One of the new features of the documents of the 13th National Party Congress is the emergence of the concept of “national governance”.
To better understand this concept, VietNamNet talks with Dr. Nguyen Van Dang, an expert on public Administration and policy from the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics.
Dr. Nguyen Van Dang. Photo: Pham Hai
The media is familiar with the concepts of corporate governance, urban governance, global governance. Is this the first time the documents of the Party Congress have used the “national governance” concept?
It is true that this is probably the first time the Party documents have mentioned the concept of “governance”. More specifically, in the Political Report of the 12th Party Central Committee presented at the 13th Party Congress, in the section “The key tasks and strategic breakthroughs of the 13th term”, the Party advocated: “Changing national governance in the direction of modernity and efficiency”.
This concept is also used with the same connotations in the “Lessons from experience” section of the 2016-2020 socio-economic report; Resolution of the 13th Party Congress; Socio-economic development strategy for the period 2021-2030. Thus, the concept of “national governance” has been used four times in the documents.
When did the concept of “governance” appear and what does it mean?
The concept of “governance” originated in the ancient Greek as “kubernan”, meaning control/guide. Later, Plato used the word with the connotation of “designing a ruling system”. In the Middle Ages the word “gubernare” appeared in Latin, which also implied to guide/control or rule through law. Until the 1970s, “governance” was still commonly used in the same meaning as “government”.
In the early 1980s, the concept of “governance” became more common and used with a broader meaning.
Government not only refers to the activities of the state, but also extends to non-state subjects. This diverse network of actors gradually reduces the notion of boundaries between units in government, between public – private sector, or domestic – international.
So far, there still exist different interpretations of the concept of “governance” among the sciences. In terms of solving common problems of the community, “governance” or “public governance” is generally understood as the establishment, application, and enforcement of “rules of the game”.
More specifically, it is a set of principles for collective decision-making in multidisciplinary contexts, and there is no formal system of control between them that governs the terms of the relationship between the subjects participating in the governance system.
The difference between “state management” and “national governance ”
What are the key features of national governance?
The first is the multi-subject feature. The governance system will include not only the government, laws, principles and administrative regulations and state agencies, but also private subjects and non-profit organizations, as well as the more active role of every citizen.
Therefore, the public interest is no longer the only basis for governance decisions. In the framework of a multi-subject relationship, the interests of different subjects must be respected. Consequently, policies or management decisions tend to be dominated by diverse interests, not just public interests.
Second, reduce the gap and narrow the public-private boundary. The governance system integrates administrative systems with market and non-profit mechanisms, thereby narrowing and blurring the boundaries between the state and society.
Third, the cooperation between partners will gradually replace the imposed relationship in order as in the traditional government model. Due to the participation of diverse subjects in governance relationships, the form of those relationships will gradually change to a horizontal relationship, which is more collaborative, cooperative, and equal.
Fourth, governance is interconnected – governance models and paradigms that include institutions and people at all levels of government as well as different policy areas, and are not limited by the local territory border.
So, what is the most fundamental difference between “state management” and “governance”?
Management, whether at the organizational, local or national level, always has a subject that controls relationships and decision-making (government, board of directors, administrators…). However, when it comes to governance, such a central subject does not exist.
The 13th National Party Congress. Photo: Pham Hai
Therefore, the most fundamental difference among management systems is that there will not be a single subject that can fully control the collective decision-making process in multi-subject governance relationships.
How will the role of the government be in the national governance system?
Governance systems require the government to gradually adapt to its role of coordinating the differences in expectations and interests of subjects of governance. It also means that the government cannot easily impose its will on related parties as in a traditional governance model.
How do you evaluate the emergence of the concept of “national governance” in the documents of the 13th Party Congress?
First of all, I think it is a good sign because it shows the change in the Party’s perception. However, the limited use of this concept also proves a certain caution of the Party towards this new concept.
In your opinion, why is there such caution?
In my opinion, “governance” is a concept of Western origin so it reflects tradition and reality in Western societies. This concept, thus, will still be very strange to many Vietnamese people.
In addition, the tradition and reality of the political – administrative system in Vietnam and many East Asian countries in general are also very different from the West. Therefore, we cannot rush to use arbitrarily foreign concepts.
Building a national governance model
What is your opinion about the future of “governance thinking” in Vietnam?
We live in a rapidly changing and interdependent world. Therefore, since the late 1990s, management thinking has been an increasingly popular trend in the world.
At home, reforming the political – administrative system towards respecting and promoting the people’s mastery has been a consistent policy of the Party in many recent congresses.
The reality also shows the limitations of the state’s ability and resources in solving community problems. Therefore, we are witnessing the increasingly active participation of businesses, social organizations and individual citizens, working side by side with the government to solve collective problems.
What are the challenges in the process of building “national governance” in Vietnam?
“Governance” is an exotic concept so the first challenge is that we must define this concept associated with the actual context in Vietnam today. This has not been shown in the documents of the 13th Party Congress.
On that foundation, the next step is to build a national governance theory and model, which can catch the world’s movement trends and reconcile with the traditional and current characteristics of Vietnam.
I think that this is a theoretical challenge that the Party should be concerned about in coming years.