Public Review and Public Consultation (NO0020)
The purpose of the Norwegian public consultation system is twofold:
To provide the best possible basis for making public policy decisions (the
To ensure that affected parties and other stakeholders have the opportunity to
express their opinions (the democratic aspect)
New Instructions for Official Studies and Reports are to be drafted. The objective is to
improve the basis for decisions in the public administration. The objective is to enhance the
basis for public authority decisions. More efficient use of new technology is one of the
means available to achieve better involvement of stakeholders and the public.
IRM End of Term Status Summary
1. Public review and public consultation
[…] The purpose of the Norwegian public consultation system is twofold:
- • To provide the best possible basis for making public policy decisions (the quality aspect)
- • To ensure that affected parties and other stakeholders have the opportunity to express their opinions (the democratic aspect)
The Norwegian consultation process has two stages:
1. Proposals are made by government-appointed committees.
2. The proposals from such committees are submitted for public consultation. […]
New Instructions for Official Studies and Reports are to be drafted. The objective is to improve the basis for decisions in the public administration. The objective is to enhance the basis for public authority decisions. More efficient use of new technology is one of the means available to achieve better involvement of stakeholders and the public.
KEY IMPACT BENCHMARK
New Instructions for Official Studies and Reports are to be drafted.
Responsible institution: Ministry of Government Administration, Reform and Church Affairs
Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Culture
Start date: Unclear End date: Unclear
The Norwegian government has emphasized that openness and public consultation are a core aspect of the Norwegian model of governance. This is represented by a myriad of policy mechanisms across different Norwegian institutions and policy processes. This commitment concerns revisions to the Instructions for Official Studies and Reports, which are guidelines that dictate how government officials assess the potential impacts of new policy. These guidelines were first established in 2000,[Note 1: “Instructions for Official Studies and Reports,” Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, accessed September 4, 2016, https://www.regjeringen.no/en/dokumenter/instructions-for-official-studies-2/id419236/.] and the revisions under consideration were intended to improve standards for the evidence-based policy decisions.[Note 2: ”Utredningsinstrukesn,” Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, last updated February 2, 2016, accessed September 4, 2016, https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokumenter/instruks-om-utredning-av-statlige-tiltak-utredningsinstruksen/id2476518/.] The guidelines are broad, applying to all public authority initiatives with public impact, and include minimum guidelines for public consultation and socio-economic impact analysis. The guidelines and guidance on how they are to be applied are maintained by the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management.[Note 3: Ibid.]
The Instructions for Official Studies and Reports manual was reviewed. Work was proceeding slowly due to extensive internal government consultation, particularly in the Ministry of Culture, Innovation and Administration, and the Ministry of Justice. No draft materials were available for review by the IRM researcher, who was unable to identify any use of technology prioritized in the review in interviews with government focal points, as specified in the language of the commitment.
A new Instructions for Official Studies and Reports manual was published in February 2016,[Note 4: Ibid.] and applies to all administrative bodies, including municipal agencies. The new guidelines include a focus on early engagement and public consultations with affected communities and citizens, but contain no reference to technology as specified in the commitment. At the same time, there has been significant progress made at the national level, and the government website (http://regjering.no) has been “modernized” to include electronic consultations and to archive and centralize records produced by all government ministries in a single web location.[Note 5: “Oversyn over høyringssaker,” Norwegian Government Security and Service Organisation, accessed September 4, 2016, https://www.regjeringen.no/no/dokument/hoyringar/oversyn-over-hoyringssaker/id546535/. ]
Did it open government?
Access to information: Marginal
Civic participation: Did not change
The broad scope of the new instructions to include all decisions made by all government agencies will be a positive step towards improving civic participation if it leads to consultations conducted by more types of government agencies. The inclusion of strong minimum requirements for public consultations and risk assessments before implementing new policy is also a positive step. Generally, the IRM researcher believes the new instructions are likely to increase the potential for civic participation in public policy formation, though the actual outputs in terms of policy formation will be determined in specific instances. The IRM researcher assumes that the instructions are already being used, given that the Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management offers a number of courses and answers government agencies’ questions on how to implement the instructions.[Note 6: ”Utrednings instruksen,” Norwegian Government Agency for Financial Management, accessed October 29, 2016, https://dfo.no/fagomrader/utredningsinstruksen/.] However, there is no information available, as government agencies are not required to report on how the instructions are applied, and no government agency has a mandate for collecting relevant experiences. Thus, the IRM researcher is unable to assess whether and how the instructions are implemented, and whether they have had an impact on access to information or civic participation. How the guidelines are implemented and used will rely on political and contextual factors on a case-by-case basis.
The addition of electronic consultations to the government website is also a positive development. Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation representatives interviewed for this report noted that electronic consultations are, in principle, more inclusive than formal consultative practices since they are openly posted on the internet, instead of notifications only being sent to a discrete list of known actors.[Note 7: Tom Arne Nygaard and Terie Drystad, interview by Christopher Wilson, in-person interview, Offices of the Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, September 31, 2016.] The centralization of consultation records, including documentation of submissions to previous consultations (dating back to 1997),[Note 8: Ibid.] is also an important step towards improved access to information through the use of technology. Government representatives note that these developments are substantively linked to this commitment,[Note 9: Ibid.] and given the fact that they made information more easily accessible to the public, the IRM researcher considers that they have had a marginal impact in opening government practice.
This commitment has not been carried forward in the Norwegian government’s third national action plan, which is available on the OGP website.[Note 10: ”Norway’s third action plan Open Government Partnership (OGP),” Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation, accessed September 4, 2016, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Norway_2016-17_NAP.pdf.]