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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Responsible Citzenship for Good Governance Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Cardenas, United States May 10, 2006
Human Rights   Opinions


Responsible Citzenship for Good Governance A few weeks ago while visiting my home country (in Latin America), I stumbled over a journal devoted to study the fact that my country was ungovernable. I wondered, what did these pundits mean by describing page after page, the lack of governance in our country? Using words like inequity, ineffective, non-transparent and non-participative to qualify the government’s work, they described a country bared in chaos and unable to see light at the end of the darkest tunnel.

So I started questioning the purpose of this journal, because other than plain cynicism, I just could not see anything else offered for my gain. I saw a myriad of reasons to justify serious depression or defeatism, with nothing proposed, and no hope. Being the relentless person that I am and refusing to accept such pity, I drew some conclusions that I share here:

Government is not governance.

We all see our governments as the structure responsible for constructing and enforcing the law in our territory, where the final purpose is to serve society in achieving its satisfaction of needs and procure its well being. But that does not mean the government is the only actor, no matter how much power it holds, it cannot control, serve or modify its society if society does not want to play along. After all, to govern is mainly to strongly influence on the behavior of the majority.

Assuming we live in a democratic state, the government was produced by our society to lead, to manage, and to plan for its citizens, not to do their work. If we see society not as a whole group of individuals, but a conglomerate of interrelated groups, we will discover the true wavers of the social threads that create our governance. Non-profit organizations, foundations, advocacy groups, professional groups, unions, churches, independent press, leagues, clubs, community associations, and other groups mobilize citizens to voice their opinions and act their civic duties, forming the scaffold of governance.

Governance is a process.

Like happiness, you cannot touch it but you can feel it, you can see its intensity without being able to pinpoint to one object or category alone, but you know its there when its acting; governance is not an institution or group of institutions, is rather a process built by the interaction of those governing and those governed, is a result of the interactions among those chosen to lead and administer the law, resources and goods of society and those members whom represent the ever changing demands from the different social groups and their ability to influence the decisions that affect everyone.

Governance is the process of the interaction of political power used to make decisions and such political power is not a ‘zero-sum’ game. The influence of a congressman can not overpower an avalanche of unhappy constituents, or a massive protest, or a block of active voters. A political authority cannot create law without consulting relevant stakeholders (business, community groups, etc). Any political action always has ramifications in its implementation as well as in the reaction it provokes. Therefore the phenomenon of governance is a process of constant mutation.

Good governance through good citizenship.

Who can be good enough to assure society as a whole that every decision taken by him and his fellow collaborators will be transparent, be best for the public good, always render account, and without abusing the law or buying into corruption?

The way society works now does not provide enough guaranties for fair play in this process. And to fix it, we do not want to create more laws, punishments or audit processes. Perhaps because is not only about laws, but about culture; experience teaches us that codes of conduct are dictated more by the dominant culture rather than by artificial rules and regulations.

Therefore, we propose a change in our culture, a revisit to the ancient principles of citizenship, where individuals act by conviction rather than by fear or imposition; where people embrace the need of commonwealth and individual investment for the common good. The fact is we need to recreate and enact a new culture of responsible citizenship, where responsible decision making will be a strong based belief and not an obligation.

The power to create an equal and just society resides within its citizens and their freewill to work for it.



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An Ecuadorian & US citizen, who has worked with community based organizations all his life.
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