Image credit: MAX PLANCK LAW - Photo: 2023

Building Trust and Resilience in Democratic Systems Requires More Effort

By Jaya Ramachandran

PARIS 1 July 2023 (IDN) — A series of crises have hit democracies in recent years, including Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine and the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these challenges, they have managed to remain effective, working at scale and at speed in many cases.

According to a new OECD report, they will be able to address ongoing and emerging challenges more effectively if they step up efforts to build trust in government and strengthen democratic resilience.

Public services are generally viewed as reliable by citizens during times of crisis, says the Government at a Glance 2023. Most people think their government does not meet their expectations on representation and participation, and they don’t see it as responsive to their needs and wants.

Only one third (33 per cent) of respondents to the OECD Survey on the Drivers of Trust in Public Institutions (22 countries) said their government is likely to adopt public consultation opinions on average. The political system in their country only allowed 30 per cent of the population to have a say in what the government did.

In line with the OECD’s Reinforcing Democracy Initiative, the report lays out a series of recommendations for building back trust and strengthening democracies. In addition to improving compliance with policies and participation in public life, high levels of trust facilitate effective governance.

“Governments have shown remarkable resilience in the wake of shocks like the COVID-19 pandemic, but they face new and ongoing pressures, such as Russia’s continuing war of aggression against Ukraine, political polarisation and disengagement, and mis- and disinformation,” OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann said.

“Enhancing the democratic participation and representation of our citizens, reinforcing the ability of governments to prepare for and manage crises, and protecting against threats to our democratic values, can help build the resilience of democratic systems to withstand and overcome these challenges.”

The report is the eight edition of the OECD’s two-yearly overview of public governance. The new data reveals a rise in participatory inventions, like deliberative methods and digital democratic platforms, which could guarantee greater inclusion in decision-making.

Yet more needs to be done, the report states. In 2020, while 27 of the 29 OECD countries had established a main office to facilitate public institutions with consulting citizens and stakeholders, outcomes demonstrate that participatory approaches are frequently implemented sporadically. Countries should therefore take steps towards improving representation in public choices, particularly those from usually neglected demographics, while also facilitating more comprehensive, integrated and early consultations.

The report calls for increased participation of women and younger people in politics and public institutions to ensure more responsive service and policies. In 2021, women held only 36 per cent of ministerial positions on average in OECD countries and only 41 per cent of senior management positions in the public sector in OECD-EU countries. There were only 23 per cent of parliamentarians in 2022 who were between the ages of 20 and 39.

OECD Lobbying is a particularly unregulated policy area in OECD countries due to a lack of comprehensive safeguards to prevent corruption in lobbying, political finance, and conflict-of-interest situations.

In 28 OECD countries, only 38 per cent of standard regulatory safeguards on lobbying are in place, and only 33 percent are actually implemented. To avoid undue influence on decision-making, legislation and transparency need to catch up dramatically.

Government at a Glance 2023 implicates that sound financial frameworks and budgetary structures are beneficial for targeting investment towards resilience, as well as shielding fiscal space to cover unforeseen shocks. Green budgeting is an illustration of this; it supports precisely allocating public spending into sustainability objectives, and the proportion of OECD nations who adopted this approach has drastically risen, from 40 to 67 per cent in a year. However, greater impact can be attained through enhancing public monitoring and supervision.

According to the report, the OECD compares OECD and partner countries in areas such as public finance, employment, budgeting, digitalisation, and public service delivery. Government performance can be benchmarked, national and international developments can be tracked over time, and public sector reform progress can be monitored.

As a global policy forum, the OECD promotes policies aimed at preserving individual liberty and improving economic and social well-being in over 100 countries. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Image credit: MAX PLANCK LAW

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