12 November 2018

The 100th anniversary of the Armistice ending World War I has stimulated a profusion of TV programmes utilising contemporary film, dramatically enhanced and converted to colour. Much of it has a focus on military scenes but re-worked film of related geopolitical influences also features.

Political aspirations in 1913 -14 seem to have made a collision between the imperial alliances unavoidable. Empires however depend on their bureaucracies. Bureaucrats at that time were presumably as dedicated in serving their government and improving the well-being of their communities as they are now. What then should officials have done to redirect national endeavours away from war, which few now would regard as having been in the best interests of any of the participating countries.  The war to end all wars has not avoided recurring conflicts, despite – or perhaps because of, the codes and values of public services in the protagonist states.

Is there something in the integrity obligation of public servants working collectively, which should ensure that national leaders are not making decisions where armed conflict is an option?  Should the duty of public servants include protecting their communities from even a “just war”?

An unsurprising commonality of the Bertelsmann Stiftung 2018 Sustainable Governance Indicators (published in October) is that the top ranking countries are also the countries noted for above average rankings in the Global Peace Index (New Zealand was ranked 2nd most peaceful in the 2018 index) and in other characteristics valued in democratic societies. The SGI evaluates  EU and OECD countries on 32 metrics, grouped about the Quality of Democracy, Governance, and Policy Effectiveness – which also aggregate into an overall  SGI score.

The report indicates that the Nordic states, Switzerland and Germany are the most successful countries with regard to sustainable policy outcomes. The northern Europeans also score highest on the Governance Indicators. New Zealand gets a special mention about its system of government described as having a “high strategic capacity and long-term orientation”.

The main concern arising this year from the data is the declining standards of democracy in more than half of the States surveyed,  the polarising of communities, and in particular, growing constraints on the freedom of the press.

The New Zealand section of the report is a 52 page overview, updating the previous year’s data.SGI.    Social Policy rates well but New Zealand is in midfield regarding Economic and Environmental Policy effectiveness. The table below compares the rankings of New Zealand and Australia for the three main functions

Australia New Zealand
Quality of Democracy 14th       7th
Governance 10th       5th
Policy Effectiveness 13th     26th






p 177  http://www.sgi-network.org/docs/2018/basics/SGI2018_Overview.pdf