Governance, Participation, and New Social Contracts: Lessons learned from diverse pathways

What have our experiences taught us about the nature of the democratization/development relationship? Have we looked at political, economic and social institution building as separate and distinct from each other? 

by Dick McCall and Arthur Muliro 

Democracy advocates and development specialists have long debated which comes first, democracy or development. For instance Roland Paris's At War's End: Building Peace after Civil Conflict emphasizes institutionalization before liberalization. In other words the critical need is to establish domestic institutions capable of managing the transition from war, while avoiding the destabilizing effects of democratization and marketization. While Paris focused on peace-building after conflict the debate over which comes first, institutionalization write large as opposed to political democratization, has had similar overtones. Certainly, events of the 'Arab Spring' will only serve to heighten the debate about the efficacy of electoral processes carried out in the absence of strong institutional underpinnings of legitimate governance.

One of the questions to be addressed within this thematic scheme is what our experiences have taught us about the nature of the democratization/development relationship. Have we looked at political, economic and social institution building as separate and distinct from each other? According to the authors of the publication (Adrian Leftwich and Kunal Sen) 'Beyond Institutions' a research project commissioned by DIFID, 'the standard approaches to institutional analysis have tended to treat social, economic and political institutions as distinct and have commonly failed to recognize their overlapping and inter-penetrative relations. Institutional analyses in all main disciplines seldom explore, for instance, how economic institutions are unavoidably political in their provenance, effect and impact; and how political institutions profoundly affect the shape and functioning of economic institutions and practices'.

Further, they noted in their publication that, 'social, political and economic institutions overlap and affect each other and they seldom relate to isolated spheres of human action and interaction. Interactions between interests, ideas and institutions are central to developmental outcomes'.

Globalization has created additional challenges and existing institutions are ill-structured to mitigate its negative effects. Allen White, Senior Advisor, Business Social Responsibility authored 'Is it Time to Rewrite the Social Contract?' He points out that 'centuries after the birth of the idea of a social contract, the search continues for a modern version that reflects 21st century realities. The earlier contract is no longer sufficient to capture the complexity of contemporary social relations wherein the corporation plays a pivotal role in shaping the lives of people and the actions of government'.

White argues that all global companies by virtue of their scale, their reach and their economic, social and environmental footprints are unavoidably public entities. Large corporations by nature have aspects of both the private (their ownership and control) and public (their activities impinge upon the lives of people and communities across countries, regions and the world). It is these attributes that argue for reinstating in law and practice an unequivocal statement that the public interest is the interest if the ultimate obligation of the corporation.

One element that is hardly featured in discussions around institution building is the impact of cultures and the extent to which even such 'modern' institutions whose presence is almost taken for granted relate to extant cultural norms and practices. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, 'The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save a society from itself'. That said, culture is not an independent variable and it is likely to be influenced by other factors.

On the occasion of the SID World Congress 2011, the panel 'Governance Citizenship and New Social Contract' will explore how some of the assumptions we make about homogeneity of institutional appropriateness actually support or compromise governance and participation and the extent to which the evolution of the social contract has captured or ignored such questions.

Therefore, the challenges facing the global community in the 21st century, including significant North/South issues are not only driven by the lens of the democratization/development debate, but also the need to find and support institutional solutions to the pernicious side of globalization and to understand how local circumstances favour or constrain proposed solutions.

Read the follow-up piece by Kwame Owino 'Democracy vs development: A puzzling paradigm?'


Dick McCall is Senior Vice President and Chair of the Council of Senior Advisors at Creative Associates, which he joined in 2002. Beginning in 1971, he held a series of senior foreing policy positions. Among the others, he was Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs (Carter Administration) and twice served on the Staff of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations with oversight responsibilities for the U.S. foreign assistance accounts. From 1993-2000, Mr. McCall served as Chief of Staff to USAID Administrator Brian Atwood, and from 2001 -2002 he was Senior Policy Advisor to USAID Administrator Brady Tyson and Administrator Andrew Natsios.


Arthur Muliro is Deputy Managing Director at the International Secretariat of the Society for International Development (SID) in Rome. Amongst other responsibilities, Mr. Muliro leads SID's Futures programme that works closely with diverse development stakeholders to develop future-oriented public-interest scenarios that are focused on the challenges of institutional transition and transformation. He has managed large-scale scenario projects in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and overseen the East African Scenarios Project, an initiative aimed at generating and sustaining dialogue amongst key stakeholders on alternative possible futures that East Africa might have to confront in the coming years.


Photo: flickr/hjl