Over time the market has become the dominant regulatory mode: it imposes its neo-liberal logic and rhythms in all domains (economic, political, social, cultural, ethical). In the last fifty years, scientific and technical progress has contributed to the triumph of the market ideology and its extension to the entire planet. More recently, structural adjustment programmes have imposed market rules on countries facing a debt crisis. Regulation by the market is a product of Western history; there are justified doubts about its universality and the opportunity of its diffusion across the world.
Accelerated commodification and intensified globalisation, both products of the market economy, are moving so quickly that the instances of society in charge of the regulations required to ‘live together’ and ‘live with our planet’ are increasingly powerless to play their roles. Exclusion and marginalisation are breaking societies and the world apart, while the planet is threatened by unregulated use of humanity’s shared assets. The slow transformation of ideas, institutions and the law cannot keep up with the pace of change imposed by market forces. The widening gap menaces the future of each society and of humanity as a whole. Developing new ways of regulating the balance between the private sector and society, between private property and public goods, between private and public spaces, is a complex and extremely urgent task. Recent international financial crises, which have brought essential business sectors to their knees in many countries, have shown the limits of world governance while also highlighting the need to abandon the ‘market fundamentalism’ espoused by multilateral and international institutions (IMF, WB, WTO, Economic Partnership Agreements, etc.) and rethink regulatory mechanisms with a holistic approach that recognises Africa’s vital role in world geopolitics.
This is why rebuilding governance is so important. The irreplaceable role of governance in the development process has a corollary: the need to renew governance. The two go hand in hand.
A new governance should spring from a process of collective construction of a value system, structures and procedures. This process, in turn, will be considered legitimate if it manages to reconcile the unity required by any human group with the diversity of an increasingly complex world. With this in mind, making the voice of a united Africa heard in international instances and promoting African proposals for world governance is a major challenge.
To be considered ‘legitimate’, globalisation needs to be opened to all categories of actors at all levels. Since the process has not opened itself up spontaneously, initiative for change has come from social organisations and civil society, in particular networks of all types, non-governmental organisations and citizens’ movements, which weigh heavily on world opinion. World challenges related to the economy, social welfare, culture and the environment are increasingly tackled by non-institutional actors organised in formal or non-formal spaces, even though it is still very difficult for them to gain access to the world’s decision-making instances.
The neo-liberal version of ‘world democracy’ tends to favour technocratic and institutional approaches, and bars non-State actors from truly participating in and making proposals from within institutions dedicated to the governance of world affairs. To rebuild world governance, non-State actors must be included and decision-making processes truly democratised. To become more legitimate and efficient, world governance must tear down the walls between categories of actors, connect the various issues and coordinate the different levels. It must be part of an inclusive, open approach.
Above and beyond the bilateral, multilateral and closed-circle State negotiations, there is an urgent need for spaces for economic and social actors from across the world to meet and engage in dialogue. Such a dialogue between the world’s vital forces should make it possible, on the basis of shared world challenges, to construct common perspectives and indispensable partnerships between actors from the various continents.