Promoting tre-sector partnership

India’s G-20 Presidency

By Dr. D.K. Giri

(Prof. International Relations, JIMMC)

In the current series of articles on India’s G-20 presidency, in the run up to the summit later in September this year, we talk today about building partnership between the institutions of state, market and civil society in any country. This is strategically essential for two reasons. One, all the institutions, formal and informal, are encompassed by these three sectors in countries across the world. Second, development, which is a top priority for any country, has always involved the interaction of state, market and society, often in antagonistic terms. Since any of this triad cannot be marginalised, what is instead needed is a synergetic partnership between these three actors. India should initiate this partnership during her presidency of the most powerful bloc of G-20.

Before we emphasise on the roles played by state, market and civil society in the growth and development of a country, and advocate a partnership among them, let us understand their respective relevance and significance. Also, it is in order that we trace the history of their involvement in the development of a country in relation to the very concept and its actualisation. Various scholars have interpreted the roles of these three agenciesin different contexts. The legendary development economist EF Schumacher, way back in 1970s, named ABC of development which meant A- Administrators, B-Business, C-Communicators. In today’s parlance, ABC corresponds to state, market and civil society.

The partnership experts draw on the respective strengths of these sectors. The state has the power and authority to, mediate, monitor, and manage the other two sectors. It provides the legislative mandate for their work. Market produces goods and services as well as domain expertise. The civil society manifests in various organisational forms like NGOs, campaign organisations, community conclaves, social movements and broadly speaking, represents any space left out by both business and the state. It is supposed to be the watchdog of constitutional, social and political values. The symbiotic relationship between the three sectors is established as the state empowers the civil society, facilitates business, while business produces skills, services, expertise and wealth, the civil society becomes the consumer for the business and citizen for the state. At the same time, civil society provides the checks on ‘autocracy of the state’ and ‘rapacity of businesses’.

On the historical growth and influence of the triad on the development of a country, the last 50 years has witnessed several eras of development in which state, market and civil society actors have been attributed different roles. Very broadly, the period of 1960s and 1970s was one of state-led development, which, in other words, called a ‘state developmentalism’. The development ideas and practices focused on supporting post-independence governance through planning, modernisation and technology transfer towards achieving economic growth and a good society based on a stable and modern state. This was also called the Mainstream Perspective on Development (MPD), used to measure development in terms of growth in per capita income or GNP. However, MPD gradually saw development in terms of quality of life designated as Human Development Index (HDI) which takes into account basic needs of entire population particularly the poor.

The 1981-2000 period saw a relative retreat of the state in dominant development discourse and practice. The publication of the World Bank report on accelerating development in Sub-Saharan Africa and the so-called Washington consensus brought an era of market liberalism, economic reform and structural adjustment which was called LPG in globalised economy. LPG stood for Liberalisation, Privatisation and Globalisation. India also followed that model since 1990s. Although country contexts defer, the process of restructuring spread across the world in which states were rolled back and repositioned in favour of market mechanism in the delivery of goods and services.

However, the distortions in this framework soon emerged undermining the non-marketable dimensions of human worth, activities and progress and the restriction of service access to those who could pay. Consequently, human and social development, schemes for reduction of poverty and rising inequalities were undermined. In order to correct the distortions, various non-state actors from civil society emerged in the development scene. The rise of civil society engagement in the development process brought an Alternative Perspective on Development (ADP) which advocated participatory, people-centred and environmentally-sustainable development. There was an added priority by the donors of good governance. Donor engagement with civil society continued into the 1990s.

Thus, in the three overlapping eras and perspectives, development discourses and practices have respectively emphasised state-led, market-led and civil society-engaged processes and drivers of development. While both MPD and APD pursued development, although of different quality, another perspective which is not articulated enough has emerged that may be called Post-Development Perspective (PDP). This perspective advocates the ‘very death’ of development.

Despite the rhetoric on development by several countries and the MDGs, now SDGs, development has become a contested notion. In the perspective of PDP, poverty is first invented and development is then prescribed to eradicate it. Admittedly, it is extremely difficult to arrive at a consensus on the concept development; it is possible to have an agreement on what development should not lead to. If development increases income disparity, leads to reckless displacement, environmental degradation, climate insecurity and socio-cultural discrimination, and thus adds to human distress,should not be designated as development. Attending to these issues can cope with many of the contemporary contentions about development. It is high time that G-20 is engaged in a serious discourse on the unintended consequences of the ongoing process of development.

We should recognise that new global and development challenges are emerging as priorities around economic growth and poverty reduction are joined by pressing concerns with tackling disparities, addressing climate change, mitigating conflict and violence and more. At the same time, global inter-connectedness is also intensifying. Consequences of climate change to epidemics, finance to food, war to terrorism are spreading across the world. The response to such hazards and challenges is also changing. While many of these hazards cannot be precluded, the capacity of countries for resilience has to be built to cope with them.

At any rate, a partnership between state, market and civil society is critical and even indispensable to tackle the aforesaid challenges which can be grouped under three rubrics – inequality, sustainability and inclusivity. These challenges necessitate forging new alliances including a partnership between the triad. Some scholars would add ‘professionals’ to this alliance. So P3 – private, public and people (state, market and civil society) partnership becomes P4 with professionals brought in. The partnership also is necessary as the last 50 years have produced a development paradox in which massive increases in global economic growth and technological innovation have coincided with rising inequality and disparity in development outcomes.

A partnership manifested in hybrid forms of governance is likely to ensure fairer global governance, equitable redistribution within a country and across the world and greater social and global justice. Let India take this initiative in forging this partnership around G-20 leadership this year. — INFA