International Perspectives on Governance Challenges in the USA

Governance matters. The norms and rules that shape social relationships, including those between people and their governments, and the extent to which those rules are broadly accepted and followed within a society, play an important role in determining the prospects for social well-being, whether that is measured in terms of economic growth, social justice, access to quality public services, or levels of environmental sustainability. Informed by the fact that governance matters, instructing, encouraging and supporting poorer countries to adopt particular approaches to “Good Governance” has for decades been a central strand of a global development agenda that has been led by countries in the global north.
Over the last 10 years, the “Good Governance” agenda has been increasingly called into question (see “Beyond the ‘Good Governance’ Mantra”). It is now more broadly accepted, first that effective governance emerges in particular places as a result of locally-led cycles of learning and adaptation, and second, that the countries that have dominated the global development agenda do not have ready-made solutions, and, indeed, face their own governance challenges. As a British citizen based in Washington DC, the last few years have provided more than ample evidence that governance challenges are felt everywhere, and, conversely, that smart approaches to addressing governance-related challenges can come from anywhere. Exceptionalism, thankfully, has had its day.
Spurred on by conversations with international colleagues about the governance challenges that have dominated the news in the United States for the last six months – rampant authoritarianism, systemic racial injustice, and devastating failure of leadership in responding to COVID-19 – this series of blog posts will share international perspectives on governance challenges in the United States. This builds on the earlier work on Defending Democracy that we led with the Sunlight Foundation and Transparency International. It is also inspired in part by the work of the African Centre for the Study of the United States, in South Africa, and by the humorous and insightful perspectives on Brexit shared by Ory Okolloh (formerly of Luminate) and others at #BrexitExpert. (See also the Africa Reacts series published by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, including the recent piece on “Africa reacts to the death of George Floyd and US protests”).
Our aim in providing a space for international colleagues to share their thoughts about governance challenges in the United States is to promote cross-country learning, and solidarity, as all countries grapple, in their own ways, with the challenge of improving governance and social well-being.