Governments and the expert community in a globalizing world: a view from Europe




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"Governments and the expert community in a globalizing world:

A view from Europe"

Speaking Points for Mr. Marek Belka

Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe

at the 9th International Conference on "Economic Modernization and Globalization"



Moscow, 1-3 April 2008


1. The era of globalization and knowledge-based development.


  • The 21st century is marked by dominance of the intertwined processes of globalization and knowledge-based development.

  • The complexities of economic globalization are growing and are compounded with other global problems such as international terrorism, climate change, spread of infectious diseases, etc.

  • The power of national governments to address the problems arising as a result of globalization is reduced.

  • At the same time the world economy is now predominantly knowledge-driven in the sense that the production, distribution, and use of knowledge are the main drivers of growth, wealth creation and employment.

  • In turn, thanks to the advances of information and communication technologies, the production, distribution, and use of knowledge have also become global phenomena.

  • The emergence of global knowledge-based value chains – as the key drivers of global economic growth – is both a challenge and an opportunity for businesses and countries, for national and international policy makers.


2. Knowledge as a public good


  • Public goods have two critical properties: 1) they support “non-rivalrous consumption” – the consumption of one individual does not affect the consumption of others – and 2) they offer “non-excludable benefits” – when the good is made available it is difficult to exclude anyone from enjoying it.

  • Knowledge generally possesses these properties and can be regarded as a public good.

  • Some forms of knowledge are or can be made excludable (e.g. trade secrets, patents, etc.).

  • A key policy implication is that the state/governments must play some role in the provision of such goods; without active public support, there will be underprovision of knowledge.



3. The increasing role of the expert community in economic, social, and environmental policy making.


  • Policy-making in most areas (economic, social, and environmental, etc.) is increasingly becoming a specific knowledge-based activity. Knowledge is both an input and output in policy-making and the organization and management of the policy-making process contains knowledge-intensive “know-how”.

  • Due to this, experts – as bearers of knowledge – and the expert community in general (including think tanks, policy advisory bodies, etc.) have growing importance in the policy-making process

  • Moreover, the role of the expert community has been growing at par with the advance of globalization and knowledge-based development. These bodies enrich society, provide a diversity of views and significantly contribute to the quality and transparency of policy making.

  • The complexity of globalization calls for ‘experts’ to help policy makers understand new phenomena. E.g., the global financing system has given rise to a number of new, extremely complex financial instruments. Governments need the help of experts with relevant expertise to deal with the policy and regulatory implications of these new financial developments and to ensure transparency and stability.

  • The rise of global challenges caused in part by globalization and he nature of these problems require specific knowledge which is the result of targeted results from advisory bodies and expert groups. Such groups for example have been particularly visible in the case of climate change. Expert groups at both international and national levels are becoming more and more influential in shaping the policy response and actions.

  • New communications technologies makes it much easier for organizations and individuals to collaborate across vast distances, for think tanks to disseminate the results of their research, and for consumers of think tanks products to access that research using the Internet.


4. Roles and models in the global “expertise market”


  • The policy-oriented expert community is organized in a variety of bodies with specific roles including (1) playing mediating function between the government and the public; (2) identifying, articulating, and evaluating current or emerging issues, problems or proposals; (3) transforming ideas and problems into policy issues; (4) serving as an informed and independent voice in policy debates; and (5) providing a forum for the exchange of ideas and information between key stakeholders in the policy formulation process.

  • In its turn, the supply side of the “expertise market” contains a variety of organizational forms of think-tanks (academic, business-oriented/for-profit, non-profit, etc.) as well as individual independent experts.

  • Academic think-tanks (universities, academic institutes, etc.) are generally well equipped with expertise as they are close to the main suppliers of knowledge. However, they may be confronted by the problem of insufficient financial resources and management skills.

  • Examples of business, or profit-oriented bodies include policy entrepreneurs and lobbyists. Some of these are affiliated with interest groups (business associations, trade unions) or political parties. Defining ethical rules of lobbying (e.g. disclosure of interests and corresponding budgets) is a key issue in pursuing the public interest.

  • Non-profit think-tanks include are usually centered on a formulated mission and seek support from others sharing their objectives. They face the challenge of raising financial resources to support their activity while preventing dependence on donors.

  • Ad hoc policy groups are created to advise governments and policy makers through reports and brainstorming sessions. Their activities are usually financed from public funds and they are serviced by the public administration. Such groups are becoming more influential although their role is mostly advisory while the actual decisions by the governments.

  • Among the common problems in the market for expertise and advisory services is the possible conflict of interest. This is not only the case in lobbying groups but also in non-profit advisory services, if they are bound by a politically biased mission.



5. The role of international organizations in mobilizing expert knowledge


  • Most knowledge in the knowledge-based global economy is also a global public good. Therefore international and global governance bodies have an important role in supporting and promoting the production and dissemination of such knowledge. In this regard the role of international organizations is complementary to those of national governments.

  • For developing countries as well as for low-income transition economies: knowledge is one of the keys to development and catching up and is complementary to private and public capital

  • In addition, due to the reduced power of individual states to solve problems as a result of globalization, the policy agenda of international and global governance bodies has increased.

  • Related to that, there is also a process of globalization of the market for expertise and advisory services and globalization of think tank funding.

  • In addition to the intergovernmental international and global governance bodies , there is also an increasing number of non-governmental global players such as expert forums and platforms that allow other actors to propose solutions and actions that can tackle global problems such as poverty and better governance.

  • For example, the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland gives a role to non-governmental organizations and the private sector in addressing problems and proposing practical solutions across a large spectrum of topics.



6. The experience of the UNECE in promoting and disseminating expert knowledge


  • The work of the UNECE can be regarded as an example of good practice of the role of the UN system and bodies promoting and disseminating expert knowledge.

  • The UNECE, through its intergovernmental subsidiary bodies and expert networks is promoting and ongoing multi-stakeholder policy dialogue and is undertaking policy-oriented normative and other “soft” regulatory work in a number of important policy areas such as environmental policy, sustainable energy, trade facilitation, knowledge-based development and others.

  • All UNECE subsidiary bodies and composed of experts representing the region’s expert community at large. In fact, most of the substantive work reported under the UNECE logo is done by this expensive network. The secretariat is very small and has mostly facilitative functions.

  • This policy dialogue and the related soft regulatory work takes various forms, including open policy discussion, conferences, policy seminars, expert seminar and meetings, etc.

  • The multi-stakeholder policy dialogue involves the active participation of the expert community from the whole UNECE region which covers 56 member States: all European, Caucasian and Central Asian countries, the United States, Canada and the State of Israel.



7. By facilitating the joint work of governments and the expert community in a globalizing world, the UNECE is helping its member states (with a special focus on countries with economies in transition) to better deal with practical issues including:


  • better identify the current needs and demands of countries:

  • ensure client orientation in policy formulation and delivery;

  • harness the wealth of available expertise in addressing and finding solutions to practical problems;

  • find solutions to problems that transcend national borders and hence require international cooperation;

  • further reduce barriers to trade and investment by harmonizing policy, legal and regulatory frameworks, where necessary;

  • contribute to mobilizing and better utilizing domestic and international resources (including FDI) by improving the domestic business climate;

  • promote a policy, financial and regulatory environment conducive to economic growth, knowledge-based development and higher competitiveness of countries and businesses.


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