At the diapason of the concepts eminently linked to the process of globalisation, ones which worked their way through in our societies, there plainly figures that of governance.

In fact, the manifest proliferation of this concept has replaced that of «government», which is reckoned to be insufficient in view of the fact that it does not, on the one hand, explain all the mechanisms of regulation within society, and exclusively focuses on public institutions, on the other.


In addition to remedying to the insufficiencies linked to the notion of government, governance is also characterised by its capacity to be applied and adapted in various domains (political, economic, social, etc.), not to mention its constantly evolving conceptual nature. Its principal objective is to improve the mechanisms of coordination between the diverse actors that intervene in society.


However, in view of the necessity for coordination between regional and international bodies, States are compelled to conform to the norms prescribed by the latter. In this context, the Moroccan Initiative for the regional autonomy of the Sahara is characterized by the fact that it has a remarkable asset; namely, its reference to international norms and standards. A concise analysis of the different points of the project will allow us to come to a better grasp of this positive remark (II). However, it would be opportune to lay out first of all the different definitions of and approaches to the concept of governance, both by international authorities and by doctrine (I).


I. Presentation of the concept of governance


First of all, it is difficult to provide one sole definition of governance, for it is a concept that has a heterogeneous, interactive, even a plural, character in view of the fact that it filters through in every which domain, as well as because of the diversity of actors that make use of it.


Governance can first and foremost be defined as the process whereby the interests of public action are made to relate to each other within the framework of co-management. It is thus conceived as an ensemble of mechanisms requisite for the negotiation of the different interests of society.


The origins of the term governance date back to the 12th century, when it was used, in France more particularly, under the appellation «government», which means the art and the manner of governing. Later, it was in the Middle Ages when English historians used it to designate the mode of organisation adopted by the feudal powers. In the 19th century, the term came to be used in the world of business organisation, before it was abandoned thereafter.


Nevertheless, at the close of the 1980's, the concept in question made a comeback in company management under the term "corporate governance." There followed then its proliferation in all the domains, and its presence in the discourse of international organisations. The latter made use of the concept in order to delimit the criteria to be considered for the good management of public affairs in developing countries. To tell the truth, governance came to replace the Structural Adjustment Plans, which were reckoned to be insufficient for the economic recovery of the countries in question. Thus, for these institutions, bad governance would be synonymous with the absence of efficient institutions.


However, even international institutions have not opted for a sole definition of the term governance.


For the World Bank, for instance, the term suggests the exercise of political power, as well as the administrative control of the resources of society for purposes of economic and social development. Its objective is to blame the failures of developing countries on their reform programmes, which are essentially grounded in the anomalies running through their institutions.


In the same context, the United Nations appears to have a larger approach to the exercise of authority.


Henceforth, the monopoly of State authority is overwhelmed by the economic and administrative dimension. The United Nations Development Programme (UNPD) defines governance as «the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority within the framework of the management of a country's affairs at all levels».This definition comprises the central, regional and local government, as well as the parliament, civil society, and the private sector, all to the extent where they actively participate in and impact the conception of the policy that affects all the people. In consequence, the term governance includes, according to the United Nations, a larger meaning than mere authority. In fact, besides State authority, there is that of society, including every which social constituent.


Nevertheless, in view of the various uses made of the concept of governance, ones which differ from one domain to another, one comes to witness several types of governance: political, economic, social and cultural.


As far as political governance is concerned, the fact is that it is defined as a system of governance that suggests the intervention as well as participation of several actors in the decision-making process, notably public institutions, the private sector as well as civil society.


For economists, governance takes another meaning. Indeed, one finds in this particular domain whole panoply of definitions put forward side by side.


Let us note in this context that this concept finds its origin back in 1937 in the article « The Nature of Firm» by Ronald Coase, who made the distinction between the market and the enterprise. Here, the term governance would be the ensemble of courses of action followed by an enterprise in order to effect a more efficient coordination than that obtaining in the market, one that emanates either from the hierarchy, or from norms and contracts.


As to social governance, the fact is that it brings together and involves institutions, private organisations, as well as social actors in the process of elaborating and implementing collective choices that generate the active involvement of citizens. This type of governance presupposes some degree of social inclusion that ought to gather two conditions-community participation, and the access to basic infrastructures and services.


II. The concept of governance in the moroccan autonomy project


Within the framework of the different approaches to governance that have been adduced by doctrine as well as by international institutions, Morocco has nort remained disconnected from these evolutions. The analysis of the project of regional autonomy in the Sahara brings to the fore the fact that its references are within the perimeters of good governance. The Moroccan Initiative tends to adjust to the new international fact/ors so as to avoid whatever lag in relation to the internationally recognized developments and standards. Point 11 stipulates that the project « ... draws inspiration from the relevant proposals of the United Nations Organization, and from the constitutional provisions in force in countries that are geographically and culturally close to Morocco. It is based on internationally recognized norms and standards».


Upon reviewing the definitions given by international institutions to the concept of governance, one could, broadly speaking, notice that they take into the fold the institutional aspects as well as activities of the government, be they central, regional or local, of the parliament, as well as organisations and individuals in terms of their active participation in and contribution to the decision-making process for purposes of social and economic development.


Two aspects could thus be analysed which relate to the regional autonomy plan:


The institutionalisation of governance for purposes of social and economic development;

The democratisation of governance through the involvement of local actors in the system of decision upon and control of regional public action.

The fifth point of the Moroccan Autonomy Project stipulates that «... the Sahara populations will themselves run their affairs democratically, through legislative, executive and judicial bodies enjoying exclusive powers...».


Thus will the region be endowed with an elected parliament, an executive power that is exercised by the Head of a government, who is in turn elected by the regional parliament, and who puts in place the government of the region, as well as with jurisdictions created by the parliament whose function would be to legislate on the disputes borne out of the application of the norms decreed by the competent authorities of the region.


However, the fact of endowing the region with an ensemble of institutions is not synonymous with good governance. A vision such as this one is nothing short of old history, so to speak, the reason being that the concept includes now such other elements as the exercise of power and the allocation of resources.


Concerning the first element, the fact is that the project defines the framework wherein the power of each regional organ is exercised. Illustrative in this regard is point 20 of the Moroccan Autonomy Project which stipulates that «executive authority in the Sahara autonomous Region shall lie with a Head of Government, to be elected by the regional Parliament. He shall be invested by the King».


Likewise, point 5 stipulates that the organs of the region are granted some exclusive competences.


Governance suggests then that the institution put in place by the Moroccan Autonomy Project will be invested with appropriate as well exclusive powers. Some institutional gap could in fact trigger off some bad form of governance, one which would jeopardise the credibility as well as the usefulness of the institutions themselves.


As to the second element, relative to the allocation of resources, governance presupposes the administration of society with the aim of boosting its socio-economic development. This element is established by the Moroccan Initiative in point 5, which puts emphasis on the utilisation of « ... the financial resources needed for the region's development in all fields ...».


In point of fact, the exercise of power requires that financial resources, which constitute one major aspect of good governance, be available. Yet, the allocation of financial resources must be carried out for purposes of development in all the domains of life. This condition is part and parcel of the whole set of mechanisms necessary for the negotiation of the varying interests of society.


As far as the democratisation of governance is concerned, the fact is that it presupposes the involvement of all social actors in decision-making. In the context of the evolution of the concept of governance, it is undeniable that the participation of social actors in the implementation of public services constitutes one of the norms of democratic governance.


Should the institutional dimension remain, through its different mechanisms (power, financial resources, economic and social development), one of the fundaments of the concept of governance, the fact is that the local dynamics have led to a redefinition of all the powers to be in operation in local spaces. Henceforth, the notion of democratising governance constitutes one of the salient manifestations of the evolution of this concept. Community participation enjoys a crucial role in engaging the various interests of society on the path of interaction.


In this sense, the Moroccan Initiative has introduced a whole set of apparatuses that favour the active participation of citizens, and allow them to influence the conception of the public policies of the region. Point 5 of the Moroccan Autonomy Project guarantees to all Sahrawis their full and active participation in social, economic and cultural life. Likewise, point 4 of the Moroccan Project of Autonomy secures their place and their role within the bodies and institutions of the region.


Through this arsenal of apparatuses, the Moroccan Initiative seeks to construct a region within the logic of proximity, a system of governance that is deeply anchored in the regional context, and quite responsive to the problems of the region as a whole.


Fatima Zidouri

Professor at the faculty of law, Mohammedia