Policies are designed to serve the public at large, so policy development should be participatory, democratic and transparent. The process involves both top-down (initiating draft policies) and bottom-up (getting responses and feedback) approaches. Policy development has three main processes:
- identifying the need for a policy
- formulating the policy
- monitoring the policy and evaluating its effectiveness.
Initiating a policy idea
Policy can be reactive or proactive. Reactive policy is formulated in response to issues or concerns and to solve existing problems; proactive policy is designed to prevent a problem arising. Proactive policies are more difficult to formulate because it is challenging to persuade decision makers to allocate funds and other resources to a problem that is not yet perceived as a problem.
When you think about environmental policy, do you think it is mostly reactive or proactive? Which type of policy do you think is best suited to environmental issues, and why?
It is likely that you thought that environmental policy is largely reactive, for example, a policy on pollution is a response to a problem caused by pollution. But proactive policy would be better for environmental issues because it prevents problems from happening in the first place.
Ideas for new policies may come from the House of People’s Representatives (the parliament), from a specific ministry, or from the Council of Ministers through its Expert Group. The Expert Group may identify policy gaps based on research or public opinion, which are then developed and considered by the Council of Ministers.
Formulating the policy
Formulating a policy and developing a draft document is done by the process owner (policy-making institution). They will organise their own Expert Group or committee of government stakeholders to be responsible for the task. Sometimes a consultancy firm is used to fully develop the draft.
The draft policy document is disseminated to different audiences including policy beneficiaries and other stakeholders who may include federal and regional ministries, community and professional representatives, academic institutions, the donor community, etc. The feedback from these interested parties enables the Expert Group to enrich and revise the draft policy, which can then be submitted for approval. Once it has been approved internally it can be submitted to the Council of Ministers. Further discussion follows and modifications and additions are considered.
The Council of Ministers submits the revised policy to the relevant parliamentary committee who discuss it and may ask for clarifications from the process owner. The committee may call on public opinion in specially arranged meetings to get additional inputs to shape the final draft.
The revised draft policy will then be debated in parliament. Final amendments can be made and then the policy document is published. Proclamations and regulations linked to the policy are published in Negarit Gazeta and become law. The Negarit Gazeta is the official government gazette for the publication of all federal laws.
Implementing and monitoring
After the policy or proclamation is put into practice, its implementation should be monitored so that its effectiveness and continuing relevance can be evaluated. Monitoring may involve routine discussion of progress at meetings of the relevant ministry, annual meetings with wider stakeholder groups, reports on performance delivered to parliament, or field evaluations. This may lead to identification of policy gaps and then possible requests to the Council of Ministers and parliament to repeal or modify the provisions. In this way, policy implementation can be improved and kept up to date.