Levels of governance and regionalism

ByNabeel Zafar

Works in the private sector

Dated

April 1, 2023

Levels of governance and regionalism

Nabeel Zafar describes various Levels of governance and regionalism

It is considered a part of the Levels of governance and regionalism evolution of methods of governance that with regionalization and decentralization the responsibilities of sub-state governments have expanded considerably. Such governments have more power concerning economic develop¬ment, education, health care, environment, public transport, and so on. Each of these public policy domains requires coordination among governments at diverse levels. Because no government is an island, increased globalsation and internationalisa¬tion have reinforced the need to coordinate local, regional, national, and international policies as the responsibilities of sub-state governments expand. The rise of regional government and sub-state autonomy has a big impact on multilevel governance. Decisions taken at one level of gov¬ernment affect the decisions of the other level of government. Most policy thus requires some form of coordination among international, national, regional and local governments. Though this practice has not gained required traction in Pakistan but it cannot be denied that it is aptly relevant and effective.
The concept of multilevel governance was cre¬ated within the framework of the EU to explain the relation between the various levels of govern¬ment in EU policy making implying that that there are multiple actors from various levels of government interacting to negotiate and implement public policy coming from the EU. The multilevel governance approach illuminates the interdependence between the local, regional, national, and international levels of authority. At first, multilevel governance was developed for the study of the EU but with the passage of time it is applied in various situations because virtually all government activities today are affected by the competence of at least one intergovernmental organisation, and frequently many more. In this way, in the context of international organisations and international conferences, themes are dealt with that relate to education, public health, cul¬tural diversity, the environment, business subsi¬dies, the treatment accorded to investors, the removal of nontariff barriers, barriers to agricul¬ture and services.

This phenomenon is magnified in Europe by the process of European integration and in North America by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Likewise, enlarg¬ing the scope of international issues means that all government departments have activities that are internationalised. This situation makes it harder for a country’s ministry of foreign affairs to cen-tralise the decision-making process. In this context, sub-state governments have become more aware that their political autonomy and their sovereignty—or their ability to formulate and implement policy—are subject to negotiation in multilateral forums. Thus, since the 1960s, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of sub-state govern¬ments that are interested and participate actively in international affairs. From the perspective of the centralising approach, some believe that a monopoly of foreign affairs is a minimum power of all central governments. In this context the fact has highlighted the negative consequences of unbun¬dling central control over foreign affairs for the national interest and for the functioning of the inter¬national system.

To many, international relations are at the heart of federal regimes. Centralisation of the foreign affairs power is a requirement of international law because a central¬ised political system is a necessary condition for states to be able to play the role they are assigned in international law and practice. In essence, with¬out the existence of a central government that has a plenary authority on its territory in relation to foreign affairs and the ability to participate in international relations and to enforce international obligations in the domestic order, interstate rela¬tions can only be seriously compromised. If the power of co-decision is granted regarding treaty making, there would be a risk of paralysing a state’s foreign affairs. Every player would have a veto, resulting in harm to the state’s image in the international arena.

Supporters of the concept of multilevel gover¬nance take a different view. According to some, diplomacy or foreign policy cannot be considered a monopoly of the central government. Sub-state government will always have an impor¬tant role, even if it is only for the purposes of implementing international agreements concluded by the central government. In addition, giving a monopoly over foreign affairs to central govern¬ments in federal regimes puts at risk the distribu¬tion of powers between the different orders of government for the benefit of central authorities. Foreign policy should be thought of as a complex system where different actors within the federal regime structure work with each other. Those who favour a multilevel governance approach thus main¬tain that obligations of cooperation exist between central governments and sub-state actors. To imple¬ment a coherent foreign policy, it is important to consult sub-state actors and, indeed, give them an important role by means of intergovernmental mechanisms, so that they can participate actively in the country’s treaty-making process. The requirements of cooperation between the different orders of government are more and more important, and it is for this reason that one notices a considerable increase in executive federal¬ism or intergovernmental relations in respect of the conclusion of international treaties in federal regimes.
Apart from the increasing contours of multi-level governance, there are also technical reasons for the growing relevance of regionalisation or decentralisation. The virtues of centralisation and decen¬tralisation differ from one policy area to the other. The advantage of centralisation is obvious: econo¬mies of scales and, in theory, greater equality between the citizens of one country. The virtues of decentralisation are different. Some scholars sug¬gest that regionalisation and decentralisation increase the efficiency of public policy. The funda¬mental principle of public goods analysis is that a jurisdiction should encompass those who are posi¬tively or negatively affected by a specific policy. Because the public goods differ, the scale at which they are most efficient also differs. Some policies, such as urbanism or fire protection, are best han¬dled at the local level. Some policies, such as edu-cation or hospitals, are best handled at the regional level, and others such as national transportation, infrastructure, trade, and national security are bet¬ter handled at the national level. Some believe that political participation is bet¬ter and more effective if the decision center is closer to voters. Decentralised governments are closer to the citizens and therefore have better knowledge about what they want and need. Regionalisation thus contributes to better democ¬racy because it multiplies opportunities for citizens to influence governments.

Regionalisation and decentralisation are drivers for better democ¬racy. Elected officials in democratic states may shift decision making away from the central state if it can lead to more efficient decision making and can attract more votes. By contrast, authoritarian states tend to centralise the decision-making process. At best, authoritarian regimes will de-concentrate pow¬ers in local outposts so that they can provide more reliable information about local politics and imple-ment more effective central policy. The so-called third wave of democracy generated more decentralisation. Regionalisation and decen¬tralisation could thus, in theory, lead to more effec¬tive public administration and better democracy. Finally, some specialists think that decentralisation comes primarily from the public finance crisis. Regional governments are, in theory, more in phase with the real needs of the population and thus allocate resources more effectively. With the crisis of the public debt in numerous countries, decentralisation is a way for the central state to transfer some responsibility to regions in order to reduce the pressure on public finance at the central level. TW

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