How about good governance as a New Year’s resolution

Frankly Speaking

Picture of Dharmendra Kanani
Dharmendra Kanani

Chief Operating Officer and Chief Spokesperson of Friends of Europe

This month, as many around the world set their personal resolutions for the New Year, what we really need to see is world leaders take on one big one: practising good governance – which means, among other things, learning from best practices and making evidence-based policy decisions.

Examples abound when it comes to poor and failing governance. Be it the recent collapse of the Dutch government, the Brexit debacle, the mess of the Trump presidency or the failed response to the pandemic by most governments.

How is it possible that the Netherlands, which led the charge as part of the ‘Frugal Four’ to chastise the poor fiscal management of economies and argued for rule of law conditionalities in the EU’s recovery package, was able to maintain and oversee one the worst excesses of systemic power on the continent?

Or how about the repeated false claims that served as the basis of Brexit? The harsh realities are just now being felt by food companies. Very soon communities will learn the hard way that sovereignty was just a soundbite without any real basis in the experiences of the UK’s rulemaking processes. 

Can a new dynamic of political management and conduct emerge?

Across the Atlantic, the Trump presidency’s systematic undermining of democracy has been eye-opening – from exploiting weaknesses in the system to disenfranchising millions of citizens despite any evidence to support his claims.

Finally, the stop and start approach to lockdowns across nations – despite having clear scientific advice (and claiming to follow it) – has shown that politics in the end determined these choices, under the guise of economics and community good, both of which have suffered the largest shocks in our times.

In each of these examples, we see the lack of proper governance, the disregard for evidence and data, and a refusal to learn from the lessons of the past.

Can a new dynamic of political management and conduct emerge? One which isn’t premised on party politics but in a belief of serving all communities; and forge a new politics that cuts out deal-making, corridor diplomacy and winning the argument?

The next 24 months matter – they will define the foundation of how we manage future shocks

There’s a sense of a reckoning unfolding – and it can go either way but the opportunity to make it good is there for the taking. This requires bravery and a long hard look at what’s happening in our societies and what’s around the corner.

Citizen apathy, cynicism and disenfranchisement, whilst possibly a slow burn, will be felt sharply.

The next 24 months matter – they will define the foundation of how we manage future shocks and rewire our national systems for the combined challenges of carbon reduction and digitalisation. Forget going back to some mystical normal – that isn’t going to happen and in some cases for good reason.

Spain’s freakish winter weather, and what we’re seeing elsewhere in the world, is just a taste of what’s to come. Operating like a deer caught in headlights doesn’t have to be the modus operandi – we have sufficient data, foresight, know-how and science to guide us. 

There is an innate ability within the system to act fast and problem solve

Politics and politicians will need to heed the biggest message delivered to them in modern times. This message should jar us into defining what a modern state should be to withstand the shocks that are likely to hit our world and societies in the next 10 to 20 years – a 21st century model of government will need to developed.

What’s required now is to galvanise efforts to mitigate, adapt and define a new order and way of doing things – a new normal that is more resilient, inclusive, and sustainable.

“Our future is made in Europe” were the powerful words of European Commission President von der Leyen at the conclusion of the Brexit deal. They should become the brand of a modern political union.

The COVID pandemic has demonstrated that there is an innate ability within the system to act fast and problem solve. Let’s apply that to our biggest social and economic problems – what a powerful new year’s resolution that would be.

Track title


Stop playback
Video title


Africa initiative logo