03 March 2012 Written by 

Sustainable Development, Good Governance and Constitutional Order


The essence of sustainable development has been described as a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investment, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and further potential to meet human needs and aspirations. Sustainable development means in essence the human endeavor to meet the needs of the present without compromising the resources, opportunities of future generations to meet their own needs with due regard to essential needs of the present; without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs – with due regard to essential needs of the world’s poor, consideration of existing social, organizational, environmental, technological, etc. limitations influencing the needs of present and future generations.

Sustainable development consists of a chain of minor and major events which are supposed to characterize and direct a process of gradually merging developmental considerations and environmental concerns in the long term perspective of re-constituting the World Order to the effect that humankind in all its parts will be given a lasting opportunity to survive in justice and peace. This raises fundamental questions of the constitutional order and its development or evolution both on national and international levels. Good governance means qualification of constitutional order as being conducive to sustainable development.

Sustainable Development

Bridging the glaring gap in terms of economic performance between the developed and the developing states, measured by whatever criteria, was considered to be an economic affair of transfer of financial and technical resources from North to South. Economic growth was identified with development.

But, a key word introduced not long ago, namely NIEO (New International Economic Order), began to be institutionalized in UNCTAD since 1964 (U.N. Conference on Trade and Development).

The NIEO process follows development strategy is applied from top-down, without questioning the stage of development and social structures of the states concerned and its available capacities. Little or no attention at all was paid to the involvement of the non-state sector – the civil society and to the increasing relevance of the informal sector with its record of self-organization and spontaneous institution building. The NIEO process was largely governed by a development strategy following the modernization theory, in its western or eastern version. Development was understood as a linear process of replicating modernity; i.e. European statehood on a world wide scale.

However, the belief in the simple export of European, N. American, history and experiences of modernization to the Third World appears today as one major cause for the failure of the development strategy pursued in the NIEO process. Top-down social and legal engineering, according to a preconceived blueprint of development, was not sufficient to allow for sustainable development, as it did not reach down to the development of the so-called hidden resources, hidden in the socio-political heritage and normative culture of the developing  states themselves.

Developing hidden resources means human centered development. It means developing locally available skills, in particular, in the sense of social, political and economic capacity building, including decentralization of government and strengthening local authorities and the so-called third dimension; bottom-up development of the informal sector. It embraces promoting the private sector and letting the informal and non-governmental sectors of the civil society to have their optimal social role in developing and sustaining a genuinely democratic system. It means developing favorable social and legal means of instituting good governance as on element of sustainable development to the sector.

So, to achieve a sustainable development, a bottom-up-approach involving the people at the grass-roots and the so-called hidden resources, support the top-down governmental and state-centered strategies. The question is not either/or, but how to accommodate both within the legal structures of constitutional orders.

The transition from the concept of development, underlying the NIEO-process creates expectations in an all-embracing development strategy, addressing itself as much to governments as to people; at times depending on the support of both – national and, where relevant,  international.

Constitutional Orders for Sustainable Development

Constitutional Order should help address the State’s Constitution and the existing social reality. The latter is especially relevant in respect to constitution and institution building in developmental context and should allow to capture and to understand better the evolutionary potential inherent in its socio-political sub-stratum.

Sustainable development requires an interaction between government and its people; for that matter, it requires a sufficient degree of clarification and identification of the civic and interest group leaders and active promoters, service providers of the private and governmental civil services, representatives, the elite and the polity.

Developing societies usually lack properly structured social organization just as they suffer from weak statehood. Under structured means that there is a gap of communication and interaction between government and people, due to, among other things, lack of sufficiently developed mediational organization i.e. a properly organized civil populace.

As Ethiopia is and still will remain to be a country of traditional people, lack of such properly organized civil societies significantly hinders orderly and secure good governance. Thus, it seems there is a public concern on the issue of ‘developing constitutional order’ – especially on the national level, but also on the international.

In developing national constitutional order and promotion of good governance the issue of participatory development matters. So, entitlement of civil organization in the process of developing the constitutional order is much sought for. In case popular organizations or so-called intermediary groups cannot claim a legal status under their national legal order, they might resort to seek other avenues to legitimatize their claim. (Like, assistance under international law from other parts of the international community?)

On the national level, the question seems to be whether there is any law that governs all others beyond the actual sovereignty of the country itself? Some might resort to question whether the order to be set admits participation, ensures legal pluralism and in the final stage, when it becomes practical, will be founded to a reasonable degree on the concepts of law.

On the level of international constitutional order the problem constantly addressed is how to reduce, what is usually denounced as high transaction costs of law making and implementing them in newly emerging fields, demanding an immediate regulation. The need to overcome the rigidities inherent in an international legal order, the logic of which derives from the doctrine of state sovereignty, reciprocity and consent, is responded to by the increasing recourse to the so-called soft law in order to come to terms with newly emerging threats and developmental demands. New constellations and forms of the interaction between state, society and law, international and national, will need support also on the level of the international constitutional order, so as to allow for the optimal promotion of good governance through a well structured interaction between the governmental and the non state sector.

A concept of law, embracing both national and international law, which derives its intrinsic information from the notion of sovereignty of states can hardly suffice in the face of the existing under structuredness of constitutional orders of the greater number of the states and in view of the fact that weak statehood still is a common feature of the international community. However, as long as the international constitutional orders of the greater number of the states and in view of the fact that weak statehood still is a common feature of the international community. However, as long as the international constitutional order still is perceived in theory and practice in light of the doctrine of state sovereignty, reciprocity and consent, the international legal order and the potential for evolutionary legal order lacks the openness and the cotangential for evolutionary change, which is ever more needed in the face of increasing environmental threats and developmental domains. Therefore, the important question is how to re-conceive the relations between society, law and states so as to secure the interaction between national and international constitutional orders, necessary for appositive evolution in terms of sustainable development.

At this stage strengthening the basis, legal and theoretical, for promoting the self-organization of peoples becomes topical in the larger context of the international legal structures and their evolution toward a higher state of social organization. An effective policy of sustainable development requires that good governance will be institutionalized in constitutional orders both on national and international levels.

Good Governance as an Element of Sustainable Development

Governance means the management of the relations between government and its populace within a given constitutional order. Good governance is the opposite of poor or bad governance, which reaches from denial of political and civil as well as economic, social and cultural rights, administrative inefficiency and corruption, to deficient legal protection and political repression, and ultimately to mass violations of human rights and tyranny. It entails waste of human power and natural resources; it leads to environmental degradation and prevents sustainable development. Good governance is called for to de-legitimize and to overcome governmental and administrative malpractices and non-democratic structures withstanding the realization of sustainable development.

The practical meaning of good governance will vary according to the socio-economic and political particularities and the concrete state of development of the constitutional order involved. As a matter of principle it means promoting limited government  through string thinning public accountability inter alia by way of promoting popular participation in development and resource management. In substantive terms, ensuring good governance requires that the working of the political system is made transparent, that the political leaders are held publicly accountable, that fairness and equality before the law prevail and that access to and distribution of assets, mainly land, are regulated in an equitable manner. In operational terms the realization of good governance requires that key sectors of society and the people participate, as much as possible in cooperation with the government, in shaping governance. Intermediary group’s i.e. popular movements, non-governmental and community/ grass-roots based organizations often were and still are the most significant elements in promoting political freedoms and democracy as elements of sustainable development. Through popular participation the promotion of democracy will thus occur on the basis of the interaction among states, key sectors of society and people i.e. in a new partnership between government and people.

The promotion of good governance as a process of democratization from bottom-up on the level of national constitutional orders can be frustrated or supported on the level of the international constitutional order, i.e. in the context of bilateral and multilateral development diplomacy, conducted now-a-days under the name of constructive policy dialogues between governments. However, it will need above all the support of the community of the non-governmental developmental organizations.

The realization of good governance calls for action and raises questions both on the level of national and international constitutional orders. According to the Charter of Arusha, the realization of popular participation will take place on four levels: the level of the people, of governments, of the international community and of the NGOs, with the primordial objective of governments yielding space to the people. Promoting popular participation as a matter of promoting good governance implies in the first place limiting governmental powers.

Last modified on Wednesday, 02 May 2012 13:05
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