GUETERSLOH, Germany, April 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Even in times of global challenges and growing transnational interdependencies - national governments still have considerable broad scope of action. This is especially underlined by the positive example of the Nordic states, which are ranked as top performers by the Sustainable Governance Indicators 2009 - a new ambitious study of the German Bertelsmann Foundation on policy performance and executive capacity in the OECD. The United Kingdom only achieves average results with some major deficits especially in the fields of social affairs, education and civil rights protection.

As a cross-national comparison of all 30 OECD countries assessing both their need for reform and their respective reform capacities, the SGI go far beyond existing indices. The study draws on the assessments of more than one hundred renowned international experts. SGI results show that despite the often assumed limiting effects of globalization it is still the quality of national governance that makes a difference when it comes to ensuring sustainable policy outcomes. Those countries with a good executive management performance, a sound democratic order and an effective inclusion of societal actors into policymaking processes are more successful in terms of sustainability and also in terms of social justice.

Problems of social inequality, deficits in terms of civil rights protection

During the period under review (2005-2007), Great Britain's overall policy performance and the government's political management capacities were average compared with other OECD countries. According to SGI experts, one of the country's main problems refers to the question of social cohesion: Although social welfare payments have raised incomes, the UK still has very high levels of social inequality, with little policy focus on equity, says Leonard Novy, Head of the SGI Project at the Bertelsmann Foundation. Income gaps are widening, with the top 10 percent having seen their earnings rise by almost 60 percent from 2004 to 2007.

Similar problems of social inequality are to be found in the domain of education: On average, the British education system benefits above all the middle classes and is not open enough to help clever but poor children, Novy points out. According to our results, Britain has also no strategy for dealing with the most troublesome students and school truancy. Independent schools remain sought after by middle-class parents. There is a clear lack of opportunities for intermediate and vocational training in the United Kingdom as one in ten 16- to 18-year olds is neither in education, nor in employment or training. Thus, Britain has one of the lowest school enrollment rates of 17-year olds.

A further result of the study raises some concern. SGI experts criticized that since 9/11 and especially since the London attacks of July 2005, the British government has changed the parameters of civil rights protection by emphasizing the protection of life over civil liberties. The 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act permits the indefinite detention of foreign nationals suspected of being a threat to national security in cases where evidence is either insufficient to result in conviction or originates from wire-tapping or other unrevealed sources. Although the House of Lords ruled such detentions unlawful in 2004, the new 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act enables the home secretary to request control orders on suspects, whether British or foreign. These can be used to prevent suspected terrorists from using the Internet, telephone or from leaving their homes.

Improved governmental steering capacity, shortcomings in institutional learning

As regards political management, the UK achieves rank 16 within the SGI's cross-national comparison of all 30 OECD countries. On the one hand, SGI experts positively highlighted that the Blair government succeeded in improving the core governmental steering capacities by centralizing strategic, expert-advised planning capabilities and by putting a high value on cohesive communication strategies. On the other hand, the government's attempts to mobilize broad public support by making the policy-making process more collaborative have not been utterly successful. There are too few formal channels through which social partners and NGOs can be engaged, says Novy. Furthermore, our results show that there is no standard mechanism in place for self-monitoring within the government. This often leads to the fact that politicians respond to events on a day-to-day basis rather than pursue considered long-term strategies.

However, in order to tackle current challenges such as the global economic crisis, new security risks or climate change, effective long-term policy strategies aiming at sustainable governance outcomes are needed more than ever before.

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For further information see

Contact: Dr. Leonard Novy +49-5241-81-81-536 ( Andrea Kuhn +49-5241-81-81-576 ( Daniel Schraad-Tischler +49-5241-81-81-240 (

Contact: Dr. Leonard Novy +49-5241-81-81-536, (; Andrea Kuhn +49-5241-81-81-576, (; Daniel Schraad-Tischler, +49-5241-81-81-240, (