Europe’s niche: the challenges of governance

Development Policy19 Jun 2008Allister McGregor

The Broker asked Allister McGregor to reflect on the following three questions concerning Europe’s role in international development.

1. Does Europe have a specific role to play in the world, with regard to poverty and inequality, environment and energy, global governance and security?

Europe has a potentially distinctive role to play, in that it can present itself as a working example of complex multi-state governance and then act in its development role accordingly. A key challenge for development in the 21st century is to recognise the salience and urgency of the question: how are we to live together? It is necessary for development policy to focus not only on environmental but social and political sustainability. We cannot live together well while the use of the environment by some threatens the lives and livelihoods of the poor. People starve as the exercise of power in markets and political arenas deny them the opportunity to feed themselves. Value systems of some are ferociously propagated by globalised marketing while the value systems of others are devalued. Growing inequalities and injustices are a route to increased conflict. In this sense, improved governance at all levels of the global system are required and the European Union’s global role can reflect its European contribution to governance – as an institution which has enabled (not without its hiccups) the diverse nation states of Europe to live better together.

2. As for the European Report on Development, what do you think should a) be the content/urgent themes of such a report, and b) be its approach? Given the existing annual publications like the World Development Report and the Human Development Report, what should the ERD do to distinguish itself and to prove its added value?

I would argue that the ERD should focus on issues of governance: global governance; nation state governance and grass-roots governance. The WDR focuses on the economy, the HDR focuses on the person. The ERD could find its niche by addressing itself specifically to thinking through the challenges of governance. It should seek to bolster the MDGs and explore ideas about what conditions make it more or less possible for societies to achieve their targets. It should be pledged to multi-disciplinarity; it should not have a specific regional focus, but may concentrate on some regions as exemplars (of good and bad governance). It should be able to explore indices using both quantitative and qualitative approaches.

3. Are the (im)possibilities of a European development agenda a subject of discussion in your country among academics, the government and/or civil society organizations?

The European development agenda is a marginal subject in the UK, but there is growing awareness of the significance of the European agenda. There is mixed enthusiasm for this. Strong scepticism exists in some quarters where negative views of past EU development performance have clouded opinion, but there is also some considerable willingness to participate in developing this agenda. A European development agenda is not impossible, but is in itself a challenge of governance. I personally believe that Europe must take a more prominent role in advancing international development. It must, however, find its distinctive role. It must not behave like a super bi-lateral nor behave like a standard mutli-lateral like the WB or even the UN agencies, but seek a new role. The ERD can be an important part of seeking to define such a role.