Increase of the Engagement Capacity of State Authorities and Participation Capacity of Nongovernmental Organisations in Policy-Making (EE0044)
Action Plan: Estonia’s Third OGP Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Government Office
Support Institution(s): Ministries; Non-governmental organisations
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Legislation & Regulation, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance
Description of the current situation or problem resolved through the commitment Good practice of engagement has been developed to support engagement; the importance of transparency and predictability of law-making is emphasised by the Rules for Good Legislative Practice and Legislative Drafting. Engagement practice varies and it needs strengthening to ensure that policy-making is more transparent and that the interests of various parties are taken into account in a balanced manner. Main aim The aim of the activity is to improve the quality of policy-making by way of the fact that engagement has become systematic because the necessary conditions have been created for it; non-governmental organisations have improved capacity to participate in this process. For this, engagement projects are undertaken that will assist in the achievement of this aim. Short description of the commitment (max 140 characters) Improve the quality of policy-making by supporting the increase in the engagement capacity of state authorities and participation capacity of nongovernmental partners in policy-making. The testing of new engagementrelated solutions, the development of the state’s engagement policy, and the development of the capacity of non-governmental organisations to participate in policy-making are supported.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
Commitment 6: Increase of the engagement capacity of state authorities and participation capacity of non-governmental organizations in policy-making
Improve the quality of policy-making by supporting the increase in the engagement capacity of state authorities and participation capacity of non-governmental partners in policy-making. The testing of new engagement-related solutions, the development of the state’s engagement policy, and the development of the capacity of non-governmental organizations to participate in policy-making are supported.
6.1. Planning and implementing projects
Responsible Institution: Government Office
Supporting Institutions: Ministries, non-governmental organizations
Start Date: 1 July 2016
End Date: 30 June 2018
This commitment sought to support the engagement of CSOs in the policy-making process by providing funding to three types of projects: 1) the testing of new engagement solutions, 2) the development of the state’s engagement policy, and 3) the development of CSO participation capacity. Government institutions and civil CSOs were invited to propose their project ideas to the Government Office in any of the three categories.
During the first year of the action plan, the project selection committee at the Government Office (composed during the previous action plan and involving an equal number of governmental and non-governmental experts) approved three project proposals. A European Structural Funds financing scheme managed by the Government Office was used for funding the three projects.
By the midterm, two projects had been completed, one was ongoing, and four proposals were under consideration. The completed projects included the technical developments of the Information System of Draft Acts (EIS), which supported the implementation of Commitment 4 in the current action plan, and a project of the Ministry of the Environment supporting public engagement in the development of a climate policy strategy for 2050. The Estonian Network of Nonprofit Organizations (NENO) and Policy Centre Praxis (a non-governmental think tank) had implemented the ongoing project “CSO Development Program – Advocacy Lab” and aimed to train civil society leaders and counsel 25 CSOs to increase their policy advocacy capacity.
End of Term: Complete
By the end of the action plan, the CSO advocacy lab project had been completed, and the Estonian National Youth Council and the Estonian Social Enterprise Network had fully implemented one more project – an analysis of the social impact of youth organizations. This project evaluated the institutional capacity of Estonian youth organizations to represent the interests of youth and to participate in public decision-making processes, mapped these organizations’ needs, and proposed a model for a systematic evaluation of the role and influence of youth organizations.[Note 45: See the final evaluation report: https://www.riigikantselei.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Failid/AVP/noorteuhenduste_moju_analuus_raport.pdf ] At the time of the writing of the end-of-term report, the Ministry of Rural Affairs had started an additional project that aims to engage stakeholders in the development of a policy strategy for 2030 in the field of agriculture and fisheries. To this end, the ministry is engaging stakeholders and experts through the strategy steering committee, thematic working groups, and public information events throughout 2018 and 2019[Note 46: More information on the strategy process and participation opportunities can be found on the ministry’s website: https://www.agri.ee/et/eesmargid-tegevused/pollumajanduse-ja-kalanduse-valdkonna-arengukava-aastani-2030 ]. Finally, the project selection committee has approved one more project idea for funding. The Ministry of Internal Affairs proposed this project, which aims to increase the strategic partnership capacity of public sector organizations and non-governmental partners. As the project is currently in preparation, the project’s exact activities and details are yet to be specified.
Altogether, four projects supporting civic engagement and participation were fully implemented during the action plan period.[Note 47: A full list of the funded projects and project reports are available on the Government Office’s website: https://www.riigikantselei.ee/et/kaasamisprojektid-2015-2020 ] As the commitment text included no verifiable quantitative or qualitative indicators other than the goal of funding and implementing projects, the commitment can be considered completed.
Did It Open Government?
Civic Participation: Marginal
This commitment aimed to address the discrepancy between actual policy-making practices and the existing principles and guidelines for public participation in policy-making processes specified in documents, such as the Rules for Good Legislative Practice and Legislative Drafting and the Good Practice of Involvement. The objective of funding projects in the area of public participation was to make civic engagement and participation a systematic part of policy-making processes, thereby increasing the quality of public decisions.
According to the project reports available online, the government’s end-of-term self-assessment report, the views of the organizations involved in implementing the projects expressed in the IRM Progress Report, and interviews conducted for the IRM end-of-term report, the projects have had some positive effects on civic participation. For example, the public engagement project in the climate policy strategy is viewed as clearly having improved the public engagement practices of the Ministry of Environment.[Note 48: This view was expressed by Kairi Toiger (Ministry of Environment) in the IRM Progress Report] The project report states that the initiative involved representatives of more than 80 interest groups designing the national climate policy strategy for 2050 through the work of five thematic working groups, 22 meetings, and active email communication.[Note 49: See https://www.riigikantselei.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Failid/AVP/kliimapoliitika_kaasamisprojekti_6ppetunnid.pdf ] The Ministry of Environment had not previously conducted stakeholder involvement processes of that scale.[Note 50: Minutes of the project selection committee meeting, 11 March 2015: https://www.riigikantselei.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Failid/AVP/kaasamisprojektide_komisjoni_i_koosolek_11.03.2015_rk_kodulehele.pdf ] In addition to holding civic engagement activities, the ministry hired a civic engagement consultant to train, advise, and support the ministry’s officials in the planning and implementation of civic engagement activities. The project thus gave the ministry an important experience in stakeholder engagement and contributed to the ministry’s capacity to undertake similar initiatives in the future.
However, due to the small scale of the projects funded and completed under Commitment 6, the overall impact of this commitment on the government’s public engagement practices remains limited. For example, based on the assessment of Commitment 4 above (more inclusive policy-making on a central government level), the upgrading of the Information System of Draft Acts (EIS) has likely had no effect in terms of opening government. At the same time, Alari Rammo from NENO sees the CSO advocacy lab project as having slightly increased the non-governmental organizations’ policy advocacy capacity.[Note 51: Alari Rammo (Network of Estonian Nonprofit Organizations), interview by IRM researcher, 7 November 2018] The project’s final report states that the project’s expected quantitative and qualitative results were achieved and the CSOs that participated reported improving their knowledge and skills of policy advocacy and participation in public decision-making processes.[Note 52: See the final report of the project: https://www.riigikantselei.ee/sites/default/files/content-editors/Failid/AVP/huvikaitselabori_koondaruanne.pdf ] Although Rammo is skeptical about the possibility to substantially change policy-making practices within a two-year period, he does highlight the importance of positive collaboration and partnership experiences in changing civic participation practices in the long term. This points to the value of funding projects such as those implemented in the field of climate policy and agriculture and fisheries wherein public sector organizations design and implement large-scale stakeholder engagement processes to gain hands-on experience and learn from the process. According to the Government Office, the government plans to take the outcomes and suggestions developed in these projects into account in future activities. [Note 53: The IRM received this information from the Government Office during the pre-publication review period. The comment was received by email on 25 February 2019.] Hence, the actual impact of this commitment will likely only be seen in the coming years.
This commitment has been carried forward to Estonia’s fourth action plan (Commitment 2 – “Shaping a policy-making process that is inclusive, knowledge-based, and citizen-centred, and developing skills”). In the next action plan, citizen participation and engagement in policy-making processes will be supported through a dedicated module in a civil service training program that is targeted to public officials, including top managers and public engagement coordinators in ministries, along with CSOs. The trainings aim to increase public officials’ skills in engaging citizens, designing citizen-centric policies, and assessing the social impact of policies. The commitment seeks to enhance the engagement and participation skills of 700 officials and civil society activists by the end of the action plan period.