Framework for ICTs, Democratic Governance and Conflict

We have been going back and forth with the analytical framework for the guidance note on the above. Below is a draft that tries to put it all together in brief form, keeping mind that the audience is comprised of CO staff.

Democratic governance and conflict
Democratic governance is often perceived as a stationary state where conflict of any kind is either rare or absent by definition. On the other hand, conflict is seen as an obstacle to the advancement of democratic governance -and one that can, in fact, be violent and destructive in many cases. Not surprisingly then democratic governance and conflict are more usually than not presented as separate and seemingly unrelated processes.

However, historical research shows how the two are related. Indeed, conflict – from protests and social movements to civil wars and revolutions – has helped lay the ground for both democratization processes and the dynamics of democratic governance (Tilly 2007). The process of democratization is itself a contentious political process where conflict can emerge when people interact with each other and with the state to make demands of all sorts.

Contentious politics (see Annex I for more details) is thus a trait of democratic governance; and conflict plays a key role here, especially in the transition of societies towards more (or less) democratic regimes. Conflict and contention are also instrumental in the deepening (or not) of democratic governance mechanisms and values.

State capacity and levers
The process of democratization and the deepening of democratic governance are thus reversible dynamic processes closely linked to the capacity of the state (legal, fiscal and institutional) to sustain democratic decision making, address and manage conflict effectively and enhance overall transparency and accountability.  High-capacity states have a better chance of advancing democratic governance and managing conflict more adequately. By the same token, high capacity non-democratic states have a better chance of delaying democratization.

The following levers are critical to the democratizing / de-democratizing processes:

  • Elimination of political inequality to ensure political participation is not precluded by rank, gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.
  • Integration of stakeholder networks such as traditional patronage systems and other ‘trust networks’ that mediate  or exclude people from being part of  political processes
  •  Integration of autonomous coercive power centers such as private armies, corporations, large-scale landowners, and gangs which wield their own power and prevent democratization.

The dynamics (or degree) of democratic governance, in turn, has the following levers:

  • Inclusiveness: political participation as broad as possible
  • Equality: equal, non-discriminatory participation of all actors in politics
  • Protection:  political actors are protected from state and other power abuses
  • Binding consultation: the state is responsive to citizens demands and delivers enhancing transparency and accountability

Altogether, these seven levers provide the analytical framework to study democratic governance and conflict in integrated fashion while providing the tools to consider the nuances of each on the ground.

The role of ICTs
ICTs can act as both enablers and disruptors of democratic governance and contention. They are not inherently supportive of democratic governance and peace, but they can be leveraged to enable broader democratic governance and help prevent deadly conflict.

More specifically, ICTs can catalyze each of the seven levers as well as state capacity directly. In regards to the latter, ICTs and e-governance can provide the platforms and solutions to foster equality and inclusiveness while creating the systems that allow public institutions to be more responsive and engage more effectively with stakeholder networks.  On the side of stakeholders and citizens, technologies can foster network integration, participation and provide the platforms for binding consultations.

Being that as it may, successful programs to prevent conflict and support democratic governance will depend on the context-specific political-economic dynamics of each country that either inhibits or support these processes. Like all other democratic governance and conflict prevention work, any ICT-enabled initiative must bear in mind the fundamental dynamic of state capacity, and democratization and depth of democratic governance. ICTs alone will not solve complex development issues; ICT-enabled applications and services need to be formulated with citizens in mind and be utilized as a means to an end, rather than as ends in themselves.

This Guidance Note seeks to understand the ways that ICTs can affect state capacity and change the public politics of contention (both positively and negatively), to help Country Offices develop policies and programs that facilitate and sustain democratic governance.

Cheers, Raúl

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