The Challenges of Social -Environmental governance
November 21-27, 2003
Bras¨ªlia and Piren¨®polis - Brazil
refers to the control which society can exercise over its
own destiny. Establishing governance means giving direction,
coordination and integration to the infinite and complex grouping
of human relations and the relationship between human beings
and the environment, which adjust a society and its historical
Without governance, society is a chaotic, disorganized and
uncoordinated conjunction of individual acts and human relationships.
This lack of direction and indications results in distortions
of all kinds, often leading to negative situations in which
all parties end up losing. When we see, for instance, the
depletion of water resources, uncontrolled logging, the occupation
of sensitive areas or areas at risk, the rise of social inequality,
the failure to provide essential social services, we are talking
about lack of governance, serious governance problems or even
However, governance is not exercised only by the government.
Governments, in all their shapes and forms, are one of the
means to establish governance. However, these means will generally
be insufficient and inefficient if certain attributes are
not adopted along with other components which are outside
the strictly governmental sphere.
The current dominant opinion preaches the power and efficiency
of markets as a way of bringing suitable governance. According
to this view, an ever-present, interventionist government
harms rather than helps society to develop. However, if market
operators have great freedom of action, they will, by natural
laws of economics, induce a situation in which society as
a whole, or the greater part of it, will end up winning. The
State and its governments should, therefore, play a limited
role of regulating this market, ensuring that certain basic
conditions are maintained to enable it to function, such as
complying with contracts and free competition.
This model, however, is showing increasing problems and limitations.
In response, there has been growing support for ideas linked
to participatory democracy, which propose opening a dialogue
between government and society, creating participative and
decentralized mechanisms, planning from the bottom up and
formulating, executing and controlling public policies at
The idea of a large monolithic State, with great powers of
economic, political and military intervention, seems to become
increasingly less defensible. In such societies, decisions
are made by technocrats and market operators instead of through
transparent dialogue with society.
Therefore, it will be important to reflect on issues such
¡¤ What are the possibilities and limits of each
of these models?
¡¤ What problems arise from the liberal view
of the conception of the State and government?
¡¤ What response can there be to strong radical
proposals, such as movements that call for the end of the
State and for power to be delegated?
¡¤ How to establish governance in an increasingly
globalized world where room for maneuvering by national governments
is increasingly reduced?
¡¤ How to integrate political decisions in an
increasingly complex world, in which information is rapidly
created, if the institutions are overwhelmingly fragmented
in a Cartesian way?
¡¤ How to reconcile the growing velocity and
lack of control over capital flows with the democratic decision-making,
which process is naturally slow, due to the need for debate
and formation of consensus?