Governing complex problems

Jeanne W. Simon
Programa de Estudios Europeos
Associate Researcher, INCAR - University of Concepción

Almost a year after first contagion of COVID-19There are few countries that have managed to reconcile control with social and economic reopening. The exception has been New Zealand where the combination of geographic isolation and early closure (respected by the public) has been central. In addition, the borders were closed, restricting entry. Thus he managed to reduce the negative economic and social effects of the COVID-19.

In other countries, the way forward is not clear. Protests have emerged against mandatory confinements and the use of the mask. There are debates about whether to close schools, while restaurants remain open. On Chili, we assign a lot of responsibility to the citizenry. However, as we will see in the case of Suecia, a citizenship that complies is not enough when the government does not guide citizens well.

Sweden is characterized by a citizenry that trusts the public sector and respects the guidance given by government experts, and especially technical authorities, such as the Public Health Authority. This confidence is based on the importance of scientific knowledge in decision making.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, Sweden has failed to control contagion, and perhaps precisely for not requiring the use of a mask. This practice is recognized worldwide as effective, but the Swedish Public Health Authority does not recommend it due to insufficient scientific evidence. As a consequence, Swedish citizens do not perceive the need to use it. The Swedish government, as a political authority, is drafting a bill to have the powers to force citizens to stay at home, but this patch solution could weaken confidence in the government itself.

Governing complex problems requires scientific knowledge, but you must also act in a timely manner. For climate change, the precautionary principle proposed by the European Union allows the adoption of provisional regulations when the scientific evidence is inadequate. To avoid the adoption of arbitrary measures, it should be proposed within a structured approach to risk assessment, management and communication. Thus, governing complex problems implies maintaining citizen trust while finding the right balance between science and action..