The Proposal for Sustainable Development Goals- IV

Principles of Good Governance

As you know by now, I like to consider, sustainable development as having four major dimensions. There are the traditional three; economic development, social inclusion and environmental sustainability. But those three, require, all, in all cases, the underpinning of a fourth aspect and that is good governance. And so I’d like to put good governance alongside the first three as the total package that’s needed in order to achieve sustainable development. When we move to the sustainable development goals, good governance is going to play a central role in the achievement or the failure to achieve the sustainable development goals. So it behooves us to think clearly about what we really mean, by good governance. The first thing that I, I would emphasis is that governance is about the rules of behavior, especially in organizations, not only about our politics or our government, but about major organizations that are key actors in the success or failure of sustainable development. And that includes our companies. So, when I speak of good governance, I’m thinking about good governance of the public sector government, and good governance of the private sector, especially the large, multi-national corporations, so good corporate governance. It’s clear there are many, many kinds of governments around the world and many different rules of behavior, different constitutional uh,or sets of principles. And it would be futile and absolutely in any event unworkable to believe that there is one set of political rules for example that will dictate how the SPGs are to be implemented. The world’s governments in any event won’t have it that way. Nor uh,is it correct to think that there’s only one way or if there is that we would find it uniquely. Rather, we need a set of principles rather than a cookie cutter that says you must have elections on this date and it your Parliament or President or Prime Minister or, or or judiciary must be organized in the following way. That won’t fly. But what can work, I believe, is to emphasis certain principles of behavior for the public sector and the private sector. First is accountability. Governments and business need to be accountable for their actions. Businesses are in part accountable to markets, but they’re also accountable to the court of law and they need to be accountable to the court of public opinion as well. Governments are accountable to their citizens, in elections when they are democratically or democratically organized. Governments need to be accountable even in non democratic systems or systems that others would consider to be non democratic to the achieving of the objectives that they take on. So, by accountability, I mean not a specific set of election rules, though some are better than others. But rather the idea that government’s will adopt goals and they are responsible for following through and reporting, on being clear about the measures that are needed to achieve them. On public assessments of progress or failure of progress towards those goals and that should be true across all variety of political systems. That requires a second feature in my view also that transcends a specific pattern of voting or organization of the executive or the legislative branch of government. Or, similarly, corporate organization, and that is transparency. We, as citizens, we, as market participants, we, as human beings intent on achieving sustainable development Can only hold government and business accountable for their actions, if we can know what those actions are, know what the behaviors are. And that means that we have to resist secrecy. We have to resist the institutionalization of secrecy in the form of tax and secrecy havens around the world that allow politicians, political parties, governments, crooks to hide their money to hide their proceeds, to hide their behavior behind walls of secrecy. Even when they’re behavior has huge impacts On the success or failure of the globally desired objectives of saving the planet or ending poverty. So transparency is a core feature and governments of all different political systems have a responsibility in my view towards transparent behavior. Third is participation. The ability of citizens and of stakeholders, these of the business, to participate in decision making and here there are of course many different views about this and many different ways of participating. Elections are a kind of participation, but they must not be the only kind. The ability to participate through, public discourse. Through, public deliberations. Through hearings on regulation, are all extremely important. And similarly, businesses need to confront. Through institutional means and clear processes and rules, they’re stakeholders not only, the shareholders in a company, but also the workforce, also the suppliers, the consumers and good businesses have a multi-stakeholder approach. And in some countries like Germany where there’s a principle of co determination workers even when they’re not shareholders have a formal, legalized, right and responsibility for participation in corporate decision making. A fourth aspect of good governance that is part of accountability, I would say, but more specific is what’s called the polluter pays principle. And this is that all of us need to clean up after ourselves. When we are imposing costs on others not reflected in market prices. When companies pollute water ways, when they pollute the air. When any of us as individuals or as businesses put carbon dioxide into the air we need to bear that cost to internalize the externality as economists call it. But meaning in a more usable language that we need to reflect the full social costs of actions in our decision making. Consider a business, thats operating in a poor country and the poor country has very week environmental standards for example. Is it the quote,’ right of the business’ to pollute a local village even if it’s not against the law? Is it actually in so, some extremist views, I would say, the responsibility of the company to pollute that village because it’s not against the law and it’s the responsibility of the management to maximize the profit of the shareholders? Many of us would think that’s an outlandish view, but it’s actually a view that some free market purists mistakenly take, mistakenly in my view. Or would we say that it’s actually the responsibility of the business not to pollute the village even if it’s not illegal. Because there is a responsibility of, of polluters paying or bearing the social costs of what they do. It’s closely related to an, ancient and very important doctrine in Latin known as Primum non nocere. Primum non nocere in latin means, first do no harm. And a principle of good governance in my view is first do no harm. Even if the law, for whatever reason, allows you to impose costs on others It is a responsibility I would argue,not to do so because our higher responsibility is an ethical responsibility, First, do no harm. Don’t try to find every loophole or every escape valve that allows for pollution for imposing costs  for destroying other species, destroying habitat. Because it is allowed because a company can make money from it. Finally I would say good governance includes in a general sense a commitment to sustainable development. A government that says after the STPs are elaborated. We don’t care. That’s not our agenda. That’s just the United Nation’s agenda, is an example of bad governance, if such an event happens. Governments have a responsibility to the planetary needs. National governments have a responsibility to the planet. It’s not good enough in an interconnected world, it’s not feasible, it’s not viable in an int, interconnected world, for politicians to say, I’m locally elected, it’s not my responsibility to undertake measures that maybe benefit others, but not my own. I, my own constituents. And so good governance I would also argue is a responsibility towards a sense of universal commitment and universal participation to sustainable development. If one government or another says we’re the only way to organize things you have to follow our constitution, we’re lost, because that will not happen. But if these basic principles of accountability of commitment to sustainable development of transparency, of the polluter pay principle of participation, of Primum non nocere, first do no harm, can be universally adopted in some approximate form, we can make important headway of governments working far more effectively together, and businesses playing a responsible role in their position in the world system.

Pedro Pereira Leite

Researcher and professor. He had his PhD. on museology in 2011, with the title “Muss-amb-ike Homeland: The commitment on musicological process”, that was published in 2011. In 2012 he finishes a Post-PhD Research on "Biographical Glances: The intersubjectivity poetry on museology, at Lusófona University (Lisbon). Presently he is working in his Post PhD. Research about: “Global Heritages" with the aims to build a network on local cognizance and memory manager has a tool to build the will of action in 3 different communities, linked by past communed heritages.” He works at CES. He participates on different Research network, presented papers in national and international conferences, and had published books on research subjects.

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