US Government, Institutions, and Global Governance

In contrast to the academic debate, the US government barely embraces the concept of global governance. More importantly, when government narratives or programmes include a reference to governance, it is usually associated with a more inclusive structure of governments abroad based on liberal practices such as democracy, rule of law, and accountability. Following the analysis of Weiss (2000), the contrasting views of scholars and practitioners varies because the former tend to employ governance to mean a complex set of structures and processes, both public and private, while the latter tend to use it as synonymous with government and implicitly allude to the unrepresentative character of governments and the inefficiency of non-market systems.

US Government and Global Governance

A review of the speeches and interviews of former President Barak Obama and his two Secretaries of States since the beginning of his administration in January 2009 suggests the use of governance as a synonym of good governance practised by other countries. President Obama has sporadically used the concept of governance and most of the references to governance, not necessarily global governance, to explain the political and economic events occurring in Africa. In 2009, President Obama made seven references to good governance in his remarks to the Ghanaian Parliament a few months after his inauguration, which was one of the most important visits by an American President to the African continent, given his status as the first President of African-American origin. He argued that prosperity and development depended on good governance and the United States would increase assistance for responsible individuals and responsible institutions. Particularly important would be the focus on supporting good governance and parliaments, which check abuses of power and ensure that opposition voices are heard (Obama 2009). In the 2014 West Point speech, President Obama stated that the upheaval of the Arab World was 'the rejection of an authoritarian order that was anything but stable, and now offers the long-term prospect of more responsive and effective governance' (Obama 2014). In 2015, during his visit to Kenya, President Obama reiterated that three pillars are necessary for success in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa: strong democratic governance; development that provides opportunity for all people and not just some; and a sense of national identity that rejects conflict for a future of peace and reconciliation (Obama 2015).

During her tenure as Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton expanded the views on governance from the perspective of the US government. In an interview in Zambia in 2011, she reinforced the definition of good governance as a method, and took for granted the universal consensus on democracy and accountability. She argued that there is evidence that free, fair, transparent elections are the best way for improving good governance over the long run and 'good governance ultimately is whether or not people believe they are governed well' (Clinton 2011). She advanced the argument that, while some societies have different forms of government, at the end of the day, the success of a government can be assessed by tangible indicators such as job creation, education for children, or how healthcare needs are met. When she was questioned on whether China was an important role model in terms of governance, Secretary Clinton responded negatively and argued that good governance unleashes human potential whereas authoritarian regimes try to put everybody into the same mould (Clinton 2011). On the other hand, her successor John Kerry has made a few peripheral mentions regarding challenges facing governance when he was explaining the demands governments face from young people in the United States and India (Kerry 2014b).

The programmes created by the US government embracing the concept of governance are limited. Reviewing some of them may illustrate the areas and the understanding of governance. The Energy Governance and Capacity Initiative (EGCI) is a US Department of State-led (in coordination with several other US agencies) effort to provide a wide range of technical and capacitybuilding assistance to host governments of select countries that are on the verge of becoming the world's next generation of oil and gas producers. Although EGCI's goals are country-specific in nature, the programme broadly tries to ensure sound and transparent energy sector governance for the benefit of national economic development (US Department of Interior 2014).

Another programme within the framework of good governance and US cooperation to Africa is the Security Governance Initiative (SGI), a comprehensive endeavour between the United States and six African partners[1] to improve security and capacity to address threats. Initially endowed with $65 million, the US is expected to provide additional funding commensurate with maturing programme needs and expansion to additional countries (White House 2011). The US government is also working to support African countries as they make improvements in the delivery of public and social services to their citizens, and helping them commit to policy and regulatory reforms designed to promote inclusive governance and attract investment, including making their governments more open. Some of these areas include the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Open Government Partnership (OGP), and the Voice of America (VOA) (White House 2014).

From a different perspective, the White House created the Subcommittee on Global Internet Governance in 2012. Its main functions are developing policy recommendations that articulate legal, economic, and factual support for key internet policy discussions as well as suggesting strategies for the Administration's engagement in international organizations (White House 2012). Another significant official action on governance is the International Anticorruption and Good Governance Act (IAGGA). Passed in 2000, the purpose of this legislation is 'to ensure that United States assistance programmes promote good governance by assisting other countries to combat corruption throughout society and to improve transparency and accountability at all levels of government and throughout the private sector' (US Department of State 2000). Updated in recent years, the IAGGA recognizes the importance of good governance on an international scale and further requires the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of Commerce and the Administrator of the

Agency for International Development, to prepare regular reports to Congress that survey US Government diplomatic and programmatic anti-corruption efforts, as well as host government efforts in priority countries.

  • [1] The six countries are Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Tunisia.
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