The International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) released a policy brief in September 2013, that lists four reasons why democracy in development is going to matter in 2015 after the Millennium Development Goals expire.
1. It’s what the people want
2. Democratic political institutions enable sustainable development
3. Democracy is the political systems which allows inclusion and equality
4. Democracy best ensures accountability, transparency and rule of law
On February 6-7, the UN Open Working Group on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) met to discuss the role of democracy in the post-2015 development agenda and how to measure democratic governance.
It appears that the working group was struggling to determine whether or not democratic governance should be a stand alone goal, or a goal incorporated into other facets of sustainable development. It is also important to note that the working group makes a distinction between democracy and governance, questioning whether one is more important than the other.
After reading a publication by International IDEA on development and democracy, the question of governance or democracy stuck with me. While democracies are enablers of social and economic development and possess values and principles including equality, inclusion, participation, responsive and accountable institutions, human rights, and access to the law, I still advocate that good governance should be sought after first and foremost.
Democracies, especially young democracies, are at risk for serious backsliding in their initial years. This could potentially be the result of weak and unknown institutions that are not providing what they agreed to quick enough. Hopefully once systems of good governance are in place and have a proven track record of generating social and economic development, democratic governance will commence. Finally, if it is the right system for a country, democratic governance can transition into a full on democratic system.
While the Working Groups and policy briefs focus on democracy being the best option and what the ‘people’ want, are they jumping to the end without thinking about the means of getting there and sustaining it? Should donor organizations be focusing on democracy promotion, or is focusing on good governance the smarter, more effective place to start?