The British Council Management Forum
By Imam Alsadig Almahdi
24 December 2012
I am grateful for the British Council, in association with MTN for organizing, this encounter, and inviting me to address it.
It helps raise the quality of skills, propagate serious dialogue between lecturers and participants, bridge the gap between various disciplines, and create a forum for intergenerational discourse. It would also help in the promotion of learning the English Language. One of the prevalent mistakes is to posit a contradiction between English and Arabic, the National Language. Educational necessities require knowledge of both languages and the devaluation of English in our present educational system has done a disservice to us. I appreciate the role of the British Council as an International British Embassy to the peoples of the World, which facilitates intercultural understanding demonstrating the veracity of a Chinese Legend about someone seeing a cloud of dust from afar and reckoning it to be an approaching enemy, when it came close, he saw it was a relative running to join him.
Diversity is part of the Human predicament:
(Among His signs is the creation of Heavens and Earth, and your differences in tongue and color. In this are manifestations for the knowledgeable).
But Cultural intercourse is also part of the Human predicament:
(O Mankind, we have created you as male and female, tribes, and peoples, to achieve mutual understanding).
I have given a lecture to the Oxford University’s Students’ Union a month ago. In it I argued that the World faces momentous challenges; namely, resource depletion, the pollution of the environment, health hazards, economic deprivation, and the spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction. To deal with these challenges it is necessary to achieve a degree of World Governance. Failing to do so would doom the fate of planet Earth.
This Forum could promote cultural understanding and so contribute to the necessary Global awareness.
I have reviewed the 41 subjects rendered by the respective lectures in this Forum. My subject today involves all of them in one way or another. It could be an appropriate subject to end the year.
Please follow my argument as I elucidate it in ten points.
First point: definitions of Good Governance differ.
Some are rather limited, others are wider in scope. My own definition is: Good Governance is the optimum administration of public affairs which satisfies seven benchmarks. They are:
(A) Political: A political system which realizes participation, accountability, transparency, and the rule of law. It should abide by the package of Human Rights.
(B) Economic: Management of the resources to achieve optimum development in all fields of enterprise in both private and public activities.
(C) Social: the administration of the economy should go beyond GDP to target the provision of necessities for all, provide accessible social services to all, and target social justice.
(D) Administration: To espouse a neutral civil service between the country’s stakeholders. And to administer the uniformed services to achieve internal security, and a defense capability to protect the National interests to cater for the requirements of the different regions through the required decentralization.
(E) Culture: To recognize and respect asciptive religious, ethnic and cultural diversity, abide by freedom for all to express their identities as long as they respect coexistence and citizen equality.
(F) Environment: to espouse environment friendly policies in the pursuit of sustainability
(G) International: To abide by the universal Human Rights Charter, and the International Rule of law and the requirements of International legitimacy.
Second point: No Human endeavor could be realized 100% according to design. There will always be a coefficient of inefficiency in Human endeavors between a blue print and reality, i.e. between ideal and actual culture. This applies to the concept of Good Governance, which could not be realized 100% except in Utopia. However, it is a meaningful concept as an ideal benchmark, as educational and training ruler, as a means of judging performance and as a beacon for continuous improvement.
Third point: By my definition of Good Governance, the following four systems of Governance should be ruled out. They are:
(A) Dynastic Governance, which puts all power in the hands of a Monarch by hereditary succession, because it fails to satisfy the political imperatives of Good Governance.
(B) Theocratic governance, because it allows a priestocracy of religious men to usurp power in the name of God and disenfranchise the peoples.
(C) Monolithic Control of Government by a one party rule, because it deprives the people of freedom of association and other Human Rights.
(D) Militarily control of Government through coup d’état, because it reproduces all the evils of civilian dictatorship, plus the fact that military people are best at what they are trained for, the command structure, which is counterproductive in the field of political administration.
Fourth point: Democracy based on universal franchise is the most appropriate means to Good Governance. It is necessary, but not sufficient. For example, take the example of a Democratic Government like the USA. In it now wealth and income are so sharply Mal distributed that the richest 10% own 80% of wealth, and the highest income is 400 times the lowest. This is a recipe for instability, prompting the occupy Wall Street youth movement. The level of socio- economic inequality is not sustainable.
Again the US Government is failing to abide by environmental and other International conventions like the ICC and the prevention of ground mines and so on.
Fifth point: Democracy in the Sudan also had its failings with respect to Good Governance. Yes it abided by the rule of law, by universal franchise, by separation of power, by an independent judiciary and by freedom of association; but it failed to satisfy the required balances in terms of cultural and Regional justice.
Sixth point: Tribal and ethnic factors have all but constricted the functioning of Democracy in many African countries.
Factors like tribal and sectarian loyalty and religious divisions like the Caste System are obstacles to Good Governance. In all such Regions it is necessary to effect cultural and Religious Reformation to endorse the Human Rights Agenda as a necessary clearance of the deck for Good Governance.
Seventh point: In the countries of the Arab spring, a sharp schism between a block which addresses peoples conscience but out of tune with modernity, and a block which addresses modernity but is out of tune with the conscience of the majority, is driving democracy towards civil strife and so no road to Good Governance. Some form of synthesis between the two blocks is necessary to make democracy function as a precondition for Good Governance.
Eighth point: I have just returned from a conference in Little Rock Arkinso in USA. We have analyzed the present imperfections in the UN System, and the need to reform it towards better World Governance. Without a better and more Just World Order, National Good Governance will not enjoy the optimum conditions for functioning.
How this could be achieved is a tall order which requires a powerful political will especially by the major powers.
Ninth point: Is Good Governance a pie in the sky and exists only in the imagination of idealists and poets?
No. It is a standard to pull peoples aspirations. St Augustine said that “Man is the only creature who is not at Home in the Universe and because of that is there any hope for him”. Yes, it is this Man’s dissatisfaction with the status quo which is responsible for progress in the Human destiny.
Tenth point: I do not believe that God who endowed us with spiritual, moral, intellectual and rational powers intended us to eschew their use and succumb like other creatures to the laws of physics, chemistry and biology.
Yes we are part of Nature, but endowed with powers to transcend it. Good Governance is a most important area in which we are challenged to seek to do better in the pursuit of a better country and a better World.
Thank you for listening.