"Always In Motion The Future Is" – Yoda
The common wisdom of today states that the Covid19 pandemic has created a set of new health, economic, and governance related challenges for citizens and institutions all over the globe. Equally relevant, the ongoing crisis has highlighted, and further complicated existing societal challenges in almost all walks of life. In this context, we wonder, can we address increasingly complex societal challenges, with the same approach to public policy in which we tackle sectoral issues and assume that based on the past we can anticipate what is going to happen in the future? Or do we need to move towards aiming to transform the system as a whole and look at policymaking as a humbler and more iterative process, "a continuous investigation of different options that are tested in the context where they will be implemented".
The pandemic brought а multitude of changes to our everyday lives and challenged the way in which business and public systems operate. In North Macedonia it challenged the country’s growth momentum, created economic turbulences, added to our unemployment pool (particularly among women), contributed to the increase in poverty rates, and had many other tangible and intangible implications (Socio-Economic Assessment, UNDP 2020). In this context of economic uncertainty, political polarity and prolonged EU accession process we should all work towards ensuring a strong rebound from the status quo, or years of development progress can easily be lost.
However, not everything is gloomy, we believe there might be a silver lining. We have witnessed the resilience of citizens organizations and institutions, as well as the strengthening of cooperation among societies in overcoming shared challenges. We also see a momentous opportunity to rethink our approach to policymaking, upgrade our methods, plans and strategies of governing so that they can be an adequate fit for these new and complex problems. This sentiment is echoed in the words of UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner who stated: "countries have a once in a generation opportunity to chart a new course towards a greener, more inclusive, and more sustainable future."
If we acknowledge and embrace the complexity of challenges in the realm of development, one step forward might be adopting an approach to policymaking that will move beyond the often-criticized practice of "thinking and acting in silos" and towards a more inclusive and transparent process that will make space for cross-sectoral, cross-generational linkages, more innovation, and a dynamic approach to problem-solving that will be grounded in collaboration, learning and adaptation, allowing for quick and flexible policy course corrections. We accept the need for continued learning and adjusting as a normal part of our everyday professional and private lives, so why not also make it an integral part of our public policy making?
New Plan For Development
We are now in the decade of ambitious actions to deliver on the reforms that will accelerate the EU accession process and the Agenda 2030. One pathway to address ongoing development challenges and remain on course with achieving the SDGs is to have a long-term plan. We believe a new nationwide plan for development can be a unique opportunity to embrace the complexity of current challenges and offer a portfolio of options that will generate collective intelligence, facilitate interactions between all stakeholders, potentially lead to interventions on multiple fronts and perhaps even catalyze a systemic transformation. This new nationwide development plan can accelerate the achievement of SDG’s in our country and address the thematic areas that require the greatest societal focus to reach the desired outcomes and communicate them with the general public.
Prepared in a co-designing process, with its scope and longevity, this new national development plan would have the potential to offer meaningful inclusion and empowerment of different actors in the policymaking process and in building a nation-wide shared vision. In the pursuit of designing the pathway for development, we hope that even political opponents can find points of unification, mutual understanding and acceptance. The plan can also unite other strategic documents into a holistic approach for solving ongoing problems.
In moving forward, we ask ourselves several important questions:
Is this new approach something institutions, individuals, organizations are willing to consider, invest in, pursue and implement? Can political actors create new modalities of engagement and meaningful participation that would lead towards embracing a whole of society approach, streamlining the expectations and involvement of actors in the policymaking process? Can this plan serve as a platform to unite citizens in the pursuit of common goals?
We hope that in the period ahead we can provide answers to some of these questions and take part in charting a new course in transforming policymaking for an accelerated and more impactful development process. It seems that in these uncharted waters we can find challenges but also immense opportunities.