It is my pleasure to welcome you at the 2014 IASIA Annual Conference held from June, 30 to July, 4 at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. This beautiful place, the most Southern city in Africa bordering the Indian Ocean, has historically always been the intersection between different continents. Port Elizabeth being the venue of this conference is therefore symbolic for being the perfect place to connect students, scholars and practitioners in Public Administration from all over the world during the annual conference of the global organization that IASIA is. After all, the nickname for Port Elizabeth is “The friendly city”.
It has been exactly 20 years since South Africa made its transformation with the universal elections held in 1994. Nowadays, many other countries all over the world are also in the process of transition. What will be the outcome thereof? People in those countries yearn for better governance, even good governance. That is why the important question emerges: What constitutes good governance? Debating this question is the central theme of this IASIA conference.
South Africa evolved rapidly in the last two decades. Simultaneously, the concept of good governance evolved. Originally, it was seen as a kind of surrogate for government. It was – according to the scholars of that time – the recognition of the limits of government in the sense that society cannot be hierarchically steered or controlled. Nowadays Good Governance, stresses the process and the normative framework of actions by public institutions, such as the degree of voice and accountability, the absence of violence, rule of law, regulatory quality, transparency and control of corruption. The question central in this conference is whether the emphasis on characteristics of the process (how things are done), is still the most important. It could easily result in a neglect of the equally important question “what is actually done and what are the effects thereof”.
Perhaps the way we understand the concept of ‘good governance’ needs to shift. It is an open question and to be debated and discussed during this conference in its working groups and panels.
I hope and expect this will result in fruitful and passionate discussions. I also hope and expect you have a wonderful time and that you are able to strengthen your personal and professional networks.
The local organizers together with the Brussels staff of IASIA/IIAS have put much efforts in organizing this conference and creating the conditions for such debates. It is up to you as participants to make this a perfect conference in content.
Michiel S de Vries
President of IASIA