The Special Session, moderated by the Minister of Personnel Management of Korea, Dr. Pan Suk Kim, puts together ideas on how governance plays an important role in achieving SDG no. 16, which is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.
Prof. Demetrios Argyriades of the City University of New York first put together the concepts of fragility and sustainability. He discussed the existence of models and stereotypes, how these affect the views of the people, and how these, particularly the market model, are eroded by current changes such as wars and the rise of social media. He focused on the concept of welfare to warfare and how it causes fragility, which in turn invites dysfunction and decay of institutions. However, Argyriades argued that to have sustainability, it needs fragility. To address the issues caused by fragility, sustainable actions must be made, such revisiting institutions and structures for the long haul. He emphasized that to meet SDG 16, there is need for a Paradigm Shift. As such, he urged that it is important to rediscover the value of history in order to think about bringing in the right actions to build sustainable institutions.
Meanwhile, Professor Jose Antonio Puppim de Oliveira of Brazil discussed that it was only in recent years that countries are coming together to achieve common goals as evidenced by the creation of the Millennium Development Goals and the recent Sustainable Development Goals. However, the contradiction lies with the traditional concept of public administration, which is still constrained to think about organizations. While In the past, domestic PA is concerned mostly on the respective country’s self-interest, governments have gradually become more open to think about global interests. While there is a decline in poverty in Asian countries, emissions of greenhouse gas are increasing, which undermines the efficiency of the economy. Despite the need for transformations for these countries to progress, development is bounded by the limits of the planet.
According to Mr. de Oliveira, the following steps are needed for sustainable development transformation: decoupling of economy and ecological footprint; recognizing the ecological limits by shifting the discussions from what policies are needed to the political and institutional conditions that make the adoption of certain policies; and changing environment-economy-society relations through values. He cited the experiences of Tokyo and Bhutan as models whose political and institutional conditions have facilitated innovative initiatives.
Professor Daeyong Choi, in his presentation, “Governance Approach to the Implementation of the SDGs in the Korean Context,” described governance approaches and how they may or may not be applicable in attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He pointed out that all states bear the responsibility of ensuring that no one is left behind in the improvement of welfare outcomes. Nonetheless, he emphasized the need for collaboration and partnership across sectors and among stakeholders.
Prof. Choi also argued that while SDGs are a universal, integrative concept, the public sector needs to acknowledge and consider the politico-administrative contexts under which they operate. Governance principles play a big role in this aspect. Governance entails a holistic approach to solving development problems; collective and decentralized decision making; integration of policies and processes, and clear institutional arrangements that are realigned with the prevailing context. Citing the development of environmental policies in Korea, Prof. Choi proposed that perhaps there is a need to reconsider hierarchical governance in Korea. He also presented the takeaway question of finding the right mix of governance styles to speed up the attainment of SDGs in Korea.
In the last presentation, the context of Dr. Ting Guan’s study is the failure of China to achieve the Millennium Development Goals in the aspect of environmental protection. She noted that in 1997 China was not disclosing its data on pollution and air and water quality. Twenty years after, many local governments have enacted policies that require the disclosure of information on air and water quality. The enactment of the Environmental Information Disclosure (EID) policy is key in the improvement of access to information as regards air and water quality in China. Dr. Guan used the adoption of policy innovation as framework to analyze the development and implementation of the EID. She then compared the government and NGO/society perspective on the process and evolution undergone by the state and the society (as represented by non-government organizations) to be able to enact policy innovations.
On the part of the government, it enacted the EID policy in 2008. On the side of the NGOs, it conducted annual assessment of local bureaus’ implementation of the EID policy. While targets have yet to be met, China has made significant progress in promoting and implementing EID.
In conclusion, Dr. Guan summed up the lessons from the EID experience of China into three points: (1) effective implementation of legal principles into reality requires efforts from both state and non-state actors; (2) the mode of state-society partnership is context-specific and dynamic; and (3) information and communication technology (ICT) may favor new modes of policy implementation, public mobilization and participation.