March 28, 2013

Human Development Report 2013: The Emergence of the Global Civil Society and New Partnerships

The Global Civil Society in the New Arrangement

The rise of the South presents opportunities for new development partnerships and approaches. Local movements, national activists, labour unions, and civil societies in the South are increasingly becoming more connected and wired to various transnational solidarity and knowledge networks outside the confines of the traditional international governance channels dominated by the North. These transnational networks, such as the World Social Forum, CIVICUS, UBUNTU, and many others, are influencing the behavior of state and private actors alike by pushing for new norms, reframing critical development issues, and making demands for states to act on climate change, international trade regime reform, fairer governance, social inequalities, and human rights issues. These networks are laying the foundations for an emerging global civil society and a ground up global public opinion.

The emergence of the global civil society and public opinion is a vibrant and dynamic element of the new global arrangement. The new arrangement calls for a more equitable and meaningful representation of the South, civil societies, and social movements on the world stage.  This more equitable and meaningful representation aims to promote the human development and the aspirations of the growing global middle-class that amplifies our common goal for a more just and fairer world.
New Partnerships for Responsible Sovereignty 
Leading emerging countries of the South are using their own “ideas and energy to create new momentum for human development” (HDR, 2013: 120). As a result, non-state and state actors in the North are becoming more sensitive and inclusive of the needs of all nations. An important part of the North becoming more sensitive and inclusive of the needs of the South comes from new South-South economic and political partnerships, where developing countries are learning and benefiting from the successes of leading emerging countries. A number of these partnerships include new South-South trade arrangements like the Sao Paulo Round of 2010> and the recent 5th BRICS Summit in Durban, and important institutions focusing on the South such as the South Centre(formerly the South Commission), and the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization. Gradual transition is taking place as we strive for a more equitable representation of the South through determined reforms of international financial institutions, multilateral and security organs that is to come.

The growth of the global civil society and global civic activism is core to the responsible sovereignty of nations. “Responsible sovereignty takes the long-term interests of the world as a whole into account when formulating national policies” (HDR, 2013:116). Responsible sovereignty must also be extended not only to states but also to private citizens and corporations as they should also be responsible and accountable for their own decisions and actions to protect global resources and address transnational threats. Non-state and citizens actors must also contribute positively to the Post-2015 agenda, environmental sustainability, climate change, youth unemployment, human migration, urbanization, food security, and global trade and investment issues. Similar to the rising economic and political influence of the South, the rise of the global civil society and activists are important partners in global decision-making and pioneering new approaches in tackling international challenges. One example of responsible sovereignty spearheaded by Canada is the Responsibility to Protect Initiative, which attempts to modernize international security, human rights, and humanitarian norms.

Canada and New Partnerships
In the Canadian context, the heated debate around Private-Public Partnerships (PPP or P3) in extractive-led development overseas is challenging the boundaries and ethics of public and private interests that raises critical questions about international cooperation and for whom does this type of development truly benefits and excludes. However, definitions and concepts of “publicness” and “privateness” are social constructs designed by policy choices that need strong regulatory reorientation. Public and private interests in terms of human rights, trade, investment, development, environment, and sovereign interests, do not have to be zero-sum as we all try to adapt and co-create the changing global realities. At the same time, this new arrangement is not a divisive struggle of the new replacing the old or the South replacing the North, instead, the new arrangement “is integrating, coordinating and in some cases reforming” existing structures to make all actors, the South, the North, the private, and the public work more effectively and coherently together (HDR, 2013: 112).

Finally, the optimistic news is that the South, especially the leading emerging countries such as BRICS and other groupings (e.g. IBSA, CIVETS, and MIST), are making rapid advancements in human development. However, when we look beyond the national HDI averages, the numbers change quite drastically. When factoring in Inequality Adjusted-HDI and Gender Inequality Index, and Multidimensional Poverty Index, many states such as Mexico, Brazil, Namibia, Angola, Nigeria, and even South Korea, and the United States rankings drop. This year, Canada ranked 11 on the HDI,15 on the Inequality-adjusted HDI and 18 on the Gender inequality Index.  
Link to the Report Summary in English and en français of the Human Development Report 2013 - The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World
Kai-Hsin Hung is the current Research Assistant with the Asia-Pacific Working Group (APWG) and a recent graduate from the School of International Development and Global Studies at the University of Ottawa.

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