Governance systems at all levels, i.e. global, national, and local, have experienced stress as a fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Challenges in governance during COVID-19
Too many issues:
- The complexity of handling breakdowns in so many subsystems at the same time (in health care, logistics, business, finance, and administration) have overwhelmed governance.
- Solutions for one subsystem backfired on other subsystems.
- For example, lockdowns to make it easier to manage the health crisis have made it harder to manage economic distress simultaneously.
Lost attention on other health issues
- The diversion of resources to focus on the threat to life posed by COVID-19 has increased vulnerabilities to death from other diseases, and even from malnutrition in many parts of India.
Fundamental flaw in governance institutions
- There is a mismatch in the design of governance institutions at the global level (and also in India) with the challenges they are required to manage.
Significance of global institutions
- Human civilization advances with the evolution of better institutions to manage public affairs. Institutions of global governance, such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization were invented to enable human societies to produce better outcomes for their citizens.
What is needed to deal with issues associated with governance systems?
- The global challenges listed in the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations, are systemic challenges interconnected with each other which means a good solution to one can create more problems for others. Hence an integrated approach is needed to address these challenges which are lacking.
Specific solutions with local fit
- Solutions must fit the specific conditions of each country, and of each locality within countries too, to fit the shape of the environment and the condition of society there.
- Solutions for environmental sustainability along with sustainable livelihoods cannot be the same in Kerala and Ladakh, or in Wisconsin and Tokyo.
- The knowledge of different experts about the environment, the society, and the economy must come together to fit realities on the ground.
- For the local people to support the implementation of solutions, they must believe the solution is the right one for them, and not a solution thrust upon them by outside experts.
- Therefore, they must be included in the creation of the solutions by letting them actively contribute their knowledge and actively participate.
Ensure local governance
- Governance of the people must be not only for the people. It must be by the people too.
- Government should devolve power to citizens in villages and towns in India for them to govern their own affairs
Famous people about local governance
- Gandhiji and his economic advisers, J.C. Kumarappa and others, developed their solutions of local enterprises through observations and experiments on the ground (and not in theoretical seminars in capital cities).
- E.F. Schumacher had proposed a new economics, founded on local enterprise, very consistent with Gandhi’s ideas.
- Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, in 2009, had developed the principles for self-governing communities from research on the ground in many countries, including India.
- States and countries in which local governance was stronger have done much better than others which is evident from some States in India, such as Kerala and some countries, such as Vietnam and Taiwan, able to handle the pandemic better than others.
- The government has to support and enable people to govern themselves, to realise the vision of ‘government of the people, for the people, by the people’.