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                                  By Austen Uwosomah
Meaning of Dem...

Improving Democracy in Multilevel Governance
In order to do improve on these challenges, political and communication el...
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Multilevel Governance


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Multilevel Governance

  1. 1. 1 MULTILEVEL GOVERNANCE: CHALLENGES TO DEMOCRACY? By Austen Uwosomah Meaning of Democracy Sørensen (2004:71), in a phrase, describes democracy as “rule by the people”. Contextually, he describes democracy “as political or liberal” governance which he says Robert A. Dahi calls ‘polyarchy’. Sørensen further explains that democracy centre on three major elements of a political system, which includes: (1) “competition among individuals and groups for all important positions of governing power”; (2) “political participation in the selection of leaders and policies” and (3) “civil and political liberties (e.g., freedom of expression and of the press) sufficient to ensure the integrity of political competition and participation”. Democracy so far has been a phenomenon of the states where sovereignty has been sustained. The independent nation state makes up the framework for community of people that build democracy without which it will be impossible to foment or sustain democracy (Sørensen, 2004:72) Multilevel Institutions and Democracy The advent of multilevel governmental and non governmental organizations introduced some kind of influence on the governance pattern of the sovereign nation states. This is particularly because the multilevel governmental institutions are macro subsets of the nation states and they serve as linkage between the states on matters that pertain to humanitarian development at the global level. Unlike the nation states that usually have well defined constitution for the governance and administration of their polities, the multilevel government institutions do not have well defined constitutional draft for governance and administration. As corollary, democratic processes at arriving at decision are not as practicable as it is in the nation states. Writing about this, Sørensen, (Ibid: 72) reiterates that “multilevel governance is not based on distinct constitutional framework; therefore, core decision makers are not subject to sufficient democratic accountability and control. Decisions are made behind closed doors … by high-ranking bureaucrats without clear democratic mandate”. An obvious problem associated with democracy outside the framework of well defined sovereign nation states is particularly due to the evident reason of absence of ‘demos’ or well defined political and moral communities. This is what makes democratic practice in multilevel institutions impracticable. Against this backdrop, Kymlicka (1999:124) infers that “the only forum which genuine democracy occurs is within national boundaries”. There are other obvious challenges associated with democracy outside the confines of the sovereign nation states especially in multilevel governmental institutions. For instance, political leaders in several sovereign nation states create multilevel institutions that provide citizens with opportunities for political participation, influence and control. When this is done, the citizens of the different states who wish to take part in the multilevel institutions administration and governance will need to be concerned and informed about the policies decisions of the multilevel institutions as they are about the government decisions in their respective countries without which entrance and cooperation is impeded. Another challenge is the lack of stronger sense of solidarity with an acceptance of economic and other redistribution within the community and a common public debate and the formation of public political opinion. (Sørensen, 2004:76)
  2. 2. 2 Improving Democracy in Multilevel Governance In order to do improve on these challenges, political and communication elites would need to engage the public in public debate and discussion of the alternatives ways that would engage the attention and emotions of the public to be more conscious and responsive to multilevel political and non political institutions. (Sørensen, 2004:72) In the aspect of citizens’ participation within the multi-governmental frameworks, the multilevel frameworks should engage citizens through public debate and that would entail to create an international equivalent to national political competition by parties and individuals seeking office (Dahl, 1999:30). In the present globalization age where democracy is being globallized as the best suitable system of governance for both the nation states and multilevel institutions, the emergent multilevel institutions are still not able to implore maximal democratic process in the scheme of its leadership selection and deliberations on policies, programs and actions. To best improve democracy in multilevel institutions in the face of globalization, multilevel institutions such as the international political organizations, non governmental organizations and others, should ensure “increased transparency is essential in the selection process of leaders in the institutions. Voting should be used instead on appointments and selection. In addition, transparency should also be sustained in the deliberation process. Members of the public particularly members such as the press and other smaller multilevel organs that form bases for the larger ones should be allowed into sessions of the multilevel institutions to make their voice heard in the deliberations. References Dahl. R. A. (1999) ‘Can International Organizations Be Democratic? A Sceptic’s View, In I. Shapiro and Hacker-Cordon (Eds), Democracy Edges Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Joseph, S. Nye Jr. (2001) ‘Globalization’s Democracy Deficit’, Foreign Affairs Journal July/August 2001 Vol. 80, Issue 4. Kymlicka, W. (1999) ‘Citizen in an Era of Globalization’, In I. Shapiro and Hacker- Cordon (Eds), Democracy Edges Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Sørensen, G. (2004) ‘The Transformation of the States Beyond the Myth of Globalization’, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.