With the growth in global public policy networks, governments, particularly
at the national level, often find themselves trying to keep up with what
is happening in other sectors and at other levels. In a sense, the leaders
have become followers, although they continue to have significant roles.
They remain responsible for setting and implementing overall national
policy and negotiating and ratifying international treaties. Nation states
remain the key players in the areas of national and international security.
The public sector retains a pivotal regulatory role, as awareness dawns
that laissez faire policies often promoted in the name of economic
development do nothing to correct flaws in market practices. It also holds
a brief to amend existing policies (notably subsidies for natural resource
extraction) that encourage such imperfections.
Demand for more participation, transparency and accountability on all
sides drives a number of policy shifts. A move away from reliance on exported
raw materials towards producing more value added locally is highlighted
in Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and parts of North America. Expansion
of micro-credit and similar schemes is particularly important in the developing
world, enabling smallscale producers and manufacturers to purchase the
inputs needed to increase the scale and productivity of their operations.
Another pattern that emerges worldwide is a shift in the nature of taxes
and subsidies towards promoting more sustainable habits of resource use.
|'The values of simplicity, cooperation and community begin to
displace those of consumerism, competition and individualism.'
New opportunities arise from looking at problems on a larger scale, with
a view to recognizing limits and identifying solutions. One example is
the opportunity to couple the issues of ageing and shrinking workforces
in Europe and parts of Asia and the Pacific, with continued population
growth and migration pressures in other regions. Another involves drawing
more conscious links between the issue of water stress and the trading
of 'virtual' water in the form of agricultural products. This linkage
is accorded high priority within susceptible regions, such as West Asia
as part of the Arab Free Trade Association, but it also occurs in region-to-region