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If governance is the art of governing, then it is clear that governance is in crisis, at every level. The level at which governance is most often conceived—the nation state—is simply unworkable. International organizations lack legitimacy, are stuck by vested interests and are ruled by the majority. Nobody believes anymore in reforming the UN Security Council. What is striking is that most of the pillars of our society are under stress: family, trade unions, enterprises, political parties, universities, religion and the like.
We feel that something is happening beneath the surface. We know that an individual-based approach is leading us to situations that threaten the survival of the human species and our planet. Decades-long efforts to educate or predict frightening futures have not worked as catalysts for action. However, times are changing and new values are emerging.
We are now at the tipping point of a new paradigm that is based on co-creation. The knowledge society and information age are only transitory steps. The co-creative paradigm reflects the shift from vertical control and command towards horizontal peer sharing among and between communities. We live in a complex world pervaded by openness, adaptation, interdependence, speed, participation, networks, trust, integrity, passion, sharing, holism, non-linearity, and above all, self-organization and emergence.
The co-creative paradigm brings unprecedented change in governance, and these changes look good for humanity and the planet. With transaction and collaboration costs minimal, it gives many stakeholders an opportunity to take responsibility, even on global issues. This ensures that the views and values of the world’s people inform and shape the decisions taken at any level. The change goes beyond governance; it reaches to modes of production and of property as well. Rather than a revolution or a reform, it is a subterranean and self-nurturing wave.
What we know or do matters less than who we are—as individuals and interconnnected collectives. Interactions that blend the individual and the whole tend to take priority. We interact for the sake of an emerging and multiple identity. Through this process, we are building self-generative and sustainable global governance.
The priority for us is to develop ourselves in connection with others and the universe, and also to be inspired by collective wisdom. What do we want as a Human Species living on this planet? Is conquering new territories in the galaxy part of the future? How do we internalize artificial intelligence, which will be even more disruptive than the Internet? How do we digest the blurring distinctions between reality and virtuality? What will be our biological component as the distinction between human, machine and nature fades away? How will the reversal from information scarcity to information abundance impact us? How can the myriads of contributors on the web and on the ground get an income? These questions are about global governance and are part of an invitation to cross the river by feeling for stones.
We need to hold an intention of collective wisdom as a basis for global governance to replace the current mechanics of voting and consensus building. This wisdom can be sourced from a state of inner peace, delicate attention, active listening and harmony with the universe—as well as from inaction and subtle, permanent abandonment. It will emerge from a new story of who we are and why we are here. It will constantly evolve from our interactions and broadening our limited ‘scientific’ rationality to a subjective first-person experience of sense-making and feeling.
More than awareness and presence, we need a flexible global governance permanently enriched with spontaneous actions adapted to the moment. The question is where to put our attention in the complex and rapidly changing world. We need to recognize patterns to condense experience, to go beyond theory and make the right practical decisions. A source of optimism is the collaborative practices that are rapidly spreading everywhere—born from the digital revolution and the reclaiming of the Commons Movement. They are generating global networks of several kinds that produce new ideas, create policy-making, scrutinize or advocate, and create new platforms and standards for governance. Governance by governments will not disappear, but their form and essence will change. Possibly networked models of nation or regional governance will emerge. The nature of governance itself will become an evolving concept, with a built-in capacity to adjust to unprecedented change at all levels of human experience.
Changes in global governance are only one aspect of an emerging planetary transformation, marked by its spiritual-ecological and integral orientation. Intangible aspects of global governance—in particular, peace and collective wisdom—will complement the tangible aspects (e.g., poverty, climate change and security). The consumptive-materialistic, atomistic orientation prevailing today will disappear as we become aware of a planetary consciousness.
Representative democracy is also under severe stress. We tend to think of democracy as an attribute of political regimes rather than that of political practices. Our assumption that capitalism and modernity have an exclusive and intrinsic relationship with democracy needs to be re-assessed.
The task now is to build a narrative that creates a corresponding policy-making. This will open up the prospect to reconcile what we see as paradoxes among values and among cultures. The Western mindset—focused on rights— and the Eastern mindset— focused on one’s duty to others—will mutually nurture themselves. An integrated geography of thought and action will appear. A real worldview—a unified society of mind—will emerge with enriched normative standards reflecting multiple histories and futures on democratic thinking.
Alain Ruche is Adviser to the Secretary General of the European Union External Service and a Kosmos Global Ambassador.
“We are now at the tipping point of a new paradigm that is based on co-creation…it gives many stakeholders an opportunity to take responsibility, even on global issues. This ensures that the views and values of the world’s people inform and shape the decisions taken at any level. A source of optimism is the collaborative practices that are rapidly spreading everywhere …that produce new ideas,create policy-making, scrutinize or advocate, and create new platforms and standards for governance:’
Alain Ruche has worked most of his life, mainly for the European Union, in various countries around the world. A decade ago, he decided to settle down in Brussels at the Asia Directorate. He is dedicated to out-of-the-box thinking and policy making in the field of international relations.
Fall | Winter 2016