Last week, the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) announced the launch of a public consultation process regarding a set of public participation principles the organization has developed over the past year.

The complete version of the principles is available for download (PDF) and also includes a set of principles and good practices on public participation in fiscal policy.

From the document:

Public participation refers to the variety of ways in which the general public, including citizens, civil society organizations and other non-state actors interact directly with public authorities by means of face to face communication, deliberation or decision-making, or by written forms of communication using electronic or paper media. Participation ranges from one-off consultation to on-going and institutionalized relationships.

It is increasingly accepted that public participation in fiscal policy can strengthen the efficiency, equity, effectiveness, predictability, legitimacy and sustainability of fiscal management, thereby improving fiscal performance and enhancing the likelihood of positive economic, social and environmental outcomes.

And (emphasis mine):

Developments in information and communications technology have dramatically lowered the cost of direct interaction between citizens and non-state actors and governments while also creating entirely new spaces for citizen input and deliberation in government policy making. Governments and non-state actors are increasingly working together to address social, environmental and economic challenges and opportunities. While public participation involves costs both for official entities and for civil society that must be recognized, and participation needs to be tailored appropriately in each case, direct public participation is increasingly cost-effective as a policy tool.

There is, however, a lack of guidance at present on how public entities should undertake public participation in fiscal policy. Drawing on country practices, the workshops, case studies, and a review of relevant literature, this document attempts to fill that gap by setting out principles that should guide public participation with respect to fiscal policy, and enumerating a set of suggested good practices.

The principles, which took into consideration resources from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) and the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2), among others, are listed as follows:

[…] [W]e propose that public authorities should endeavor to ensure that their public engagement on the design and implementation of fiscal policy and budget making is:

  1. Inclusive: Ensuring inclusiveness and non-discrimination through the pro-active use of multiple mechanisms to reach and facilitate inputs from all citizens, including traditionally excluded groups, without discrimination as to political or other opinion, gender, ethnicity, religion, caste, citizenship, nationality or domicile.
  2. Direct: Encouraging the public to speak for itself: although there may be groups and mechanisms that have standing to speak on behalf of others, individuals and communities should be allowed and encouraged to articulate their interests in their own ways, and to choose means of expression that they prefer.
  3. Open: Ensuring openness about the purpose, intended outcomes, process, and timelines of public participation.
  4. Timely: Allowing sufficient time in the budget and policy cycles for the public to provide inputs in each phase.
  5. Facilitated: Facilitating and supporting public participation in general by disclosing fiscal information and data in formats and using mechanisms that are easy to access, understand, use, re-use and transform and that are designed to facilitate participation.
  6. Well-informed: Ensuring well-informed participation through providing specific objective background information and other tailored information, highlighting and informing key policy choices and trade-offs, and incorporating a diversity of perspectives, in a timely and accessible manner prior to consultation.
  7. Meaningful: Ensuring meaningful participation by consulting early in the process while a range of options is still open, where desirable allowing for more than one round of consultation and engagement, using an appropriate mix of participation mechanisms, considering public inputs on an objective basis irrespective of their source, and providing timely and specific feedback on the public inputs received and how they have been incorporated in official policy or advice.
  8. On-going: Engaging in on-going and regular consultations and deliberation to increase knowledge sharing and mutual trust over time, and institutionalising public participation where appropriate and effective.
  9. Complementary: ensuring that mechanisms for participation complement and support existing accountability systems and do not establish parallel systems.

In turn, civil society should endeavour to ensure that participation by non-state actors in invited participation activities is:

  1. Open: Non-state actors should be open about their mission, the interests they seek to advance, who they represent and should be aware of the public interest in the use of public resources.

GIFT online consultation slider

Participants in the online consultation can rate each of the principles and provide additional comments. The consultation will be open through October 30, 2015.

Hat tip: Jay Colburn via Linkedin.