Philippe DESTATTE, Les trajectoires prospectives de la Wallonie (2016-2036), in Virginie de MORIAME and Giuseppe PAGANO, Où va la Wallonie? Actes du cycle de conférences UO-UMONS, p. 65-87, Charleroi, Open University, 2016. – Blog PhD2050, Charleroi, 25 February 2016, https://phd2050.org/2016/02/28/trajectoires-prospectives-de-la-wallonie-2016-2036/

[2] Wallonie, la trajectoire socio-économique, résolument, in L’Echo, 10 March 2017.

http://www.lecho.be/opinions/carte-blanche/Wallonie-la-trajectoire-socio-economique-resolument/9871529

[3] I use this term in the Russian sense employed by Alain Rey which refers to the members of the regime who are entitled to exceptional prerogatives. A. REY dir. Dictionnaire historique de la langue française, p. 2389, Paris, Le Robert, 2006.

[4] See inter alia the convergence of the following analyses: Regards sur la Wallonie 2016, Liège, CESW, June 2016. – Etudes sur la situation de l’entreprise, Portrait des Entreprises en Wallonie, Evolution, Wavre, UWE, 08/2016. – Séries statistiques du marché du travail en Wallonie, Namur, IWEPS, December 2016. – Communiqué de presse du 10 février 2017 relatif aux comptes régionaux, Brussels, Banque nationale, Institut des Comptes nationaux, 4 p. – Paola ANNONI, Lewis DIJKSTRA & Nadia GARGANO, The EU Regional Competitiveness Index 2016, WP02/2017, European Commission, Regional and Urban Policy, 2017. – Rapport sur l’économie wallonne 2017, Namur-Liège, SOGEPA – SPW-DGO6 – IWEPS, February 2017. – Didier PAQUOT, Economie wallonne: 15 ans de plans de redressement, où en est-on? Speech to the Financial Forum of the Banque nationale, Louvain-la-Neuve, Ephec, 27 April 2017.

[5] Nothomb réclame une nouvelle déclaration, in L’Echo, 27 May 1997. – Nothomb réclame un grand pacte social: « Quand le temps du devoir de deuil sera passé, il faudra redonner confiance aux gens, Interviewed by Vincent JUMEAU and Jean-Léon WAUTERS, in L’Echo, 24 May 1997.

[6] Tendances économiques, SES, no.16, June 1999, p. 38.

[7] Une Wallonie moderne, Congrès de Liège du 24 mai 1997, Actes, p. 16sv, Brussels, PSC, 1997.

[8] André ANTOINE, De la nécessité de sortir du pragmatisme sous-régional en Wallonie, dans Une Wallonie moderne, Congrès de Liège du 24 mai 1997, Actes, p. 56-58, Brussels, PSC, 1997.

[9] Marnix BEYEN and Philippe DESTATTE, Un autre pays, Nouvelle histoire de Belgique 1970-2000, [volume 9 of the Nouvelle Histoire politique de la Belgique contemporaine de 1830 à nos jours, under the direction of Michel Dumoulin, Vincent Dujardin and Mark Van den Wijngaert], coll. Histoire, p. 272-273, Brussels, Le Cri, 2009, 428 p.

[10] Déclaration de politique régionale 2004-2009, p. 3, slnd, 2004, p. 3, 153 p.

[11] Ibidem.

[12] Elio Di Rupo appelle à un “sursaut” wallon et veut mettre fin au sous-localisme, Interview, in L’Echo, 11 June 2005.

[13] Didier GROGNA, L’argent n’est pas tout, in L’Echo, 8 June 2005.

Reims, 7 November 2017

 

An innovative, global movement

In 2008, in his Change we can believe in project, Barack Obama highlighted the need to establish greater transparency in political institutions so that all citizens have access to information they need to evaluate the performance of the leaders. The candidate wrote that finally the governance of the country must be a source of inspiration for all Americans and must encourage them to act as citizens [1]. In addition to his desire to reduce unnecessary public expenditure, cut bureaucracy and cancel ineffective programmes, the future President of the United States announced that he wanted to open up democracy. The new Obama administration, he announced, will publish on line all information on the management of the State and will employ all available technologies to raise public awareness of State expenditure. It will invite members of the public to serve and take part, and it will reduce bureaucracy to ensure that all government agencies operate with maximum efficiency [2]. In addition to these priorities he announced compliance with the obligations on natural resources and on social inclusion and cohesion. The stated objective was to restore confidence in the institutions and to clean up Washington: imposing a strict ethical code on the elected representatives and limiting the influence of the lobbies and interest groups [3].

When President Obama entered the White House, one of his first initiatives, on 21 January 2009, was to send a memorandum on transparency and Open Government to the officials at the government ministries and agencies. In this document, the new president reaffirmed his pledge to create a government of this type and asked his departments to help create a political system founded on transparency, public participation and collaboration. This openness, he wrote, would strengthen democracy and promote the effectiveness and efficiency of the government. Firstly, the president wanted the government to be transparent and to promote accountability [4] and tell the public what it was doing. Next, the government should be participatory: when knowledge is shared between the public and private spheres, it is in the common interest for the public to participate in developing policies and allow their government to benefit from their collective intelligence. Finally, the government should be collaborative, which means that it should actively engage Americans in the work of their government, harnessing innovative tools and methods to ensure that all levels of the government and the administration cooperate with each other and with the non-profit organisations, businesses and individuals in the private sector [5]. After being gradually implemented in the United States, this movement, which follows an already long-standing Anglo-Saxon tradition [6], has inspired other countries and prompted an important multilateral initiative which, incidentally, The Destree Institute joined as a civil society partner in 2017.

Thus, in 2011, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched by the governments of the United States, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom, who adopted a joint declaration [7]. The objective of the OGP is to set up a platform for good practices between innovators in order to secure concrete commitments from governments on transparency, public action, empowerment of citizens, public participation, democratic innovation and harnessing new technologies to promote better governance.

As the years have passed, more than 70 countries have joined the initiative. As of 2017, the Belgian Federal State has not yet done so [8]. France, which was a pioneer in deliberative processes and Open Data, only joined the OGP in 2014 but has held the joint presidency since 2015, becoming co-organiser of the 4th Global Summit for the Open Government Partnership, which was held in the French capital at the end of 2016. The Paris Declaration, which was adopted on 7 December 2016, reaffirms all the founding principles and values of the OGP and undertakes to push forward the frontiers of the reforms beyond transparency, to advance meaningful participation, accountability and responsiveness. The signatories to the Paris Declaration also pledge to create innovative alliances between civil society and government leading to more collaborative public services and decision-making processes. The document also calls for the development of Open Government at the local level and the launch of local participatory initiatives to bring public policies closer to citizens [9].

A citizen-centred culture of governance

To answer the question of what open government really is, we could examine the closed model of decision-making with Beth Simone Noveck, who ran the Open Government Initiative at the White House in 2009 and 2010. This legal expert and law professor, who is a Yale and Harvard graduate, considers that the closed model is the one that was created by Max Weber, Walter Lippmann and James Madison. This model would have us believe that only government professionals and their experts, who themselves claim to be strictly objective [10], possess the necessary impartiality, expertise, resources, discipline and time to make the right public decisions. This vision, which ought to be a thing of the past, restricts public participation to representative democracy, voting, joining interest groups and involvement in local civic or political activities. Yet, today, we know that, for many reasons, professional politicians do not have a monopoly on information or expertise [11].

Technological innovation and what is today called Digital Social Innovation (DSI) [12] are contributing to this change. However, we do not think they are the driving force behind the Open Government concepts as they are somewhat peripheral. Although technology does have some significance in this process, it is perhaps in relation to its toolkit rather than its challenges or purposes. Open Government forms part of a two-fold tradition. Firstly, that of transparency and free access to public information on civil society. This is not new. The British parliament endorsed it in the 1990s [13]. Secondly, Open Government finds its inspiration in the values of sharing and collaboration used within the communities linked to the free software and open science movements [14]. In this sense, public expectations could be raised, as is the case with some researchers who see in Open Government the extent to which citizens can monitor and influence government processes through access to government information and access to decision-making arenas [15].

Even if we consider that the idea of Open Government is still under construction [16], we can still try to establish a definition. Taking our inspiration from the OECD definition in English, Open Government can be conceived as a citizen-centred culture of governance that utilizes innovative and sustainable tools, policies and practices to promote government transparency, responsiveness and accountability to foster stakeholders’ participation in support of democracy and inclusive growth  [17]. The aim of this process is that it should lead to the co-construction of collective policies that involve all the parties involved in governance (public sphere, businesses, civil society, etc.) and pursue the general interest and the common good.

The international OGP organisation states that an Open Government strategy can only really develop where it is supported by an appropriate environment that allows it to be rolled out. The issue of the leadership of the political players is clearly very important, as is the capacity (empowerment) of the citizens to participate effectively in public action: this is central to the reforms it brings about, as the international organisation noted. Today, governments acknowledge the need to move from the role of simple providers of services towards the development of closer partnerships with all relevant stakeholders.[18].

Thus Open Government reconnects with one of the initial definitions of governance, as expressed by Steven Rosell in 1992: a process whereby an organisation or a society steers itself, using its players [19]. It has become commonplace to reiterate that the challenges we face today can no longer be resolved, given their magnitude, by a traditional government and several cohorts or even legions of civil servants.

Nevertheless, faced with these often enormous challenges, Professor of Business Administration Douglas Schuler rightly reflects on the capacity for action of the entire society that would have to be mobilised and poses the question: will we be smart enough soon enough? To answer this question, Schuler, who is also president of the Public Sphere Project, calls for what he refers to as civic intelligence, a form of collective intelligence centred on shared challenges, which focuses on improving society as a whole rather than just the individual. The type of democracy that is based on civic intelligence, writes Douglas Schuler, is one which, as the American psychologist and philosopher John Dewey wrote, can be seen as a way of life rather than as a duty, one in which participation in a participatory process strengthens the citizenship of individuals and allows them to think more in terms of community. To that end, deliberation is absolutely essential. It can be defined as a process of directed communication whereby people discuss their concerns in a reasonable, conscientious, and open manner, with the intent of arriving at a decision [20]. Deliberation occurs when people with dissimilar points of view exchange ideas with the intent of coming to an agreement. As futurists are well aware, the intended product of deliberation is a more coherent vision of the future [21].

Contrary to what is generally believed, true deliberation processes are rare, both in the civic sphere and in specifically political and institutional contexts. Moreover, Beth Simone Noveck describes deliberative democracy as timid, preferring the term collaborative democracy, which focuses more on results and decisions and is best promoted through technologies [22]. These processes do, however, constitute the basic methodology for more participative dynamics, such as the co-construction of public policies or collective policies, leading to contractualisation of players, additionality of financing and partnership implementation and evaluation. The distance between these simple, more or less formal consultation processes or these socio-economic discussion processes can be measured using Rhineland or Meuse models, which date back to the period just after the Second World War period and which, admittedly, are no longer adequate to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

The United Nations was right when it added a Goal 17, “Partnerships for the Goals”, to the already explicit Goal 16, which is one of the sustainable development goals focussing specifically on the emergence of peaceful and inclusive societies, access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels. This Goal 17 calls for effective partnerships to be set up between governments, the private sector and civil society: these inclusive partnerships built upon principles and values, a shared vision, and shared goals that place people and the planet at the centre, are needed at the global, regional, national and local level [23].

Open regions and territories

In his speech at the Open Government Partnership Forum, which was held in parallel with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly on 19 September 2017, President Emmanuel Macron stated that local authorities have an increasing role to play and are an absolutely essential part of Open Government [24]. In his election campaign, the future French president also highlighted the fact that public policies are more effective when they are constructed with the constituents for whom they are intended. And in what he called the République contractuelle [Contractual Republic], a Republic which places trust in local districts, key players and society, the former minister saw a new idea for democracy: « these are not passive citizens who delegate the governance of the nation to their political leaders. A healthy, modern democracy is a system composed of active citizens who play their part in transforming the country » [25].

In keeping with the work already carried out since the start of the parliamentary term in the Parliament of Wallonia, the Wallonia Regional Policy Declaration of 28 July 2017 embodies this change by calling for a democratic revival and an improvement in public governance founded on the four pillars of transparency, participation, responsibility and performance. Transparency concerns the comprehensibility of the rules and regulations, the operating methods, and the mechanisms, content and financing of the decisions. The aim of participation is the involvement of citizens and private actors, businesses and the non-profit sector by giving them the initiative as a matter of priority, with the State providing support and strategic direction. The text invokes a new citizenship of cooperation, public debate, active information and involvement. The responsibility thus promoted is mainly that of the representative – elected or appointed – and sees an increase in accountability. The relations between public authorities and associations need to be clarified. The text states that performance is defined by evaluating the impact of public action in economic, budgetary, employment, environmental and social matters. It establishes a desire for a drastic simplification of public institutions rightly regarded as too numerous and too costly [26].

As we can see, these options are interesting and they undoubtedly represent a step forward inspired by the idea of Open Government we have been calling for lately [27], even if they have not yet moved on to genuine collaborative governance, deliberation with all actors and citizens or co-construction of public policies beyond experiments with public panels.

Conclusion: a government of the citizens, by the citizens, for the citizens

Open Government is a matter of democracy, not technology. This model reconnects with Abraham Lincoln’s idea of government of the people, by the people, for the people, which ended his Gettysburg address of 19 November 1863 [28]. This powerful idea can be advantageous for all of the regions in Europe, for its States and for the European process as a whole. Here, as in the United States, the principle of Open Government must be adopted by all representatives and applied at all levels of governance[29]. Parliaments and regional councils, who have often already embarked on pioneering initiatives, must grasp it [30].

As Douglas Schuler stated, Open Government would make no sense if it was not accompanied by informed, conscious and engaged citizenship, if it did not mean governance fully distributed within the population, the end of government as the sole place of governance. So this observation refers back to the initial question: what skills and information do citizens need in order to understand the issues they must face? [31] We know the response of Thomas Jefferson, writing from Paris to the philosopher Richard Price in 1789: a sense of necessity, and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that, whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that, whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights [32]. This question certainly requires a response linked to lifelong critical education, the importance of philosophy and history, and the teaching of citizenship, foresight and complexity we have discussed recently [33]. As Pierre Rosanvallon notes, it is a question of making society comprehensible for the public, of ensuring that they can have effective knowledge of the social world and the mechanisms that govern it, to enable individuals to have access to what the Collège de France Professor calls real citizenship: an understanding of the effective social relationships, redistribution mechanisms and problems encountered when creating a society of equals [34].

As we have repeatedly stated, Open Government and governance by the players require an open society [35], in other words, a common space, a community of citizens where everyone works together to consider and address shared issues for the common good. Moving from Open Government to an open State happens by extension and through the application of the principles mentioned, from the executive to the legislature and the judiciary, and to all the players upstream and downstream.

Where national governments have not yet launched their open governance strategy, they should start with the districts, cities and regions, which often have the benefit of flexibility and proximity with the players and citizens. Naturally, this requirement also implies that private organisations, too, should be more transparent and more open and become more involved.

Aligning these global ambitions, which have been adopted by the United Nations and passed on by the OECD, Europe and more than 70 nations around the world, with the expectations of our regional players appears to be within reach. It is up to us to complete this task with enthusiasm and determination, wherever we are in this society that dreams of a better world.

 

Philippe Destatte

@PhD2050

[1] Barack OBAMA, Change we can believe in, Three Rivers Press, 2008. Translated into French under the title Le changement, Nous pouvons y croire, p. 180, Paris, Odile Jacob, 2009.

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Ibidem, p. 181sv.

[4] Concerning accountability, which he prefers to translate by rendering of accounts, see Pierre ROSANVALLON, Le bon gouvernement, p. 269sv, Paris, Seuil, 2015.

[5] Memo from President Obama on Transparency and Open Government, January 21, 2009. Reproduced in Daniel LATHROP & Laurel RUMA ed., Open Government, Transparency, and Participation in Practice, p. 389-390, Sebastopol, CA, O’Reilly, 2010.

http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=85677

[6] For the background in the United States, see: Patrice McDERMOTT, Building Open Government, in Government Information Quarterly, no. 27, 2010, p. 401-413.

[7] Joint declaration on open government, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/d-claration-commune-pour-un-gouvernement-ouvert

[8] La Belgique n’est toujours pas membre du Partenariat pour un Gouvernement ouvert, in Le Vif-L’Express, 11 August 2017.

[9] Déclaration de Paris, 4e Sommet mondial du Partenariat pour un Gouvernement ouvert, Open Government Partnership, 7 December 2016. https://www.opengovpartnership.org/paris-declaration

[10] See Philip E. TETLOCK, Expert Political Judgment, How good is it? How can we know? Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 2005.

[11] Beth Simone NOVECK, Wiki Government: How technology can make government better, democracy stranger, and citizens more powerful, Brookings Institution Press, 2009. – The Single point of Failure, in Daniel LATHROP & Laurel RUMA ed., Open Government, Transparency, and Participation in Practice, p. 50, Sebastopol, CA, O’Reilly, 2010. For an empirical approach to Open Governance, see Albert J. MEIJER et al., La gouvernance ouverte: relier visibilité et moyens d’expression, in Revue internationale des Sciences administratives 2012/1 (Vol. 78), p. 13-32.

[12] Matt STOKES, Peter BAECK, Toby BAKER, What next for Digital Social Innovation?, Realizing the potential of people and technology to tackle social challenges, European Commission, DSI4EU, Nesta Report, May 2017. https://www.nesta.org.uk/sites/default/files/dsi_report.pdf

[13] Freedom of access to information on the environment (1st report, Session 1996-97) https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld199697/ldselect/ldeucom/069xii/ec1233.htm

[14] Romain BADOUARD (lecturer at the Université Cergy-Pontoise), Open governement, open data: l’empowerment citoyen en question, in Clément MABI, Jean-Christophe PLANTIN and Laurence MONNOYER-SMITH dir., Ouvrir, partager, réutiliser, Regards critiques sur les données numériques, Paris, Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, 2017 http://books.openedition.org/editionsmsh/9067

[15] Albert J. MEIJER, Deirdre CURTIN & Maarten HILLEBRANDT, Open Government: Connecting vision and voice, in International Review of Administrative Sciences, 78, 10-29, p. 13.

[16] Douglas SCHULER, Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence in D. LATHROP & L. RUMA ed., Open Government…, p. 92sv. – see also the interesting analysis by Emad A. ABU-SHANAB, Reingineering the open government concept: An empirical support for a proposed model, in Government Information Quarterly, no. 32, 2015, p. 453-463.

[17] A citizen-centred culture of governance that utilizes innovative and sustainable tools, policies and practices to promote government transparency, responsiveness and accountability to foster stakeholdersparticipation in support of democracy and inclusive growth. OECD, Open Government, The Global context and the way forward, p. 19, Paris, OECD Publishing, 2016.

[18] OECD, Panorama des administrations publiques, p. 198, Paris, OECD, 2017. – See also, p. 29 and 30 of the same work, some specific definitions developed in various countries.

[19] Steven A. ROSELL ea, Governing in an Information Society, p. 21, Montréal, 1992.

[20] Douglas SCHULER, Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence... p. 93.

[21] Ibidem.

[22] B. S. NOVECK, op.cit., p. 62-63.

[23] Sustainable Development Goals, 17 Goals to transform our world. http://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/globalpartnerships/

[24] Speech by the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron at the Open Government Partnership event held in parallel with the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (19 September 2017) – http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x61l75r

[25] Emmanuel MACRON, Révolution, p. 255-256 and 259, Paris, XO, 2016.

[26] Parliament of Wallonia, Session 2016-2017, Déclaration de politique régionale, « La Wallonie plus forte », 28 July 2017, DOC 880(2016-2017) – No. 1, p. 3-5.

[27] Olivier MOUTON, Une thérapie de choc pour la Wallonie, in Le Vif-L’Express, no. 44, 3 November 2017, p. 35.

[28] Carl MALAMUD, By the People, in D. LATHROP & L. RUMA ed., Open Government…, p. 41.

[29] Ibidem, p. 46.

[30] David BEETHAM, Parlement et démocratie au vingt-et-unième siècle, Guide des bonnes pratiques, Geneva, Parliamentary Union, 2006.

[31] Douglas SCHULER, Online Deliberation and Civic Intelligence... p. 93.

[32] Letter To Richard Price, Paris, January 8, 1789, in Thomas JEFFERSON, Writings, p. 935, New-York, The Library of America, 1984.

[33] Ph. DESTATTE, Apprendre au XXIème siècle, Citoyenneté, complexité et prospective, Liège, 22 September 2017. https://phd2050.org/2017/10/09/apprendre/

[34] P. ROSANVALLON, Le bon gouvernement…, p. 246.

[35] Archon FUNG & David WEIL, Open Government and open society, in D. LATHROP & L. RUMA ed., Open Government…, p. 41.