Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Global Public Policy, Partnership, and the Case of the World Commission on Dams

Academic journal article Public Administration Review

Global Public Policy, Partnership, and the Case of the World Commission on Dams

Article excerpt

Public Service in a Globalized World

Recent articles and reflections in Public Administration Review illustrate the struggle to understand the place of public administration, its relevance, and its practice in a rapidly changing, globalized world. Chester Newland (2000) argues that this challenge encompasses three interrelated notions: facilitation of collective actions by public institutions, public-values-oriented social self-governance (where individuals and communities organize to express and pursue their collective values and priorities), and reliance on the disciplines of market systems. All this occurs in a context of complex understandings and the implications of globalization--complete with interdependence, process, and ideological perspectives (Farazmand 1999), and exacerbating global trends--economic and financial, technological, environmental, and sociopolitical (Brinkerhoff and Coston 1999)--which create both new opportunities and new challenges.

Globalization has led to closer integration among the countries of the world, increasing their recognition of the challenges and implications that cross national borders and demand cross-border solutions, and continuing efforts to refine the processes for establishing global public policy. At the same time, citizens are increasingly coming together and organizing to represent their own interests, express their views, and undertake actions to assist themselves and others, either independent of, in conflict with, or in partnership with governments and other actors. The emergence of a transnational civil society, with its demonstrated successes in influencing national, donor, and international policy, can improve the outcomes of public policy. (1) At the same time, the emergence and growing strength of this sometimes well-organized, sometimes disparate advocate may exacerbate conflict and complexity, precluding the identification of workable solutions. The rise of transnational civil society further raises questions about these actors' accountability: For whom do they speak? Are they legitimate representatives? And how transparent are they in their own processes? (2) The 1999 protests in Seattle over the World Trade Organization illustrate these challenges and point to the need to explore new processes and approaches to resolving multistakeholder, conflictive public policy issues, particularly those that are global in scope.

Keeping with the emphasis on the facilitative state, in exploring ways to improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and feasibility of public-service approaches, partnership has become the current buzzword and favored solution (in rhetoric, if not always in practice). (3) Partnerships offer significant potential to (1) enhance efficiency and effectiveness by relying on comparative advantages and a rational division of labor; (2) provide the multiactor, integrated solutions sometimes required by the scope and nature of the problems being addressed; (3) move from a no-win situation among multiple actors to a compromise and potential win-win situation (that is, in response to collective-action problems or the need for conflict resolution); and (4) open decision-making processes to promote a broader operationalization of the public good.

This article examines the potential for partnership to address two major challenges in public service, now and in the future: (1) the evolving sociopolitical context of public service, that is, the increasing incidence and intensity of conflict among diverse stakeholders--particularly the facilitative state, self-governing civic constituencies, and market systems; and (2) the formulation of acceptable and feasible global public policy. The partnership approach is examined through the case of the World Commission on Dams (WCD), a global partnership designed to resolve conflicts over large dam projects.

Partnership Defined: Mutuality and Organization Identity

There are some variations in how partnership is defined, but all definitions have common characteristics with relative differences in emphasis on the operationalization of partnership principles. …

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