The international system has faced many changes especially after the end of the Cold War. We are more geographically connected than ever, technology plays a bigger role in our lives, and the economy and industry have never been more dynamic. Through the last 20 years, we have seen a big rise in democratic values, neoliberalism, cooperation, and multilateralism. Related to all these changes, governance emerged as a way to tackle improvements and solve problems together, not just because these questions are shared between states, but also because they can not be solved or done by one state alone.
By reading through this process of changes, we can see governance as a way of great political innovation provoked the clash between two rising forces: democracy (marked by the plurality of actors allowed to participate/involved in the process), and globalization (observed by how problem-solving had become increasingly interdependent). In this way, governance has also been closely tied with democratic values, preaching a scene where cooperation shows a great, prosper, and peaceful global order constructed between democratic states. I argue that the main flaw of how governance was constructed is that it is not democratic: it excludes autocratic countries from participating, in a way that decisions are shaped taking into account the wishes and proceedings from a group exclusively democratic governments. In this sense, we do not have a democratic governance, but a governance for democratic states.
Now, some would say governance is coming to face its first crisis. Or at least, a crisis of the type of liberal-democratic-governance that we know. In the highest point of world governance, the emerging BRICS countries were highlighted as a new form of regional leading political governance. Now, that movement has been pointed out more as a possible future struggle for geopolitical power between China, Russia, and the USA. If plurality was before considered the fuel for governance, now we see popular political movements emerging and claiming to feel trapped by decisions they don’t know how were made, or trapped in a project they don’t know how to participate. By not feeling included, and having no information on how global governance works, they turn against it by choosing nationalist leaders that have an anti-globalisation speech. At least, this is what is observed in countries of the European Union and important economies in all the other continents, the advent of Brexit, and even anti-UN movements are at a rise. Somehow, people in general are not feeling the ruling system works in order to turn their lives around for the better.
These changes have escalated to a point that endangers the proper functioning of governance.Nationalist governments are at a rise because they are excluded from this process of governance, and they have come to a number that has made an impact by a noticeable weakening of the global dialogue. It’s important to notice there is no turning back. Market and politics have reached an international bond so interdependent that doesn’t matter which political regime is chosen by a country, closing its borders or not opening up for dialogue doesn’t prevent a state from being affected by decisions that are made in global forums. They will suffer the consequences of those decisions, doesn’t matter if they participated in them or not. In this sense, raising awareness on this matter is a first step on bringing governance to a level of institutionalization at which regime changes or political choices do not come to threaten dialogue in global governance.
Hopefully, we might consider this scenario temporary, but we should take it as an important exercise on how governance will be administrated during times of crisis, and how we can prevent it by being able to provide and create better governance. Having that in mind, there is much room to change on how governance is conducted taking into account the processes and decisions of current governance: we should bring governments considered nationalists into the table to achieve better problem solving for everyone.
More than that, these countries have also shown they have a lot to contribute: the rise of nondemocratic countries economically, for example, has shown they have something to contribute to us since they have succeeded in many areas we have failed. We have lost by not talking to them and excluding them from the process of governance. Once again is proved that dialogue is the best policy for achieving better results. By bringing a diversity of regimes to the process of governance, it turns the process into inclusive and democratic in order to solve problems that at the end of the day, we share, doesn’t matter if our national governments are democratic or not.
Much of the problems faced today concerning civil society opinions on governance are related to lack of information. This subject is especially sensitive in some agendas concerning environmental policies, human rights, and immigrants, for example. Part of the decisions in governance are made in ways civil society has no idea of what, who or how things are decided, or how things are being discussed. This lack of information has led them, to once again, turn against processes that would benefit them, their countries, or provide a better future. Changes are possible through information access and if our information is limited, we can only go thus far. Besides the problem of information, anti-governance movements have come to stay. Ironically, they somehow also play a part as governance actors themselves. Like any type of political force, governance also faces opposition, and a smart strategy should be discussed on how to handle them if we want to establish democratic governance.
As many challenges’ governance faces today, we must be aware that the biggest -and perhaps, always prevalent- challenge is also its biggest strength: interdependence and plurality have been at the core of actions ruling the process of governance. And, differently from liberal or democratic values, there is no way to turning our back against these two ones. We must rely on each other to come up with decisions that will affect us all, while still taking into account how differently we think, feel and act. Governance has proven to be a possible challenge, as past experiences have shown we are capable of reshaping our way of thinking and acting in society as a whole while preserving characteristics that defines us in smaller spheres as individuals or national citizens.