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Code of Good Practices on Involvement


Estonian Code of Good Practices on Involvement for public institutions was completed in 2005, based on EKAK. This is not a binding document, however, public officials are recommended to follow the principles of the Code. It is also supported by different trainings and learning materials.

The objective of engagement

The objective of engagement is to raise the quality and social legitimacy of resolutions and to increase the participation of the non-profit, private, and public sectors in preparing and making decisions. Administrative agencies, non-profit organizations, or representational organizations that create documents should involve interest groups from all sectors in the decision-making process. This ensures that the strategic documents being drawn up will be balanced and based on the public interest.

The decisions made for engaging the public must be open, transparent, and flexible. The objective of The Good Engagement Practices is to harmonize the principles, from which the public sector institutions and non-profit organizations can proceed in involving the public and interest groups in decision-making.

The Good Engagement Practices are a partnership and cooperation document, which includes eight recommended principles, which place great importance on the clarity of goals, openness of relationships, and dedication to goals. The Good Engagement Practices are a basis for non-profit organizations and government institutions to work out more specific engagement directives for themselves and to find answers to questions that arise in the practice of engagement.

Areas of Application

The Good Engagement Practices will be applied by administrative agencies in the preparation of at least the following documents (hereafter, strategic documents):

  • Drafts of laws and their amendments;
  • Drafts of the regulations and directives of the Government of the Republic;
  • Drafts of Ministers’ decrees;
  • Documents, concepts, policies, development plans, and programs that are important to the country’s development;
  • Drafts of legislation of European Union institutions and other strategic documents (i.e. green and white books);
  • Instruction and procedures for rendering public service;
  • Conventions and international agreements, as well as the documents that are worked out within their framework, and that influence the society.
Definitions of terms appearing in The Good Engagement Practices

Engagement:

1)  Activity of an organization, the goal of which is to better implement and activate its membership, target group, or its rear for executing and making decisions about its objectives;

2)  Activity of a public authority, the goal of which is to provide citizens, and organizations representing them, the opportunity to participate in making decisions influencing them.

Interest groups – also pressure groups, are organizations created for the promotion of the common interests (either private or public) of its members, umbrella organizations, movements, or networks that try to pressure public authorities in order to influence decisions affecting them.

Engagement plan – description of the process to engage interest groups in the drawing up of drafts for specific strategic documents, in which the objective, activities, supervisors, and deadlines of the engagement are indicated.

Engagement coordinator – official assigned by the public authority agency who administers the entire engagement process.

Engaged parties – interest groups, representatives of agencies/organizations, the public, etc. who participate in the engagement and decision-making process.

Forms of engagement:

1)  Informing, when information is provided on the planned resolutions and/or legislation and the drafts of strategic documents are made available;

2)  Consulting; when concerned interests groups and public representatives are asked for their opinions and proposals;

3)  Participation, which is the opportunity to participate in the development of a draft for a strategic document as part of a working group upon the invitation of the initiator.

Partnership is the continued cooperation of two or more organizations or agencies, in which the objective is to ensure mutual engagement in the preparation of strategic documents and other activities.

Strategic document – see Application Areas.

*******

Good Engagement Practices

CLARITY OF THE GOALS OF ENGAGEMENT

1 We will briefly and clearly state the initial assignment, expected result, and projected effect of the consultations and resolutions.

1.1 The initial assignment of the engagement will be explained simply and comprehensible, avoiding unnecessarily technical and legal terminology.

1.2 The initial assignment will clearly express the expectations regarding the engaged parties and the feedback from them.

1.3 The initial assignment will include an analysis of the alternative solutions for achieving the result of the engagement, based on the principal activities of the engaged parties, legislation and other related fields.

1.4 The initiator of the preparation of the draft strategic document will prepare an analysis of the influences. The form and volume of the analysis will depend on the strategic document being consulted on.

ENGAGED PARTIES

2  We will determine the parties with whom to consult in the given field and take their wishes, needs, and distinctive features into consideration.

2.1 The agency/organization initiating the engagement will organize the registration of interest groups, in order to guarantee that all the affected parties are informed of the beginning of the preparation of and/or consultation on strategic documents. Being an engaged party does not presume the possession of a commercial, or any other, register code.

2.2 When determining the parties to be engaged, the registered interest groups will be taken into consideration, and using various sources, possible additional interest groups, and parties to be affected by the resolution, will be ascertained. Their representatives and expertise will be determined. On this basis, a list of engaged parties will develop. Based on the initial assignment, the parties to be engaged will be chosen – the wider public, interest groups, affected parties, etc. The rights of the engaged parties and restrictions on responsibilities and processes (i.e. resulting from European Union legislation or other circumstances) need to be defined and clarified.

ENGAGEMENT AT THE EARLY STAGES

3 For consultations and participation, we will involve the parties in the preparation of the draft as early as possible and will continue the engagement throughout the entire course of the process.

3.1 Consultation and participation will be started at as early as possible in the preparation of the draft. This could be preceded by informing and consulting on an informal basis. This will provide the parties with an idea of the problems related to the field.

3.2 The participation of the engaged parties in the activities of the working group preparing the draft of the strategic document will be decided by the initiator of the draft preparation, taking into account specific needs and opportunity.

3.3 To initiate the consultations, the background of the draft will be clarified by feedback received from subsequent activities and by the draft of the resolution being consulted on.

3.4 The consultations generally last for a minimum of four weeks.

3.5 Exceptions when consultations may be shortened (i.e. due to obligations resulting from European Union legislation or international agreements) will be determined.

3.6 The length of the consultations may be shortened if consultations have already been held in connection with the draft of the same resolution and/or if, during the final period of the preparation of the material being consulted on, positions on only a few amendments are called for.

3.7 The length of the consultations must be extended in the case of very voluminous and substantial drafts, as well as in connection with state holidays and vacations.

DETAILED PLAN FOR ENGAGEMENT

4 We will design an engagement plan that is as detailed as possible.

4.1 The preparation of an engagement plan is recommended. The level of detail is dependent upon the volume of the draft of the strategic document. When designing the engagement plan and its stages, the participants and stages are defined – the coordinating agency/organization and the coordinator, including the beginning of the consultations, length, final deadline, form of engagement (informing, consulting, participation), methods (written, web-based, seminar, working group, public hearing, forum, etc.), information channels, and the assessment of the interim summary and final results.

4.2 The chosen form of engagement corresponds with the content of the draft resolution, potential effect of the resolution, needs, opportunities, and other conditions of the parties being engaged.

4.3 The initiator of the draft determines the leading coordinator for the engagement, whose contact information will be made public at the beginning of the preparation of the draft of the strategic document.

4.4 If necessary, the coordinator will advise the engaged parties, analyse the course of the consultations, and summarize the same.

SMOOTH COMMUNICATIONS

5 We will ensure that the public, interest groups, and those possibly affected by the strategic document will be informed.

5.1 The field of activity being consulted on and the related information will be made public. Whereas the opportunity for the parties to access the information will be taken into consideration. From the beginning of the engagement, the documentation related to engagement, or references to it, will be made public through electronic information channels, and if necessary, through alternative information channels (libraries, non-profit organizations, local governments, information points, etc.). The public will also be informed through mass media.

5.2 References to documentation related to the engagement will be simple to find and access on the Internet. Preferably, the documentation will be available through the Internet on the website of the agency/organization that has initiated the preparation of the draft of the strategic document.

5.3 In the case of draft resolutions affecting the foreign-language-speaking population, the need and possibilities for disclosing the information related to the engagement in other languages will also be weighed. Translation from the state language into foreign languages and vice versa is recommended in the case of drafts of significant strategic documents (e.g. EU legislation).

INTERIM SUMMARY OF THE COURSE OF THE ENGAGEMENT

6 If necessary, we will compile an interim summary of the course of the engagement, will correct the particulars of the process, and inform the parties of the interim summary.

6.1 The objective of making an interim summary and analysing feedback is to track whether the process is proceeding smoothly and according to plan. The interim summary is necessary to inform the management of the agency/organization and engaged parties of the course of the engagement and/or to analyse feedback received by the coordinating unit.

6.2 The interim summary may be in the form of a verbal presentation, brief written report, written analysis, recorded decision, or alternative mapping.

6.3 The compilation of the interim summary and the securing of its availability are fixed in the engagement plan or are agreed upon by the parties during the course of the work process. The interim summary is generally also made available to the engaged parties.

6.4 Based on the interim summary, it is decided if supplemental forms or methods of engagement need to implemented, if experts need to be called, or the circle of parties need to be expanded.

6.5 Feedback on the interim summary will be provided to the engaged parties on an equal basis. If important decisions have been made regarding the subsequent development of the strategic document in the interim summary, all the parties will be informed.

ANNOUNCEMENT OF THE RESULTS

7 We will inform the engaged parties of the results of the engagement.

7.1 All the parties will receive a summary answer from the initiator of the engagement, which will include all the proposals that have been presented, both those that have been accepted as well as those that have been rejected. The rejection of proposals will be explained.

7.2 The summary answer will be forwarded to the engaged parties no later than 30 days after the end of the consultations.

7.3 The summary answer will be made available both on paper, as well as on the Internet, as a complete text and/or as references to a complete text. If necessary, the summary answer will be made public through the mass media.

ASSESSMENT OF THE ENGAGEMENT AND RESULTS

8  We will assess the engagement and the applicability of its results.

8.1 The engagement and its results will be assessed by the initiator of the engagement and the engaged parties. The initiators of the engagement will ask for feedback from the engaged parties for the assessment of the process and the results.

8.2 In the case of the process, the following will be analysed: the performance of the initial assignment of the engagement; the productivity of the forms and methods of engagement that were used; the motivation of the parties to participate; the efficiency of the administrative work; the efficiency of the feedback; the satisfaction of the target group with the engagement, etc.

8.3 In the case of the results, the following will be analyzed: the correspondence of the results to the initial assignment; whether alternatives were considered; the applicability of the results to the subsequent development of the topic being consulted on; etc.

8.4 The results of the assessment will be considered in the planning and implementation of the next engagement processes.

Contact:
Eleka Rugam-Rebane
Government Information Adviser
Government Communication Office
State Chancellery of the Republic of Estonia
Ph: 00372 6935744
e-mail: eleka.rugam-rebane@riigikantselei.ee