Striving for Just Governance in the 21st century

I recently returned from Switzerland where I managed the logistics of Just Governance, the first of a series of conferences about Human Security in one of my favourite places in the world; Caux.

When you think about it governance affects everyone and is a responsibility for us all. What is good governance? It is a process of decision making that must guarantee human rights through:

  • Participation
  • Respect of the law
  • Transparency
  • Responsiveness
  • Consensus seeking
  • Equality and inclusiveness
  • Accountability
  • and be effective and efficient

Sounds easy? It never has been but we strive to achieve equality and betterment every decade and century all over the world. Conflicts, demonstrations, uprisings, poverty and inequality of every kind continue. So a group of fantastic people including activists, politicians, professionals, students and members of civil society from around the globe gathered for 5 days in Caux to discuss some of these issues offering intellectual thought, theoretical and conceptual discussion, practical insight and the sharing of real experiences to explore these issues.

Governance is not just a topic for politicians to tackle and discuss, but one for us all. The view of minorities especially need to  be taken into account and voices of the vulnerable must be heard. Governance starts at home. If you are unable to deal with the personal issues of good governance how do you expect to deal with the big ones? Rights bring with them responsibility and this starts in the family. This is what democracy entails, equal rights and responsibility.

A panel of African leaders and politicians discuss governance in their countries. Leadership has failed many countries as much of the world no longer believes in honesty. One needs to ask some tough questions; is there something wrong with the psyche of some or all nations? People are following dictators but what is needed is integrity in leadership-this doesn’t exist. There is an in depth discussion on achieving national reconciliation. Leading by example of course is key, but how should we deal with bitter history and bad experiences, and how can we reach out to the marginalised and the minorities? New technologies are useful here, such as social media in connecting us. What we need is conflict transformation, not conflict resolution. Women need stronger roles and empowerment, their significance asserted, their education prioritised. In Pakistan there is a clear divide between state and society, with a system that does not really care about individuals. Those that are privileged need to reach out to those who are not-is this a global problem? Just because war ends and the guns stop it does not mean that injustice is over.

I go to a session entitled ‘The heart of effective leadership’ and we as a group list the following as things we are concerned about regarding the world:

  • Taking responsibility
  • Extremism
  • Injustice
  • Poverty
  • State failure
  • Respect for individuals/human rights
  • Dominance of some states over others
  • Sustainable leadership
  • Role and dignity of women
  • Quick fix results
  • Attacks on privacy

When thinking about our dreams, we agree that these are the things that do not allow us to sleep. The truth, answers and wisdom all reside within us, we need to tap into this truth on the leadership journey. We are all leaders, be it in our relationship, families, work and social lives.

I go to a fascinating workshop lead by Ms Khadja Hussein from Sudan Mothers for Peace about women’s empowerment for national reconciliation. She tells us how backward areas of conflict are, and how women are so far behind. Women have no right to ask for their share in money regarding the work they do, and this is normal social behaviour passed down from generation to generation. Girls are often married as young as 9 years old, and female genital mutilation is a chronic problem in many areas. When conferences about reconciliation take place only men are present. Ms Hussein states that women need to mobilise themselves and force themselves into these groups. Mothers are affected by war more than anyone, so need to have a voice regarding the matter. This is a worldwide problem. Millions of women are raped during war, this is not about sexual desire but about humiliation, worse than bullets and guns. Changing social behaviour is the key here, and Ms Hussein does this by providing training in business and education for numerous women to give them the tools to become leaders and change makers in their communities. She has put her life on the line, been in jail and lives between Sudan and England  due to her efforts as a change maker. She comments, if we talk about life and improvement, we cannot avoid talking about politics, and of course I agree.

There is a plenary regarding natural resources in Africa, what can we do about better governance in relation to extraction? The solutions are simple but difficult to exercise. African initiatives to make change must be supported, those plundering resources must be named and shamed, and this includes both African and Western leaders. The UN and EU are working together to initiate trust building and collaboration via the UNDP so that natural resources can effectively benefit society, as well as improving conflicts over land rights and ownership. These issues affect all states, and awareness needs to be raised of it more to encourage corporate social responsibility:

1. All communities and stake holders must be engaged

2. There is currently inadequate sharing of benefits, this leads to conflict and violence with local people bearing costs and tensions rising

3. We must incorporate high value resources with the peace process for sustainable peace

The government cannot be completely relied on in Africa to solve issues of corruption. Other strategies must be considered and this is where different actors come into play. African countries are taken advantage of by outsiders, by Western companies as they recognise weak institutional frameworks in Africa. Africa needs structures of engagement, and information is key. Legislation must be developed that local communities are educated enough to understand. Again, the privileged and educated need to work with those that are not. Ultimately it becomes an issue of land that people are fighting for, that is where diamonds and oil lie. How can we call ourselves global citizens if we allow some countries to steal from others for the benefit of a smaller number than those who starve and die? Its not enough to blame colonialism for existing problems, but to name and shame existing governments and the corruption they are hiding behind.

Today it is an excuse if people think they can simply blame politicians for absolutely everything, as we can all take a stand work together. Some of us live in democracies and elect our leaders. We all have a responsibility to make a difference in some shape or form that we can. Economic indicators are no longer enough to satisfy the public of progress, increasingly people are regarding happiness as a key measure of success, not money and GDP. If we want love and happiness to be shared and experienced equally, we need to start with integrity, honesty and transparency in leadership, and to achieve Just Governance.

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2 thoughts on “Striving for Just Governance in the 21st century

  1. Insightful “Governance is not just a topic for politicians to tackle and discuss, but one for us all”.

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