Can government, business and civil society get on together ?

OECD Observer

Warnings that the nation state is not capable of meeting the challenges of globalisation were given by members of a panel discussing "Government, business and civil society: Bulding partnerships in public policy" at the OECD Forum 2000 in Paris on Monday. (2:15pm session) 

Thierry de Montbrial, president of the Institut français des Relations Internationales, told the audience that there was no prospect of nation states disappearing but especially in the West they would have substantially to reconfigure themselves to perform tasks that probably no longer corresponded to technological realities—including education and health.

It would, he warned, be especially painful for the old nations but it had to be realised that existing states were inadequate to deal with organisations that operated on a planetary scale and would be increasingly forced to cooperate in a growing number of fields.

David Smith, Director of Public Policy at the American Federation of Labour and Congress of Industrial Organisations (AFL-CIO), said that questions had to be asked: one, about the degree of involvement of ordinary people in the institutions of civil society (is there enough?), whether the locus of public policy was still the nation state (as opposed to the MNE) and where in fact power is located these days (government or corporation).

Duncan McLaren, Head of Policy and Research, Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland), argued that much of civil society had grave reservations about the OECD – "self-selecting, dominated by rich countries of the global north, driven by neo-liberal ideology".

From Yotaro Kobayashi, Chairman, Fuji Xerox and Chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives came an account of the problems of changing a model, based on single party rule and close cooperation between government, business and bureaucrats and widely perceived to have delivered economic strength and success over 40 years, to take greater account of the impact of globalisation.

So great had been that success that people became captives of it and feared losing it. But in recent years, he said, a new realisation had been forced on Japan; the classical model of government-led governance did not work and that outside organisations had to be brought into the process of governance.

Professor Kwang-Woong Kim, Chairman of the Korean Civil Service Commission, explained how Korea was moving from an “agent system”dominated by politicians and bureaucrats to a partnership system of semi-direct democracy seen and open government. He also gave examples of effective action by citizens’ groups.

Questions from the floor touched on the cultural danger of mergers which could impose a US model on the world, the absence of any discussion of ethics by the panel (a separate session is scheduled on this –ed), the role of labour unions and the role of science in globalisation.

Forum 2000, Afternoon, 1st session, 2nd part, Amphitheatre Goethe, 2:15

©OECD Observer June 2000 

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