Chapter 2. Stakeholder participation and open government

Stakeholder participation and open government strengthen the legitimacy of policy- making decisions for implementing the SDGs. This chapter shows that collaborating with citizens at every stage of policy and service design and delivery is critical for ensuring sustainable improvements that respond to nuanced public needs. By promoting the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation, open government strategies and practices can inform both the substance of SDG implementation – by directly contributing to the achievement of the goals – as well as the process by which countries pursue the SDGs throughout the policy cycle, namely, during their design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

    

Stakeholder participation is at the heart of SDG planning and implementation processes

Stakeholder participation is a key open government principle and is critical to help ensure that national priorities for SDG implementation are understood and accepted. Involving a wide range of stakeholders in policy-making, underpinned by open government strategies, has been widely called for and supported by the OECD and UNDESA. The OECD has supported governments through soft law instruments, data analysis and practical guidance in the form of toolkits and policy recommendations (UN, 2018[1]; OPSI, 2019[2]).

Diverse stakeholders (such as international and regional organisations, local authorities, business and industry, civil society, science and academia) have important roles to play, ranging from resource mobilisation, provision of solutions and innovations, change in production patterns and lifestyles, advocacy and accountability, to voicing the concerns and needs of under-represented communities and regions alongside helping to ensure accountability. Active stakeholder participation in the formulation, implementation and monitoring of national SDG plans and strategies is now an inherent feature of national processes.

By promoting the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation, open government strategies and practices can inform both the substance of SDG implementation - by directly contributing to the achievement of the goals - and the process by which countries pursue the SDGs throughout the policy cycle, namely, during their design, implementation and monitoring and evaluation phases. Engaging citizens, civil society organisations and the private sector as partners in the policy cycle helps ensure that their needs are identified and addressed (OECD, 2016[3]; UNDESA, 2018[4]).

Box ‎2.1. OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government

The 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government recognises “that open government is critical to building citizen trust and is a key contributor to achieving different policy outcomes in diverse domains,” including the SDGs (OECD, 2017[5]). Furthermore, the 2015 Open Government Partnership Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of September 2015 notes the “importance of harnessing [countries’] efforts and championing the principles of transparency and open government as crucial tools for ensuring the effective implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” (Open Government Partnership, 2015[6]).

Sources: OECD (2017[5])Recommendation of the Council on Open Government - C(2017)140 - C/M(2017)22https://www.oecd.org/gov/Recommendation-Open-Government-Approved-Council-141217.pdf; Open Government Partnership (2015[6]), Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Developmenthttp://live-ogp.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_declaration.pdf.

By ensuring that all interested parties have a chance to contribute to policy design, governments can reinforce the legitimacy of the decision-making process and its results and thereby reduce the likelihood of non-compliance. Furthermore, collaborating with citizens at every stage of policy and service design and delivery is critical for ensuring sustainable improvements that respond to nuanced public needs (UNDESA, 2018[4]). Given the ambitious nature of the goals laid out in the 2030 Agenda, governments should keep in mind that failing to engage with citizens can create higher costs through policy failures in the short term, and may result in the loss of trust, legitimacy and policy effectiveness in the long term (OECD, 2016[7]; 2001[8]).

Beyond the design and adoption of policies, citizens are an essential component in the implementation of public policies, which cannot be done effectively without public understanding and support. This is where processes such as co-production, in which citizens engage in partnerships with the government in the design and delivery of a public service, can be particularly useful. Citizen participation can also strengthen monitoring, evaluation and reporting quality whilst allowing governments to understand the extent to which their policies were successful and helping them improve the design of new policies.

Open government data policies can also contribute decisively to whole-of-government management of the SDGs, providing transparent and innovative mechanisms and collaborative levers for reporting on the achievement of national targets. Country cases demonstrate how governments are strategically reusing open data to manage their national performance. In Canada, for example, open government data is being used to track and report on the achievement of the SDGs following a collaboration between the public sector organisation in charge of open government data (the Treasury Board of Canada) and the public sector organisation responsible for the implementation of the SDGs (Global Affairs Canada). In Finland, environmental data collected from different sources is being reused with the intent of contributing to the achievement of the SDGs (OECD, 2018[9]).

Linking open government principles to SDG implementation

Open government principles and initiatives are most clearly relevant for a number of targets under SDG 16, such as those related to the development of effective, accountable and transparent institutions (16.6), the promotion of responsive, inclusive, participatory decision-making (16.7) and the expansion of access to information (16.10).

An analysis of SDG implementation through the lens of open government principles shows that the two reform agendas are mutually reinforcing. For example, more open and inclusive policy-making supports the principle of accountability by expanding citizens’ influence on decisions, which in turn helps ensure that policies reflect public needs and that governments use resources appropriately. Involving citizens in aligning financial incentives and monitoring financial flows can improve efficiency and accountability, especially in the case of services designed and delivered by users themselves (OECD, 2011[10]).

Furthermore, 72% of all respondents to the 2015 OECD Survey on Open Government, and 69% of OECD countries, claimed that a key goal of their open government initiatives was to improve the accountability of the public sector, which aligns with the objectives laid out in Target 16.6. The role that these policies have in promoting accountability and preventing corruption is also relevant for targets related to infrastructure and procurement activities, such as those reflected in Goal 9 (OECD, 2016[3]). These examples illustrate the extent to which the open government principle of accountability is embedded in the 2030 Agenda and highlight how implementing relevant reforms can support successful implementation of the SDGs.

Transparency and access to public sector information, as well as the ability of the public to use this information effectively, is another key element of open government initiatives. Indeed, the OECD Survey found that 89% of all survey respondents (86% of OECD countries) claimed that one of the key objectives they hope to achieve by implementing open government initiatives is to improve the transparency of the public sector (OECD, 2016[3]).

Increasing transparency and access to information will simultaneously support a number of the SDGs, including Target 16.10 on ensuring public access to information, as well as those concerning increasing access to technology (9.c); ensuring access to information for sustainable development (12.8); and increasing the availability of development data (17.18). The inclusion of access to information as a priority across these diverse goals highlights the important role that information and data play in current public administration reforms.

Transparency is widely regarded as an effective tool for fighting corruption. Countries are encouraged to implement internal control and regulatory oversight, supported by active participation by civil society in the public decision-making process to enable effective accountability (OECD, 2016[3]). To be effective transparency and accountability systems must be linked, and disclosing information should take account of the quality of what is disclosed as well as the quantity (OECD, 2018[11]). In Mexico, for instance, the adoption of the Open Contracting Data Standard is an example of an initiative aiming to promote transparency (Box ‎2.2). E-procurement can also eliminate corruption opportunities if it is designed to ensure that rules and procedures are standardised and consistent. (Heggstad and Froystad, 2011[12])

Promoting stakeholder participation is a priority for many countries: 72% of all respondent countries (66% OECD countries) have launched initiatives to involve citizens in policy-making, and 68% have implemented citizen consultation initiatives (rising to 80% in OECD countries). In addition, 57% of all countries surveyed (same result in OECD countries) launched initiatives to involve citizens in service design, and half of them provide for initiatives on citizen participation in service delivery. Together, these initiatives provide governments with feedback and new ideas and allow stakeholders to offer inputs, thereby enhancing both the quality and capacity of policies to achieve the intended outcome (OECD, 2016[3]).

Participatory practices that improve the responsiveness, inclusiveness and inclusive nature of public sector activities are also a key component of Goal 16, specifically Target 16.7 on ensuring responsive, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels. Targets that seek to increase women’s participation in public decision-making (5.5); increase involvement of communities in improving water and sanitation management (6.b); promote social, economic and political inclusion (10.2); enhance inclusion in settlement planning and management (11.3); and build public-private and civil society partnership (17.17) provide other relevant examples of the link between the SDGs and open government principles.

In addition to the substance, the methods and processes countries use to implement their open government programmes are also relevant for the SDGs. The breadth of the 2030 Agenda and the interconnected nature of the issues it addresses demand a high degree of policy coordination and coherence horizontally (across ministries and agencies), as well as vertically (across levels of government). Countries are expected to set their own paths for realising the SDGs, and no meaningful national implementation plan can be developed without an inclusive, government-led process to interpret the SDGs. Therefore, supporting institutional collaboration between the offices charged with SDG implementation and open government reform will promote coherence and facilitate joint monitoring.

Box ‎2.2. Alliance for Open Contracting in Mexico

In March 2017, Mexico’s federal government established an Alliance for Open Contracting (Alianza para las contractions abiertas), involving stakeholders from the public and private sectors, with the objective of adopting the Open Contracting Data Standard (OCDS) for all government procurement contracts at central and local levels. The adoption of the OCDS is expected to directly impact the work done in Compranet (Mexico’s e-procurement system). The OCDS facilitates structured publication of data from all phases of the public procurement process: planning, tendering, awarding, contracting and implementation.

Source: OECD (2018[11]), Mexico’s e-Procurement System: Redesigning CompraNet through Stakeholder Engagement, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264287426-en.

Open State and the role of Parliaments in SDG implementation

In order to expand beyond the role of the executive branch of government, some countries have begun to enact a more comprehensive approach to implementing open government reforms by incorporating the legislature, the judiciary, independent state institutions and sub-national governments in the reform process. In this way, these countries are moving towards what the OECD defines as an “open state”.1 Costa Rica provides an example of this, whereby its Declaration for the Creation of an Open State commits branches and levels of government to move in this direction (OECD, 2016[13]).

Broadly, moving toward an open state implies that branches of power, local governments and independent state institutions implement policies to foster transparency, participation and accountability. This can include coordination meetings, as well as formal or informal dialogues focused on sharing good practices and experiences (OECD, 2016[3]).

Given the complexity and crosscutting nature of the SDGs, pursuing their implementation in an inclusive and open manner is essential, and the benefits of an open state approach are particularly relevant. For example, the use of universal definitions and creation of common strategic objectives, the creation of joint frameworks, and the sharing of best practices will all serve to clarify purposes for both implementers and the public, as well as create synergies across branches and levels of government.

In representative democracies, Parliaments are one of the indispensable institutions for SDG implementation due to their constitutional mandate to represent the interests of citizens. Stronger partnerships between Parliaments, citizens and CSOs can strengthen citizen participation by “better channelling the concerns, opinions and preferences of citizen-voters in political processes and decision-making” (OECD, 2016[3]). Specifically, Parliaments can support the 2030 Agenda via approval of national development plans, monitoring their implementation by governments, approving national budgets and Official Development Assistance (ODA), as well as ensuring that the interests of all segments of society are represented.

Parliamentary oversight of legislative proposals, the budget, financial and policy impacts, and the continuous engagement of Parliaments with their constituents give them a key role in ensuring coherent government action. A 2018 report published by the European Union shows that Parliamentary oversight mechanisms can foster more effective SDG implementation by assessing progress, holding the government accountable to its commitments, and pointing out inefficiencies or gaps in SDG implementation, in particular if “Parliamentary committees have the power to call on government officials to provide information on the impact of government policies and programmes and are able to call public hearings to garner citizens’ views on SDG implementation” (Niestroy et al., 2019[14])

Facilitating public engagement with Parliaments is therefore a critical element to ensuring that the implementation of the SDGs is inclusive and representative of stakeholder needs. Greater openness of the legislative process enables citizens to engage more effectively in the policy-making process by providing them with access to information about the laws and policies under consideration, as well as with opportunities to influence legislative deliberations and more actively participate in the political debate (OECD, 2016[3]). This can be done, for example, through digital tools that open legislative data and encourage increased citizen knowledge of and participation in the legislative process.

Examples of efforts to promote Parliamentary openness include the Open Parliament e-Network (OPeN), which promotes peer exchange and learning, provides technical support to members and supports policy implementation, for example via the Open Government Partnership (OGP) (Open Parliament e-Network, 2019[15]). Countries have also pursued their own initiatives. For example, France adopted a National Action Plan on Parliamentary Openness in July 2015. Through the action plan, the French National Assembly committed itself to strengthening the transparency of the legislative process and increasing the involvement of citizens in the work of the National Assembly (IDFI, 2015[16]). In Chile, the “Open Congress” website (http://congresoabierto.cl/) allows citizens to communicate with members of Congress and to consult laws and regulations. The website is designed in a user-friendly way and includes contact details of, and initiatives taken by, members of Congress. Such examples highlight efforts that governments are making to ensure policy design and implementation – including, but not limited to, the SDGs – promote the principles of transparency, integrity, accountability and stakeholder participation.

Ultimately, open government and open state reform efforts help guarantee that policies and services correspond to citizens’ needs, increase trust in public institutions and deliver on countries’ development agendas. Stakeholder engagement and open government principles will therefore play a crucial role in countries’ design, implementation and monitoring of the SDGs.

Stakeholder engagement in regulatory impact assessments

Transparency functions as a quality assurance mechanism in itself, as it enables stakeholders to challenge decisions made and highlight significant impacts that may have been overlooked. This is particularly important in the SDG context, as many of the potential impacts on social and distributional issues (e.g. gender, poverty, etc.) will be indirect in nature, giving rise to a larger than usual risk of them being overlooked in the development of Risk Impact Assessments (RIA). This suggests that particular attention should be paid to ensuring that high quality stakeholder engagement processes are in place where RIA requirements are expanded to include impacts related to inclusive growth and the SDGs (c.f. Deighton-Smith, Erbacci and Kauffmann (2016, p. 45[17])).

Lessons learned from country experiences

Countries across the world recognise the importance of stakeholder participation in SDG implementation. While consultation processes have existed for many years, countries are now developing innovative approaches for maintaining the relationship with civil society and other actors throughout implementation, and in some cases also in the monitoring and evaluation stage.

The case studies presented in Annex B elaborate on these themes. For example, the Finland case shows the success of operational commitments for providing various actors with an effective and sensible way of participating in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. Indonesia, in turn, applies a partnership principle among stakeholders, which is based on mutual trust, participation, transparency and accountability. Indonesia has also recognised the importance of joining open government principles with SDG implementation. Luxembourg invites NGOs to participate in the debates of its inter-ministerial coordination body and has established an SDGs Council with civil society and private sector representatives that reports annually to Parliament.

By illustrating other countries’ experiences and drawing on good practices identified through collective work, governments will be able to design more effective citizen participation initiatives in SDG consultation processes, and ensure that citizens take advantage of them. Capacity-building activities on open government can also help develop countries’ monitoring and evaluation frameworks.

In practice, ensuring that countries’ open government reforms help guide their efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda will require the continued coordination, management and funding of relevant activities, as well as, more broadly, a governance cultural change to prioritise open government principles.

Box ‎2.3. OECD contributions to support open government and stakeholder participation in SDG implementation

The 2015 OECD Survey on Open Government identified four main challenges countries face to promote open government, which are also pertinent when implementing the 2030 Agenda. These include: (i) the lack of or insufficient mandate for the open government coordinating institution; (ii) insufficient financial resources; (iii) insufficient incentives among institutions to coordinate on open government issues; and (iv) inadequate institutional mechanisms to collaborate with NGOs and private sector (OECD, 2015). By applying the lessons and whole-of-government approaches outlined in the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government, countries can help ensure that their responses to these challenges also inform and support the implementation of the SDGs.

In October 2018, the OECD published for the second time composite Indicators of Regulatory Policy and Governance. They track countries’ progress in improving the quality of their regulations across the board (not sector specific) following the 2012 OECD Recommendation on Regulatory Policy and Governance. The composite indicators on Regulatory Impact Assessment, stakeholder engagement and ex post evaluation provide measures of how open, evidence-based and targeted to achieving policy goals the process of developing laws and regulations is. As such, they are relevant indicators for targets 10.3 and 16.6. In addition, the composite indicator on stakeholder engagement provides a measure of participation in regulatory policy-making, which supports the monitoring of target 16.7.

The proposed Global Hub on the Governance for the SDGs will support countries through peer learning in: (i) development of adequate strategies that promote stakeholder participation throughout the SDG cycle: (ii) reinforced communication channels between those responsible for citizen participation at the national level, on the one hand, and sectoral ministries or sub-national governments on the other, (iii) the development of institutional frameworks for stakeholder engagement, as well as (iv) strengthened public officials’ capacity to plan and implement successful and sustainable efforts to link the open government agenda with the SDG process.

References

[17] Deighton-Smith, R., A. Erbacci and C. Kauffmann (2016), “Promoting inclusive growth through better regulation: The role of regulatory impact assessment”, OECD Regulatory Policy Working Papers, No. 3, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5jm3t.

[12] Heggstad, K. and M. Froystad (2011), “The basics of integrity in procurement”, U4 Issue, Vol. 2011/10, https://www.u4.no/publications/the-basics-of-integrity-in-procurement.pdf.

[16] IDFI (2015), “France has adopted the National Action Plan on Parliamentary Openness”, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information, https://idfi.ge/en/france-action-plan (accessed on 23 January 2019).

[14] Niestroy, I. et al. (2019), Europe’s Approach to Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals: Good Practices and the Way Forward, Policy Department for External Relations, European Union, http://dx.doi.org/10.2861/28364.

[11] OECD (2018), Mexico’s e-Procurement System: Redesigning CompraNet through Stakeholder Engagement, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264287426-en.

[9] OECD (2018), Open Government Data Report: Enhancing Policy Maturity for Sustainable Impact, OECD Digital Government Studies, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264305847-en.

[5] OECD (2017), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government - C(2017)140 - C/M(2017)22, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/gov/Recommendation-Open-Government-Approved-Council-141217.pdf.

[13] OECD (2016), Open Government in Costa Rica, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264265424-en.

[7] OECD (2016), Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.org/10.1787/9789264268104-en.

[3] OECD (2016), Putting an End to Corruption, OECD, Paris, http://www.oecd.org/tax/transparency/.

[10] OECD (2011), Together for Better Public Services: Partnering with Citizens and Civil Society, OECD Public Governance Reviews, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264118843-en.

[8] OECD (2001), Citizens as Partners: Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policymaking, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264195561-en.

[6] Open Government Partnership (2015), Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, http://live-ogp.pantheonsite.io/sites/default/files/attachments/OGP_declaration.pdf.

[15] Open Parliament e-Network (2019), Homepage, https://www.openparliamentenetwork.org/ (accessed on 15 June 2019).

[2] OPSI (2019), Open Government Toolkits, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation, https://oecd-opsi.org/search-toolkits/?_sft_discipline-or-practice=open-government (accessed on 16 May 2019).

[1] UN (2018), Working Together: Integration, Institutions and the Sustainable Development Goals, World Public Sector Report 2018, Division for Public Administration and Development Management, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DPADM), United Nations.

[4] UNDESA (2018), Principles of Effective Governance for Sustainable Development, United Nations.

Note

← 1. The OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government defines “open state” as when the executive, legislature, judiciary, independent public institutions, and all levels of government – recognising their respective roles, prerogatives, and overall independence according to their existing legal and institutional frameworks – collaborate, exploit synergies, and share good practices and lessons learned among themselves and with other stakeholders to promote transparency, integrity, accountability, and stakeholder participation, in support of democracy and inclusive growth” (OECD, 2017[5]).

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