By José Luis García and Elsa Bruzzone

The state of the less developed countries in the world today is becoming desperate, year after year the number of poor people increases and there is no horizon that allows us to glimpse the hope of a change that ensures a global improvement.

Governance: A Crucial Issue That Does Not Allow Human Development for All

The state of the less developed countries in the world today is becoming desperate, year after year the number of poor people increases and there is no horizon that allows us to glimpse the hope of a change that ensures a global improvement.

In the current phase of globalization processes imposed by the dominant power and its allies, power is increasingly concentrated in multilateral institutions. These include the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), the United Nations (UN), the Organization of American States (OAS), regional development banks, etc. Furthermore, this power is concentrated in the richest industrialized countries, which dominate the activities and the taking of multilateral positions, and in the transnational companies that have great influence over the aforementioned states and organizations. This great influence does not materialize in works that benefit the community.

Consequently, “governability” has emerged as a crucial issue in development policies. The grand strategy imposed by multilateral institutions to achieve the development model of the globalized neoliberal system, which was made known in 1989 in the "Washington Consensus", has placed its recipients, the poor countries, in critical situations. The instruments used: structural adjustment programs; They have ensured that poverty and unemployment have taken over their inhabitants and that the target states have been trapped in destructive commercial relations.

The multilateral institutions, as well as the richest countries of the North gathered in the “Group of 7”, have accused of this great failure the “bad governance of the countries of the South”. This accusation has since been used by these organizations to justify their reluctance to respond generously to demands for aid and to change that development strategy. Little by little, the nations of the South have begun to state that while they work to eradicate corruption and improve their governance structures, multilateral institutions suffer from a lack of essential elements to guarantee good governance: transparency, participation and accountability. .

How we will get out of this labyrinth and how the institutions and policies of world government will perform over the next few years will have a great impact on the scope and quality of justice and therefore on the peace in the world of tomorrow. although today you can see some results.

The new governance must be fairer, more transparent, participatory and responsible towards everyone and in particular for the poor, marginalized and excluded from society. A governance centered on people, democratic and participatory, that is to say the opposite of the currently imposed one that focuses on the market and is the one that has been adopted by multilateral institutions. This is the biggest challenge facing the social sector today.

To achieve these goals, it will be necessary for the countries of the South and their popular organizations to arbitrate and implement two types of measures:

1. Exchange information on the ways in which each country and each region of the world, subjugated by the globalization strategy, have achieved fairer governance, which is truly transparent, participatory and responsible towards all and in particular the poor and those who are marginalized of the society. Examples and models will have to be disseminated that allow the exchange of learning that will help us to understand more clearly the nature of “good governance” at all levels of society.

2. The formation, organization and development of popular networks for political participation, an exercise of control over the government and the development of alternative proposals since all this will constitute clear stages in the promotion of a democratic, participatory and effective process from the grassroots to the the upper classes.

The objective is to achieve a new, good and real governance. Here it is convenient to analyze whether it is currently a concern at the service of the poor. UN Secretary Kofi Annan stated that governance is perhaps the most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development. Professor Jeffrey Sachs, within the "Millennium Project" argues that "for the increase in investment aimed at achieving the Millennium Development Goals to be successful, a commitment to good governance is required."

It seems that governance is the missing link or the key that opens the door to development and ends poverty. What then does the term governance mean? If the issues that are grouped under this heading are analyzed, a series of very heterogeneous reform proposals are found. The agenda for these reforms has not stopped growing in recent years, turning into something amorphous without defined criteria. Along with the judicial reform we find the increase in citizen participation; Along with the anti-corruption measures, there is the need to generate accountability mechanisms; alongside those aimed at achieving a more efficient bureaucracy are laws that guarantee private property. The promotion of political and civil rights is situated alongside the dialogue with the private sector… .. “In the same mud, all groped” as Discépolo sang.

Some light on the idea of ​​governance can emerge from the answers to these questions: Who and why is promoting the idea? What content does it highlight and what does it leave in the background? How can this agenda be put at the service of the excluded sectors?

In recent years, some countries have developed and others have not quite entered this path. During the 1980s, the dominant neoliberal response in the international financial institutions and in the governments that control them was synthesized, as we have already expressed, by the “Washington Consensus”. The recipe imposed on the debtor countries emphasized the liberalization and opening of the markets. The solution to development problems would come from the hand of markets that, once cleared of the barriers that restricted their effectiveness, would create wealth and take countries out of their problems. Getting the prices correct through market adjustments would act as a magic key.

However, it was soon seen that the sponsored adjustment programs not only had very high social costs, especially for the most vulnerable sectors, but were also not capable of generating the growth they promised. By the end of the 1980s, the World Bank was already saying that economic adjustment in underdeveloped regions was not bearing fruit because of “bad governance”. Little by little, it was realized that markets alone, without a strong underlying institutional structure, could not function. Then it began to be said that institutions were important, when for more than a decade they had been forgotten, when not openly rejected. The international governance agenda was being born. This is ultimately a question of political power and not just something that can be solved by applying technical solutions.

International financial institutions, by mandate, are prohibited from intervening in matters of a political nature in “client” countries. The expression “governability” served them as a pretext to intervene in politics, as if they had not been doing it surreptitiously and systematically over time.

The first generation of governance reforms was characterized by technical language, but above all, by being clearly oriented to the service of the market. The important thing has always been to achieve legislation that protects property rights and judicial reforms that do not allow breaches of contractual obligations by clients. Likewise, corruption and the creation of an effective bureaucracy have also been - and continue to be - fundamental elements of the discourse and practice of “good” governance on the part of international financial institutions. In this way, with protective laws and honest officials, a favorable climate would be created for investors to trust their savings and that investment is a prerequisite for growth, synonymous with development. Who has not heard this discourse of globalizing neoliberalism?

Faced with this technical and market-oriented approach of the international financial institutions, other perspectives that influence politics and a new and good governance for the excluded sectors have been emerging in parallel, from social organizations. The focus of attention ceases to be the market and economic growth and becomes human development. This approach has highlighted two fundamental aspects:

1. achieve participation and empowerment of marginalized groups and

2. that of accountability. These elements are indispensable for the impoverished sectors, either as an end in itself or as means. If we conceive human development as a process of expanding people's capacities and freedom, having a voice, being taken into account and participating, will be essential elements that must be present in the definition of development itself. They are goods in themselves. Furthermore, such attributes are mechanisms for the poor to demand improvements in policies and services that are more suited to their interests. They are means that reinforce their position to claim other policies that will increase their capacities, whether as employees, consumers, recipients of public services or simple citizens.

That is why we say that governance is a question of political power and not something that can be solved with technical elements. It is something strongly contextual, like any political process, and this situation explains why certain attempts to apply universal political-institutional recipes have failed. The recognition of the particularities of each space should not make us forget the global processes that influence them.

When the sources of bad governance are analyzed, the official agency places all the problems in the countries themselves, in their institutions and in their cultures. In this way, the international financial institutions seem not to realize that the rich countries, their large companies and the international organizations that they control, are in turn a fundamental part of the governance problem that plagues the countries of the South as a consequence of the policies and practices that they themselves impose. As they say about corruption, this is like tango: it takes two to dance it. However, their true focus continues to be the market and economic growth, and they ignore human development.

Therefore, a governance agenda at the service of marginalized sectors highlights its political dimension and the need to distribute power among social groups.

Finally, after this analysis, we could define governance as something that refers to the formation and administration of the rules that regulate the public space, where the state and the economic and social agents interact in the decision-making process. In other words, it concerns the process of policy formation and how the different agents affected have the capacity to influence or not in such a process.

It is clear that we, from CEMIDA, have long taken the “Option for the Poor” and from our view, two main tasks must be carried out:

1. Identify and remove institutional and regulatory obstacles that prevent excluded social groups from being political agents in said decision-making processes and

2. Work to strengthen the political capacities of the poor and their possibilities of establishing alliances with other social sectors to produce changes that lead to their social inclusion.

How can the political capacities of the poor be strengthened? As a matter of principle, we have already marked two types of measures at the beginning of this work:

1. Exchange of information

2. The organization of networks to facilitate the participation of the marginalized. Let us remember that unity is strength. We can give as examples some cases that have allowed this majority sector of the population to regain self-esteem and confidence in the capacity for community organization and dialogue with political and social agents, and in the formation of discourses and ideas that mobilize for change. . They reveal essential elements of governance in service of its most precious goal: human development for all. They are not many, but happily they are growing. We can mention:

1. The organization and operation of the World and Regional Forums (São Paulo, European Social, Social of the Americas, Mumbai, etc).

2. The so-called “Counter-Summits” that are organized where the Summits of the Group of 7 or 7 plus 1, of the World Trade Organization, international financial organizations and others meet.

On another plane:

3. The defense of drinking water, which is developed in various parts of the world and in particular we mention those that are being developed in:

to. Honduras, where the National Coordinator of Popular Resistance fights for the non-privatization of water. On the same road: Guatemala and Nicaragua.

b. Bolivia, especially Cochabamba.

c. Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay, where a network of social organizations, among which we are, develops an important task of dissemination to prevent the Guaraní Aquifer, perhaps the most important drinking water reserve on the planet, from being under the control of the World Bank and to ensure that the use of this strategic natural resource remains in the hands of the peoples of the four countries. (For more information:

d. Mexico, especially Chiapas.

4. The VIGILA - PERU - PIURA team that functions as an observatory of the Government's public management and whose tasks are: obtaining information, constructing indicators, preparing reports and organizing debates. It has already been implemented with singular success in fifteen of Peru's regional governments. Their results to date can be consulted at:

5. The SOCIAL WATCH - TAMIL NADU team organized in India to respond to the governance problems caused by the action of the Tsunami to seek, in conjunction with local communities, effective responses and modify the picture that appears where affected communities are they consider only as dependents and receivers rather than as people who are part of the rebuilding process. More information at: [email protected]

6. The popular cultural media and centers for the dissemination of ideas in the city of Buenos Aires such as the Mate Amargo Ideas Center, the Cooperation Cultural Center, the Enrique Santos Discépolo Cultural Center, the Americanist Chair of the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters.

7. Alternative radio programs in the city of Buenos Aires such as Mate Amargo by Omar López, Marca de Radio by Eduardo Aliverti, La Nave y Señoras Señoritas by Liliana López Foresi, the program by Roberto Garibaldi, Hechos de Gente by Jorge Vilas and some others.


We could continue with a long list such as the tasks of Argentine workers' organizations to recover companies closed or unemployed due to the neglect of their owners, the efforts of organizations in the Philippines to solve housing problems in urban areas, and many others.

All of this should be included in the aforementioned agenda for information exchange and networking. The criterion is that nobody gives anything away, that everything is obtained with intense work and that the unity of many weak will make us more powerful than the powerful.

* This document presented by CEMIDA contains information from various sources and has been prepared by Cnl (R) José Luis García and Professor Elsa Bruzzone.

Video: The Future of Governance and Regulation. Dr Orr Karassin. TEDxEilat (June 2021).