Comments on Collaborative Governance Global Programme Proposal

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DGG has been working on this for the last few months. The week before last I got to see the latest version which had bu then changed substantially and added to its title the words collaborative governance and institutional innovations. Ruhiya and I discussed the text and spend a few hours adding track changes. Here is what we sent back to DGG: Collaborative-govenance-comments.

In addition, I submitted the following comments:

  1. What this comments ARE NOT. It is not my intention to introduce into the document “my service line”. Not at all. But if a proposal such as this is discussing  collaboration and innovation in the 21st century then it needs to factor in technologies in general and the new ICTs in particular. There are now many examples on how ICTs can be a catalyst and a driver in such processes as initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership which the UK is co-sharing demonstrates. As I see it, ignoring the potential on the new technologies undermines the core argument of the proposal. It is in this light that the text has been modified. I also added a couple of sections to capture initiatives and approaches that will help move this forward (both in terms of getting donor support as well as on the actual implementation).
  2.  Role of CSOs. One weakness of the proposal that I see is the apparent emphasis on public administrations in detriment of CSOs. There is actually very little on the specific role of latter (I added something on bottom-up pressure, etc.) in the “collaborative governance framework” if we can call it that. After all collaboration implies that CSOs and others are partners in both the design of SD policies and the implementation of related programmes and initiatives. As I see it without bottom-up pressure no SD policy is really feasible and we cannot just rely on the good will of public institutions and public administrators to guide us all to a more sustainable future. Although this might be possible it certainly does not sound very democratic…
  3. The political will argument. Are we saying that developing countries are to blame themselves for the apparent lack of action on SD policies and programmes? Hopefully not. As I see it political will is a necessary but not sufficient condition to make things happen. There are plenty of examples (just look at the US in the last 4 years) where political will clashes with well- established institutions and mechanisms that prevent any large changes from taking place. How do we address this? The draft has the works “institutional innovations” (why only institutional?) in its title. How can we harness innovations here to break such bottlenecks?  As you are aware, many developing countries also face this particular challenge on a much larger scale as resistance to change towards a more sustainable future can also come from other non-state sectors (for example local and international private sector has been usually opposed to any SD polices that might affect their profitability and bribes are use to stop such measures, etc.)
  4. The short-term syndrome. I fully agree on this. History show us that countries that have been able to have long-term development policies have been more effective in addressing development gaps. But this argument has several layers. One is that younger democracies face frequent change of policy direction after each election as opposition parties run on platforms that cannot resemble those of the incumbents. There is thus need to create multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral collaboration to agree on the broader framework while allowing to disagree on how it should be implemented, etc. Secondly, as I see it  there is long term and then there is long term. History also tell us that the so-called developed countries took over 100 years to get where they are today. That does not mean that developing countries need to take that long  -and as you are aware Hans Rosling has shown that developing countries are actually running ahead of developed one when they were at similar level of development. So donors should be aware that long term is not 5 or 10 years. It is longer than that. It will useful if you could cite Charles Tilly’s works on the long term here for example.
  5. Contentious politics (talking about Tilly!).  I think this is the missing guest in the proposal. There are indeed indications that this century might be one characterized by contentious politics and confrontations. What we have seen in the last 12 years or so is a good indication. And this will not be limited to developing countries. This goes back to the issue of resilience. A programme such as this should also be able to innovate in this regard and be prepare to tackle potentially contentious situations which BTW will not be limited to national states alone.
  6. Implementation. I was  a little bit surprise that the draft recommends that it uses a UNDEF or a GEF small grants funding mechanism for CSOs since it has said so little about CSOs (which is the core recipient of funds from such programmes).  I suggest this is developed further.

Cheers, Raúl

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