In its 2014 Human Development Report, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), deals extensively with issues that are relevant to us. In particular the quality of institutions and their impact on people’s life.
The main argument of this extensive report is that in order to cope effectively with the many vulnerabilities of our life, what it really matters is the quality of the institutions we live in. Good institutions are those that encourage freedom and enhance people’s capabilities to cope with everyday challenges. In a way, it is even possible to say, that the freedom to act that governments, administrations and individuals often demand is nothing but the overall result of a condition of freedom from social, institutional and other types of constraints. That is the environment that permits, and enhance, the society’s capacity for collective action.
How to develop such a system? First thing first, is the necessity to regulate markets which generally neglect public goods and human security in the name of profit. To do so, which is to look for some sort of sustainability, is to open public space for innovative policies. Policies based on social cohesion and responsive institutions. Social cohesion in particular is a factor that can strongly influence the quality and competency of institutions, which in turn influences how pro-people policies are pursued and implemented.
In this process, of course, central governments – national or international – have a great role. Far-seeing legislation is fundamental, and so are the other classic powers of the State. An effective and transparent public administration, for example, is necessary to curb corruption and to allocate resources in accordance to criteria such as quality and efficiency. In the light of these considerations, it becomes clear how decentralization and subsidiarity are powerful instruments in the hands of governments and citizens.
At the end of the day, the civil society can be a priceless ally for national and international governments. New civic energies have the capacity to influence pro-people policies and outcomes, more than any other central government; and many factors back up this observation. Today’s world is characterize by global challenges, but unfortunately, not by global solutions. Indeed, what is known is the lack of a global governance able to cope with this flood-tide. Held’s famous ‘gridlock’.
In this context, to open policy space is fundamental if we really want to reduce people’s vulnerabilities. Cities, local communities and organized individuals have the possibility to influence the world just as much as Prime Ministers and big companies. The sharing of information, best practices and ultimately of knowledge, is the best way to face global challenges at different levels. Today, information and best practices are at everyone’s range. For this precise reason to believe that the only locus for policy making is the classic one of central governments would be an underestimation of this revolution. The creation of networks, made up of different actors, can be a fertile environment for innovative solutions to old problems.
Civic participation is and will be the key of any future human development, as a central driver for change. In concrete, it has the possibility to activate formal and informal institutions to respond to social demand by the use of innovative approaches.