Toward Regimes of Responsibility

As part of the global normative revolution, transparency regimes have been pivotal in pushing the conceptual and policy envelopes around natural resource governance. But as the critics have cautioned, these mechanisms were crafted in the celebratory contexts of external pressures on weak states perceived to be incapable of governing themselves in the face of resource abundance. The difficulties in obtaining traction on transparency efforts lie in the fact that regimes of restraint have depended primarily on the draconian arms of donors and moral suasions from policy entrepreneurs in international civil society. The alternative regimes of responsibility are thus grounded in ideas that re-examine critically the links between transparency, accountability, and participation, the foundational blocks of governance. Focusing on these tripartite dimensions of governances is also germane to illuminate reforms that need to underpin natural resource governance. Equally vital, regimes of responsibility borrow from some of the key assumptions of the regimes of restraint, particularly on the importance of transparency. But unlike the latter, regimes of responsibility recognize that transparency alone is not enough and needs to be mediated through institutions of democratic participation and accountability. I also propose that at the global level, regimes of restraint may be transitional mechanisms toward regimes of responsibility through two mechanisms. First, when most international actors and institutions embrace the principles underlying regimes of restraint. Second, when regimes of restraint lose their initial association with failed and weak states, they may gradually become universal norms in the repertoire of global public goods. 

Transparency, accountability, and participation are the keys to governance, capturing the array of questions subsumed under the conventional conception of governance as the use of power in the management of resources for development." name="_ftnref1" title="">[1] From this perspective, transparency needs to be meaningfully embedded in political contexts that also shape accountability and participation. The criticisms against the single-minded fixation with transparency speak largely to its disengagement from power contestations among groups (the question of participation) and the translation of these contests into internal systems of restraint (the question of accountability). Ideally, accountability and transparency should emanate from participatory frameworks that furnish the foundations for stable engagements between the citizenry and public authorities. Since the onset of democratization in Africa, there have been attempts to minimize participation at the expense of transparency and accountability because of the assumptions that participation was detrimental to development and that, over time, developmental outcomes would incrementally produce participation." name="_ftnref2" title="">[2] Leftwich, for instance, suggested that what Africa required was not a “democratic state … but a developmental state.  By that I mean, a state whose political and bureaucratic elite has the genuine determination and autonomous capacity to define, pursue, and implement development goals.”" name="_ftnref3" title="">[3] But few African countries have been able to achieve the outcomes of rapid economic development by sacrificing the values of participation and accountability on the altar of development. In fact, in resource rich countries, autocratic regimes have postponed democratic accountability and participation through the rhetorical appropriation of notions of the developmental state.  Rarely have these undemocratic regimes unleashed the developmental impulses that can then, like the East Asian developmental states, lay the groundwork for democratic participation. This explains the vicious cycle of growing economic inequities, elite abuse of resources, and the democratic deficit that has compromised governance in Africa." name="_ftnref4" title="">[4]

Regimes of responsibility recognize the centrality of participation-- the expansion of people’s voices in the regular choice of leaders and in wider decision-making. Once the institutions of participation are established, they force debates about the parameters of accountability and transparency, laying the foundations for state-society relationships that are stable and predictable.   Despite disagreements about participation, there is consensus about its core ingredients such as regular elections, rotation of power, functional representative bodies, and a vigilant civic sector.  As a DIFD reports notes:

Improving governance matters not only for tackling material deprivations—achieving freedoms from want, disease, and ignorance – but it also matters for addressing poverty experienced through powerlessness and lack of voice.  Better governance enables all people to gain the freedom to make their views heard; to choose people to represent their views; to associate freely with others; to join political parties or trade union; and to worship and practice their own religion. We believe that this is fostered within a framework of democratic politics: a means by which all people are included in determining how a society makes choices … The demand for democratic politics must come from within." name="_ftnref5" title="">[5]

The renewed focus on democratic participation dovetails with the initial conceptions of governance that paid attention to the intersection of various institutional dimensions. Thus, as Kaufmann noted, governance denotes the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised for the common good including: “the process by which those in authority are selected, monitored and replaced (the political dimension); the government’s capacity to effectively manage its resources and implement sound policies (the economic dimension); and the respect of citizens and the state for the country’s institutions (the institutional respect dimension).”" name="_ftnref6" title="">[6]

Overcoming the democratic and governance deficits facing African countries entails that participation drives the quest for institutions of transparency and accountability rather than the other way round. Without the prioritization of participation, tenuous links will persist between it and accountability and transparency. Thus at the domestic level, regimes of responsibility around natural resource governance require broadening institutions of participation to guarantee political inclusiveness. It is broad-based constituencies that are scrambled by participation that then evolve genuine stakes in accountability and transparency. At regional levels, regimes of responsibility revolve around building norms of shared values and practices on governance as participation, accountability, and transparency while also strengthening the capacity of regional institutions to mediate between regional and international actors.

" name="_ftn1" title="">[1] Yi Feng, Democracy, Governance, and Economic Performance: Theory and Evidence. Boston: MIT Press, 2003; Merilee Grindle, “Good Enough Governance: Poverty Reduction and Reforms in Developing Countries,” Governance, vol. 17, 2004, pp. 525-548; Thomas Weiss, “Governance, Good Governance, and Global Governance: Conceptual and Actual Challenges,” Third World Quarterly, vol. 21, no. 5, 2000, pp. World Bank, Governance: The World Bank’s Experience. Washington DC: World Bank, 1994; and UNDP, Governance for Sustainable Human Development. New York: UNDP, 1997.

" name="_ftn2" title="">[2] Thandika Mkandawire, “Thinking about Developmental States in Africa,” Cambridge Journal of Economics, vol. 25, no. 3, 2001, pp. 289-313.

" name="_ftn3" title="">[3]Adrian Leftwich, “Governance, Democracy, and Development in Africa,” Third World Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 3, 1993, pp. 605-624.

" name="_ftn4" title="">[4]Akbar Noman and Joseph Stiglitz, “Strategies for African Development,” In Noman and others, eds., Good Growth and Governance in Africa: Rethinking Development Strategies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 3-50; Thandika Mkandawire, ”Institutional Monocropping and Monotasking in Africa,” In Noman and others, eds., Good Growth and Governance, pp. 80-114;

" name="_ftn5" title="">[5] Department for International Development, Governance, Development, and Democratic Politics: DFID’s Work in Building More Effective States. London: DFID, 2006, p. 3.

" name="_ftn6" title="">[6] Daniel Kaufmann, “Ten Myths about Governance and Corruption,” Finance and

Development, vol. 42, no. 3, 2005, p. 23.