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September 10, 2015

Responding To: SFS Dean Inaugurates Georgetown's Discussion of Global Governance

Principle of Subsidiarity: Key to Global Governance Shortcomings

Patrice Ndayisenga

With insecurity threats to national sovereignty in many parts of the world, it seems rather obvious that global governance for development assistance is in dire need of innovation and reshuffle. Joel Hellman points out that a good number of fragile states are embarking on reconstruction processes. Their efforts entail that time is of the essence, if they are to catch up with their relatively stable counterparts.


We will also retain that those states hit by stability crisis are often ill-equipped to handle on their own the complex challenges on the road to sustainable development and state sovereignty. And this justifies the importance of a global structure that helps sustain development initiatives in those countries. This need for concerted efforts among world nations resonates well with the challenge Pope John XXIII set before us stating that “it is useless to admit that a man has right to the necessities of life, unless we do all in our power to support him with means sufficient for his livelihood” (Pacem in Terris #32). The invitation of the pope is of essence particularly when it comes to the fate of fragile countries. The principle of solidarity among nations is irrevocably needed and clear structure frameworks for cooperation have to be drawn.

Pacem in Terris goes on to emphasize the principle of subsidiarity, which I suppose is key in responding to modern challenges of global governance. That timeframe for global governance in development assistance is of the essence, that is no doubt. Moreover, there is a need to rethink the manner in which the interventions are provided to affected nations. It will be crucial nowadays to prioritize individual states’ own inputs in search for durable and sustainable solutions to their respective challenges. Development plans that are drawn without grassroots participation of the target population risk backfiring; for often times such plans are not rooted in the living reality of the communities concerned.

The principles of subsidiarity and solidarity also teach us that while deliberating on important cases regarding the future of troubled nations, all member states should put aside their individual interests and combine efforts to devise realistic pathways to the betterment of the target nations. This has not always been the case especially with the present global governance institutions like the UN where powerful nations have at times been reluctant to commit themselves in resolutions such as sending troops for peace-keeping or declaring crimes genocidal, sometimes because their interests were not at stake or their commitment in those cases could jeopardize their interests. Such workings betray the whole notion of a global leadership whose aim and aspirations should be the universal prosperity of everyone in all nations.

In sum, besides Hellman’s emphasis on time, there is a need to rethink the dynamics of the global institutions which provide assistance to fragile nations. Aid with strings attached needs cleansing and redress. Mutual respect at the table of negotiations shall be key in providing clear framework for durable solutions to instability stricken regions of the world; for in so doing, target communities will be empowered to assume responsibilities for their own destiny.

Patrice Ndayisenga is a Jesuit scholastic from Rwanda currently pursuing theology studies at Hekima College, a Jesuit school of theology based in Nairobi, Kenya. 

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