Federico de Arteaga Vidiella
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Governance Is the Key to Well-Managed Cities

By Federico De Arteaga | Wed, 07/27/2022 - 15:00

“The question of what kind of city we want cannot be separated from the question of what kind of people we want to be, what kind of social relationships we seek, what relationships with nature we maintain, what lifestyle we desire, or what aesthetic values we hold. David Harvey, Rebel Cities                     

Cities must be managed and citizens must be governed, which is why, both in government and in politics, “art is to govern a shared public space full of contradictions.” And cities are the real space where governance takes place, where institutions are tangibly installed. Government, governability and governance are different and must be differentiated when talking about cities.

Governability and Governance

There are two complementary concepts: i) Governability, which understands that it is possible to govern by strengthening the capacities of governments, improving the instruments and unblocking governmental powers. It is the ability to manage a society, the public and its citizens. ii) Governance, which understands that even providing the government and the state with capacities is not enough to govern and manage the complexity of today's society. Governance are the factors, the current rules that are coordinated to produce a good, a public policy.

Governability is, therefore, a public issue between publics. It is a political party in opposition giving governance to another in power, or aldermen giving it to the municipal president for the proper functioning of a government. And this continues to be a key factor.

Governance arises when governments cannot do everything, and when the private sector and the third sector begin to take over government functions. It is when the government withdraws to its essential functions; that is, when the philanthropic ogre goes on a diet.

What Is Governance For?

Governance is essential for the local government to have the capacity to generate trust and manage public goods with legitimacy and to be able to govern with the maximum participation of strategic actors, such as administrations of other territorial levels, the private sector, the host society and tourists. Without governance, or without a system of encouragement in society, of collaboration based on a common goal, it is not possible to achieve a harmonious and effective society.

How Is Governability and Governance Made Tangible?

Essentially, governability is through the relationship between the municipal presidency and the city council, and governance is through the creation of management bodies for the generation of citizenship where the public and private sectors, academia, the third sector and local leaders converge. The importance of the conformation is that this organization has, on the one hand, the components of the system, that is, the members and, on the other hand, the interactions that take place. The greater the number of members, the greater the number of possible interactions. This is an issue that must be managed, selecting the members that contribute some value per se and in the interaction.

How to Make Governance Effective

Participation is a fashionable topic but participation is often confused with attendance. What is important is real participation in the issues, in the moment, through channels where they can be relevant; it is the form.

Much has been said in Smart Destination schemes about the importance of the participation of the private, public, academic, business, institutional and political sectors as well as local leaders. Smart Destinations (with its pillars of accessibility, innovation, technology, sustainability and governance) has given space to all these interest groups, but with an additional element, a supra, or rather intra-interest group, destination management body, in order to concentrate on governance and leave governance to politicians and parties.

In the End, What Are We Looking For?

Sometimes the implicit seems to contain the explicit. This is the example of the state; there has always been talk of more state or less state as a political concept. Surely those who have reflected on this subject have implicitly contemplated the generation of public goods. But in current discussions, what can be seen is that when the state is discussed, it is analyzed as a regulator, generator of employment, provider of subsistence, and, more commonly, as a bone of contention between opposing political sectors.

The generation of public goods is what matters because this generation of foundational goods allows the generation of private goods, social responsibility and coexistence goods. Sometimes the implicit does not reflect the explicit. And when we do not talk about the impacts, and we continue to talk about the cause and the engine, the car will continue to stop; started, but stopped.