A World in Transition
A World in Transition
The OECD world has been hard hit by the global economic and financial crisis. In 2009, many countries experienced their worst recession since the end of World War II, and many continue to struggle today with the severe aftereffects of crisis. The Sustainable Governance Indicators 2011 (SGI 2011) survey period stretches from the beginning of May 2008 to the end of April 2010, thus covering precisely the time in which governments were particularly challenged to react to the crisis quickly and resolutely. Yet the acute, short-term pressure of looming problems, as the crisis produced and continues to produce, must not lead to neglect of the fundamental need for sustainability. Indeed, policymakers must retain a focus on the long-term viability of sociopolitical, economic, and environmental systems in order to maximize the opportunities and quality of life afforded both to current and future generations.
Decisions on investment, consumption, conservation, and the exploitation of resources are not made by abstract "generations" but, rather, by quite specific individual and collective actors. In the sustainable creation and protection of citizens' opportunities, government action plays an undeniably prominent role through concrete policies and steering activities in areas such as finance, education, health, family policy, pensions, the environment, and research and development.
It is with an eye to the issue of sustainable governance that the SGI 2011 allow the strengths and weaknesses of OECD states' political and economic systems to be identified with considerable precision. This is true of countries' crisis-related vulnerabilities and short-term crisis-management capabilities as well as of the capability to successfully meet critical future challenges. These include not only ongoing economic globalization, but also demographic change in the form of aging societies, migration trends, new security risks, and the increasing scarcity of resources. As broad drivers of policy-making, these various challenges can be broken down into specific issues and a variety of separate policy areas, in each of which weaknesses rather than optimum performances are often clearly evident. From this analysis of strengths and weaknesses emerges a clear picture of each county's reform needs.
OECD states' reform needs are represented as a part of the SGI 2011's Status Index, which provides answers to two essential questions: First, how successfully do individual countries realize sustainable policy outcomes in the context of a socially responsible market economy? And, second, what is the quality of the country's rule of law and democratic framework? For it is only in the context of a solid democratic order, which ensures truly equal opportunities for participation and a rigorous adherence to the rule of law, that sustainable policy outcomes can ultimately be achieved.
Alongside the question of reform needs is that of whether political systems have the fundamental capacity to implement critical reforms and political measures effectively. Answering this question is not a trivial task, as the formulation, passage, and implementation of reforms in modern democracies involve the participation of numerous actors. The SGI 2011 measure the reform capacity of the various OECD states through its Management Index, which seeks to do justice to the issue's complexity through a broad set of individual indicators. The Management Index closely examines governments' political steering capabilities as well as their interactions with other institutional and societal actors - particularly citizens, legislatures, interest groups, and the media - through each phase of the policy cycle. In taking this broad perspective, the SGI project