Western Model Not the Only Way to Achieve Good Governance


ByMohammed Alsulami

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights defines governance as all the processes of governing and the institutions, processes and practices through which issues of common concern are decided upon and regulated. The UN Human Rights Council states that good governance is based on the principles of transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation and responsiveness to people’s needs. The question is whether good governance can only be attained through the Western democratic political system or if there are other political systems, such as the Islamic, Chinese or Russian models, that may lead us to the same outcome?

In fact, voices critical of Western democracy have been rising recently, saying that this model is experiencing an internal crisis and that it is losing sight of many of the values upon which it was built. Several books and propositions that criticize the Western model of democracy have come out that predict an imminent collapse of this system as a globalized model that can be followed and mimicked by non-Western nations.

In recent decades, we have seen political systems around the world that have managed to achieve a level of success in socioeconomic and human development indicators not seen in countries governed by democratic systems. These nondemocratic systems have managed to lead their societies toward security and welfare by highly efficiently investing in the human and knowledge resources of the state. Such measures have been taken with high transparency, integrity and effectiveness to fight corruption, enact laws and set into motion the principles of oversight, answerability and accountability.

This success features a number of countries that do not embrace the Western paradigm of democracy. These countries have outperformed Western nations in international indicators such as electronic governance, happiness, security and business sustainability.

Therefore, it is apparent that cultures and civilizations foster their own distinct and diverse concepts, which may at times be diametrically opposed to those of other peoples. They may also partially converge or diverge depending on the legacy, civilizational and historical circumstances that this or that place and its peoples have experienced.

The main topic of this article is the concept, meaning and premises of Western democracy, as well as the scope and influence of Western culture from which this concept arises. This model of democracy was built on concepts specific to Western civilization. Given the West’s dominance and the culture over the past two centuries of the victors prevailing over the defeated, the concepts applied in Western countries have become the essential criteria to assess other countries, thus determining the nature of the relationship with them on most occasions. There are only a few exceptions where Western countries have bypassed their well-established principles for the sake of achieving certain results.

Here arises an important question: What is the overriding aim of building a democratic system to manage a specific country? Is it something that goes beyond achieving justice and equal opportunities for all and establishing good standards and levels of welfare, prosperity, sustainable development and human investment?

If we suppose that these are the overriding aims of democracy, then could they be achieved through systems of governance that are inspired by the civilizational heritage of peoples as well as the values, concepts and nature of social relations prevailing among them?

In other words, is the Western democracy model the only path to achieve democracy’s overriding aims? Could these lofty aims not be achieved by societies through other ways, models or paradigms without Western countries looking down on them?

Implementing the Western democratic model outside of its original habitat will not necessarily translate into achieving the sublime aims of democracy. There are multiple models in Third World countries that have theoretically adopted the Western model of democracy for government but have not achieved the desired aims.

On the contrary, this botched model of governance has brought about corruption, nepotism and the exclusion of some segments of society, including those possessing expertise and high capabilities. This is because the choice of Western democracy has been impacted to the core by the local culture, whether factional, regional, sectarian, religious, tribal or societal. Therefore, even if the model of governance is “formally democratic,” the outcomes are disastrous. There are several examples of this democratic failure in Asian, African and even Latin American countries that are aligned with the West.

Accordingly, gauging a country’s progress and justice via the lens of Western democracy is a totally botched standard of measurement. Moreover, many countries considered in the West to be reactionary or suffering from civilizational regression, according to the Western concept, have outpaced Western countries in some areas, including paying attention to the rights of citizens and expatriates, the provision of services, fighting corruption, and ensuring social justice and equal opportunities. Perhaps what the world has seen during the coronavirus pandemic is testament to this.

We are living in a historical epoch in which we should move past the democratic rhetoric that is parroted by many without any real understanding of its meaning. We should look at the realities on the ground, get rid of the blind following of the West and act like people who reflect on our own civilization, culture and thoughts.

The era of Western superiority should be completely jettisoned in today’s reality, which is heading toward a multipolar order. Instead, there is a need to consider the civilizational and cultural heritage of people as a stepping stone for marching toward the future. More importantly, the collapse of values and ideals in Western societies, including the disintegration of family structures, make many peoples and countries reconsider the future of Western civilization, which is apparently heading toward the abyss in light of the degradation of values and concepts consistent with human nature.

To conclude, we should stop assessing countries based on external criteria that do not have origins in their native cultures. We should instead seek to achieve the aims of good governance regardless of the means of achieving them.

Arab News

 Opinions in this article reflect the writer’s point of view, not necessarily the view of Rasanah

Mohammed Alsulami
Mohammed Alsulami
Founder and President of Rasanah