1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Conference News: What Choices Do Democracies Have in Globalizing Economies? Technocratic Policy Making and Democratization



While the world has seen an increase in the number of democratic states, the meeting analysed another trend that threatens the quest for democratization: governments’ increasing tendency to restrict economic policy making to experts, thus insulating key public institutions, such as central banks, fiscal authorities and finance ministries, from democratic scrutiny. Technocratic policy-making is alive and well in many countries and global economic institutions.

Discussion focused on independent authorities and democratic accountability. Cases from Europe and Japan were examined. Participants also considered policy making in the multilateral economic organizations such as the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO. Issues raised in the discussion included why the recent protests against these organizations were able to mobilize so many different groups; the linking of social conditions to trade issues in WTO negotiations, and trade and the self-interest of workers in industrialized countries. The role of labour unions in formulating economic policies was also covered.

Panels examined a range of sectors and areas that are affected by technocratic policy making, such as health care regulation in Tanzania, and democratization, economic reforms and poverty alleviation in Africa and Latin America. Case studies of economic policy making and parliamentary accountability from Argentina, Benin, Chile, Hungary, India, Malawi and the Republic of Korea, were also presented. Participants concluded that history, geography, culture and other factors under the same pressure from the global financial market, had resulted in different forms of economic policy making and that technocracy is not always democracy detracting.

The conference concluded with the question of how can institutions – existing and new – be configured to foster the democratization of power and development in this globalizing era?

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  • Publication and ordering details
  • Pub. Date: 1 Sep 2000
    Pub. Place: Geneva
    ISSN: 1020-8054
    From: UNRISD