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Microsoft word - public consultation guidelines - en text.doc
Introduction and types of public consultation
In democratic societies, legislators have a duty to represent citizens’ interests. Constituents are
citizens whom a legislator has been elected to represent. Part of a legislator’s job in a democracy
is to serve these constituents by representing their interests in the legislature and by providing a
direct link to government.
Citizens interact with government in different ways, however the ways in which they involve
themselves in the policy and legislative process differ in one key way, whether government
initiates opportunities for participation, or whether citizens do. Participation by citizens or civil
society organizations which government does not invite is usually referred to as advocacy
Government-organized processes are known as public consultation
exercises. Public consultation
is state-centered, meaning that the primary motivation is to obtain information from citizens to
help the parliament make decisions in the citizens’ interest, or to inform citizens about
When carried out effectively, consulting citizens can help legislators successfully fulfill their
representation roles, as well as providing them with information that can help them better execute
their oversight and lawmaking roles.
Many democratic states have public consultation mechanisms, but there is great variation in types
of public consultation. However, public consultation has some commonalities:
¾ The process usually involves publicizing the matter that is being consulted on
¾ There is a two-way flow of information and discussion between the Parliament and other
state institutions like the government, and those being consulted (Consultation);
¾ The input from those being consulted is used when reviewing or drafting laws and policy
The public can give their input at different times in the legislation process. There are three points at which this can happen, and three main types of public consultation:
• Legislative public consultation
Legislative public consultation is conducted when laws are being drafted, and opinion and
feedback is being sought from experts and the public about the options for the law. They are
usually conducted by parliamentary commissions. A commission can conduct hearings to address
an issue that may eventually be a draft law or requires some form of action by the government.
Alternatively, a commission may be assigned to review a law prior to its adoption. This type of
public consultation often involves detailed proposals that can only be answered by experts in the
field. Commissions may pose specific questions for stakeholders during the consultation.
• Supervisory public consultation
Supervisory consultations ask the public about the implementation of an law, and occur after the
law has been passed, often focusing on the quality of government programs and the level of
performance of the government. A supervisory public consultation also ensures that the
implementation of the law is well-understood by the executive and the legislative branches of
government, and that the law is applied consistently and reflects the public interest. The idea of
this type of public hearing is to promote effective, economical and efficient government activity.
• Investigative public consultation
Investigative public consultation is conducted when there is a belief or suspicion that an offence
was committed by a public official, or by a company or individual. Witnesses are often called to
come to testify, and a resolution is sought for the public complaint. This requires good local
mechanisms to gather complaints and to resolve problems. Part 1: What are the benefits of public consultation?
• Public consultation increases the quality of policies and laws through better efficiency
When the public are involved with existing or planned laws or policies, parliamentary decision-making becomes more transparent, which is an important element of good governance. Also, policies and laws that have received input from experts and stakeholders, and that are understood and accepted by the community are less likely to face pressure for revision or cancellation. Good consultation can produce better, sustainable decisions and can save time and money.
• Public consultation can increase trust in public administration by the public
The public’s participation in policy development and implementation is increasingly recognized as an important mechanism to improve public trust in government and administration. Through consultation, a greater sense of ownership of problems and solutions develops within the wider community and, in the long run, it can avoid help improve relations between parliament, local authorities and the public. • Public consultation can alleviate the pressure of making all policy decisions from the
By consulting relevant stakeholders, and therefore bringing extra levels of expertise into the decision-making process, parliamentarians can reduce their responsibility for taking all decisions regarding policy, saving their time and using citizens’ input as a valuable resource.
• Public consultation brings into the system valuable new information and expertise and
generates new networks and partners
The benefits of public consultation can go beyond just input into policy decisions. The opinions and information provided by experts and key stakeholders into consultations can lead to improved understanding by parliamentarians of issues affecting the country, and the chance to meet interest groups and other attendees can strengthen linkages and develop new communication networks between parliament and civil society. Public consultation helps to gather useful information to inform the evidence base for making regulations, including helping to identify policy alternatives.
While holding public meetings, it is essential to develop a two-way dialogue with constituents. Public meetings are a good time to share information with constituents, but they will be much more productive if the legislator listens carefully and sincerely to citizens. In Afghanistan, Provincial Councilors are responsible for creating community development plans for their communities. In this photo, a councilor from Laghman province asks constituents to share their opinions about the province’s biggest development needs. After meeting with the group, the legislator had a much better sense of constituent priorities, and was able to incorporate them into the plan he ultimately developed. National Democratic Institute(2008) – Constituency Relations: A Guide to Best Practices
1.1 Who does public consultation benefit?
• Citizens and communities
Citizens are the most obvious group who stand to benefit from a better dialogue with parliament, particularly on issues related to poverty reduction. Allowing input from citizens means that the government will be able to more accurately diagnose, design, implement and evaluate pro-poor programs. Citizens gain the most when legislative consultation provides a mechanism for their voices to be heard. Citizen involvement strengthens communities by building what is called ‘social capital’ – networks of citizens working together to solve community problems. These networks generate trust between citizens and between communities and government. • Political parties
In any country, voters judge a party’s performance not only by its ability to influence national issues but also by its action on particular local concerns. Through public consultation, not only is a party’s reputation as being ‘in touch with the people’ likely to increase, but the discussion and debate that consultation involves also allows parties to show that they are different from one another, building recognition and support for their party even outside of election years. • Individual MPs
Public consultation on issues that are important to voters makes both political parties and individual members of parliament (MPs) more responsive to the needs of their constituents and the public and raises their profile. An MP who understands about local issues through public consultation is likely to not only have the support of local voters at election time but also has demonstrated his/her value to the party and is much more likely to advance politically than a member who has remained silent on issues important to constituents.
Public consultations are an effective way for commissions to gain information from stakeholders and experts affected by proposed legislation, and to inform MPs, staff from different departments and the public on measures that should be taken to make improvements. Public consultations are also an opportunity for commissions to question the government.
Organizing public consultations together with two or more commissions is a useful way to reduce difficulties arising from contradictory actions and proposals, and to save limited financial resources.
• Democratic institutions
Increased communication between elected officials and voting citizens shows that parliament cares about the quality of life of citizens and therefore strengthens democratic institutions by building public faith in representative processes. Over time, there is less chance that citizens will become apathetic about political issues, as they feel their views have been listened to and politicians are willing to take action on problems affecting them, strengthening public belief in the institution of parliament. For a democracy to function well, legislatures, political parties and citizens must all play an active role, and public consultation is a tool to achieve this.
Experiences of public consultation from an Indonesian MP
One legislator in Indonesia said the following when asked about her experiences listening to
“I [now know] the importance of listening more than speaking to my constituents. It can help me
to communicate better with my supporters and explore their problems more deeply and specifically. Just by listening to someone recently, I have a better understanding of one specific
problem facing traditional craft makers in my district. They told me about a specific problem
with access to capital for marketing of their traditional products and I was able to categorize this
problem and report it to the relevant commission in parliament.”
National Democratic Institute(2008) – Constituency Relations: A Guide to Best Practices
1.2 Benefits of public consultation at the local level
Most public hearings are held on the parliamentary premises, as this is the centre of decision-
making, but holding public consultations at the local level can bring benefits. In many democratic
countries members of parliament have opened district offices that provide services to their
constituents, and there are several reasons for organizing public hearings in the field:
• To create a link between citizens and institutions of power
Holding public consultations in an MP’s constituencies brings the parliament closer to the
people. By getting involved in local problems and helping citizens, MPs show that
parliamentary democracy can affect people’s lives.
• To reach all affected groups
By holding public consultations in the field, a parliamentary commission can hear witnesses and stakeholders who are unable to come to the capital. This helps to discuss an issue, problem or piece of legislation with all who are directly affected by it.
Members of parliament can help provide citizens with solutions to administrative problems they may have. They have the authority and resources to get answers and they enjoy access to information often unavailable to local elected officials and other community representatives. This can be done through the Provincial Offices of parliament, which, if used correctly, represent a valuable and unique community resource.
• To mobilize citizen participation
When parliament works with local officials, non-governmental organizations and ordinary citizens, these groups are empowered to improve their lives and their communities. By working not only at the national but at the constituency level, an MP can widen the number of citizens who directly take responsibility for decisions affecting their area, this helps to encourage practical problem solving by the public, and reduces political apathy. It also builds a base of potential political supporters for an MP and party.
Part 2: Public consultation in Cambodia
Cambodia is a new democracy, with little experience in public consultation. Although some
organizations have organized field visits by parliamentarians to understand more about issues
facing their constituencies, these have been rare and poorly attended. It is hoped that a greater
understanding of the importance of public consultation, and of the different issues affecting
public consultation in Cambodia will lead to a more effective and wide-ranging consultation
process in the future. 2.1 Obstacles and solutions to public consultation in Cambodia
Whether a member represents a distant, rural district with low literacy rates or an urban center,
members of parliament each face specific challenges in attempting to establish and maintain
meaningful communication with their constituents. Legislators in a variety of countries have
identified ways to communicate with their electorate by overcoming a collection of complicating
factors, such as:
¾ Low literacy rates or multiple languages spoken in a single district; ¾ Citizen confusion regarding the responsibility or authority of legislators; ¾ Limited or biased media coverage; ¾ Severely constrained resources; ¾ Deep-rooted public cynicism regarding the motivation of elected politicians; ¾ Lack of public interest in national policy or initiatives; ¾ Control of public space by a single or dominant political party or figure.
While there are no universal answers to these challenges, recognizing the specific obstacles to open, two-way communication is the first step in determining the best way to work around them. There a number of obstacles relevant to the Cambodia context.
• Cambodia is a new democracy without a ‘culture of participation’
As democracy in Cambodia is relatively new, MPs have little experience in representational activities and often citizens are unaware that they can have a say in policy decisions, do not have experience in offering their opinions to decision-makers and are unwilling to do so.
Culture is not static and can be changed over time by good strategic planning and an understanding of the obstacles that are present at an early stage in the consultation process.
Since 1993, Cambodian civil society has worked very hard, especially at the grassroots level, to steadily promote a culture of dialogue and participation in sensitive areas like human rights, peace building and conflict management through, for example, media programs such as TV talk shows and phone-ins involving the public. In the long term, efforts such as this will help to encourage citizens and civil society groups to gain the confidence needed to play an active role in making decisions affecting their everyday lives.
• The party list electoral system
MPs in Cambodia are elected by a proportional representation/ party list system. Often the general belief is that once elected, MPs have received a full mandate from the people for the whole five-year period, without having to be accountable to their voters between elections. Also, this system means that MPs might feel more accountable to their parties than to the voters of their constituencies. Therefore, when MPs do visit their constituencies, their main aim is often to keep the party members loyal and mobilized, rather than listening to input from constituents.
Constituency relations is a responsibility of all legislatures, and this allegiance does not have to conflict with their local activities. In fact, constituent service provides an MP with a chance to involve the party in addressing local needs and problems. An MP who is active at a local level can strengthen the party by keeping in touch with citizens. This may in turn help promote the MPs position within the party.
• Differences between constituencies
Cambodia is a country that has been developing quickly, yet there are gaps between the pace of development in different provinces and constituencies. An MP representing a large urban constituency is likely to have a mainly young electorate with access to information flow, while an MP representing a more remote constituency may have to deal with constituents who are less educated and less aware of the political realities of Cambodia. An effective MP will identify the issues most relevant to their district and incorporate them into a public consultation strategy. For example, an MP from a rural district may focus his or her efforts on water distribution and infrastructure, while an MP from an urban constituency might focus instead on water treatment, sanitization, traffic or environment pollution. One commonality between constituencies is that Cambodia has a very young demographic, with 60% of the population under 25 years old. This demographic represents a unique opportunity for politicians to influence the political direction that Cambodia will take, with public consultation a tool for this.
• Expectations of politicians
One problem with organizing constituency visits by parliamentarians is that historically when parliamentarians have visited their constituencies, they have been expected to distribute gifts such as food, clothes and money. If they do not do this, people are disappointed and less likely to come again. Constituents often demand rapid and effective interventions from MPs or Senators, and without a follow-up mechanism in place, people can be left feeling disillusioned by the process.
While this perception gap is hard to close, legislators can best combat it by educating and communicating with their constituents. In other words, the most effective way to ensure that citizens understand what their legislator can do for them is for that legislator to conduct effective constituent relations. • Resource constraints
One problem that MPs have to face is that the budget for field visits to constituencies is often not sufficient. It hardly covers the travel costs for members and their staff, as well as the ‘presents’ that MPs are expected to bring. This factor hinders many parliamentarians from fulfilling their representative function.
It is true that public consultation requires resources such as time, expertise and funding. However, the funds needed to achieve positive results through consultation are often small in comparison to the total amount spent on a specific policy. Developing an active district profile does not always require a lot of money. In Cambodia, there is already a network of National Assembly provincial offices that can be strengthened and used, and an MP should be able to use the support of their political parties, local public administration, party volunteers and non-governmental organizations to communicate with citizens in a cost-effective manner. Not engaging in public consultation can create higher costs, through policy failure in the short term and loss of trust, legitimacy and policy effectiveness in the long term.
Each political party still has its own political and administrative personnel, who have informal chains of command within the formal structures of the state institution. This challenges the neutrality of civil servants and district, commune and village chiefs. The provincial offices of the National Assembly could play a key role in reshaping local patron-client relationships by ensuring their staff are neutral and able to assist parliamentarians in field visits, reminding local authorities of their constitutional obligations, and informing the public of their responsibilities.
• Political hierarchy
MPs and parliamentary staff have generally been reluctant to organize public consultations themselves as they believe that the leaders of their parties may not want to see them taking a stand on sensitive issues. Also, sometimes MPs are not consulted themselves by their party leadership on issues of policy.
This should not stop MPs involving themselves in public consultation and generally, the number of MPs participating in public forums organized by civil society organizations has increased significantly. Pressure is growing from social groups to play a more active role in discussing issues affecting their everyday lives. Although at present the reality is that MPs are more responsive to their parties, the trend is for more exposure to the public, and those MPs who take the lead in this regard may find themselves in a stronger position to influence party decision-making in the future.
Public Consultation in Thailand – Lessons Learnt
Thailand does not have a long history of public consultation. Pressure for public consultation built in the 1990s with the call for a new constitution in 1992 and the government’s promise to improve the civil service, resulting in The Rule of the Office of the Prime Minister on Public Consultation by Public Hearings, which established a process by which Ministers or Provincial Governors could call a consultation if they thought a proposed policy or project may negatively affect individuals or communities. At first, public consultation was not a success. Government agencies only used public consultation, without considering other techniques to get citizen feedback, government agencies provided little information at the public consultations, and there was no successful method of two-way communication between the government and the people after the consultation. The 1997 constitution promised citizens relevant information on projects affecting them, and the right to receive explanations and reasons from the agency responsible. However, there is still a misconception amongst Thais that a public consultation is the same as a referendum, with people believing that a decision will be made, rather than the government gathering evidence to help them in the decision-making process. These lessons from Thailand display the importance of a strong mechanisms to ensure a two-way flow of information - before, during and after the consultation process. Thailand Law Forum - Thailand’s Public Consultation Law: Opening the Door to Public Information Access and Participation
2.2 Indigenous people in Cambodia
Around 1.5% of Cambodia’s population are indigenous people. Because of differences in
language, organization and issues facing indigenous people, different preparation needs to take
place when planning a public consultation with these groups.
• Research before the public consultation takes place
Understanding a culture is very important to build trust and ensure the public consultation reflects the beliefs and issues affecting minority groups. Using researchers to find out about traditions/culture and behavior patterns through literary research, by asking NGOs or civil society groups or through observation at the planning stage can save valuable time during the consultation process and help avoid misunderstanding. Asking for advice from members of indigenous groups familiar with mainstream Khmer culture may be a useful strategy.
• Build strong relationships with community leaders
The first step when organizing public consultation with indigenous people should be meeting community leaders, and getting information on the issues affecting their communities. This requires some research into who are the power-holders and leaders are. • Make allowances for language differences
The indigenous people in Cambodia speak a number of different languages, and few Khmer have knowledge of these languages. However, some highlanders speak Khmer, and translators and bilingual speakers will need to be found in advance of any public consultation.
This could be done through contact with community leaders, or pre-public consultation organization be National Assembly Provincial Offices. • Use the media
The State should encourage the public media to foster intercultural understanding and address the concerns of indigenous people. • In the long-term, establish separate parliamentary bodies
An important aspect of Cambodia’s plan for participatory governance would be to establish consultative bodies, at either local or regional levels, over a set time period, such as one year, to ensure that projects in such areas as health and education are sensitive to the needs of indigenous people.
2.3 Provincial Offices (POs) of the National Assembly
The POs were created in 1996, and designed to bring the National Assembly closer to the people
so that it would be convenient for them to express their problems and concerns to their
representatives. The Senate has also established some regional offices. There are two to five
officials in each province according to the size of the constituencies.
Well-run district offices can increase a legislator’s visibility in his or her district and convey a
sense of permanence about a legislator’s participation in a community. They can help to make
public consultation more efficient by providing a consistent place to conduct meetings with
constituents and a centralized location for dealing with casework or individual requests for help
Unfortunately, at present the POs in Cambodia have no adequate budget, poor salaries, poor
working conditions and are held in low esteem by the provincial society and by MPs themselves.
The PO staff should play a vital on-the-ground role during the preparation of a public
consultation. However, at present the National Assembly’s POs do not have the capacity or
experience to organize public consultations or follow-up the results of consultations.
In Macedonia, political parties, whose representatives in the legislature are elected through a party list proportional representation system, understand that constituent relations work is an important responsibility, and key to whether citizens have a positive perception of them. They opened some of the first constituency offices in 2002. By 2005, the number increased to 46 offices around the country. In September 2007, 36 constituent office assistants went through a three-day training program, organized by the National Democratic Institute, to prepare for the opening of new offices. Training focused on the need to prepare assistants for situations that they might encounter as the offices begin operation. The new offices will provide constituents with local access to MPs. When the process is completed, no Macedonian citizen will have to travel more than 30 kilometers to reach an office where they can voice concerns with their elected leaders. National Democratic Institute(2008) – Constituency Relations: A Guide to Best Practices
The National Assembly POs can, however, be improved in the following ways:
• Work closely with Commune Councils
The Commune Councils are very important for the PO’s staff because they are directly elected by the population of the commune, thus having a legislative mandate similarly to the MPs. Also important is the fact that most of the problems encountered by the people in their daily lives happen in the first place at the commune level. An updated knowledge of commune life through regular meeting with commune councilors is important. PO staff must be aware that, in that particular area of the Kingdom, they represent one of the top institutions of the country – the legislative branch. As such, they must feel the pride given by their status and this should equip them to deal with other provincial institutions. • Awareness of all issues relevant to the province
PO staff should be well informed about sensitive issues relating to their province, especially when the electorate and the MPs are directly concerned. They should do this by developing institutional relationships with all state and non-state organizations operating in their provinces, as well as the media. They should have as much documentation as possible relating to those institutions. They should participate in workshops, seminars, conferences and social events organized in their provinces, building an understanding of who the local stakeholders are on a particular issue. This would help to draw other organizations and therefore more resources into the consultation process. They need to learn about demography movement, the population, social, economic and development situation and other issues that the local population may need to bring to the attention of their MPs. POs should systematically investigate the communes where there are reports of problems or conflicts and be aware also that some issues do not suddenly become sensitive, they build up over time. Any issues uncovered should be reported as soon as possible as part of an early-warning system about grassroots conflicts that could escalate into social crises. They could submit this information in the form of a short quarterly report in a pre-determined format. Based on these reports, the Secretary General of the National Assembly could institutionalize regular meetings with key members of the Commissions to agree on the list of locations to be chosen for the public consultations. • Inform the local population
POs should play a role in letting the local population know about the role of their constituency MP. A brief leaflet can help convey a positive first impression of the legislator. These leaflets allow legislators the opportunity to introduce themselves, their activities, and explain what an elected representative does. A good office brochure does not necessarily need to be an expensive one. Many elected representatives also find that they receive the same requests or questions over and over again, or that citizens are unaware of an important local service. When the solutions are relatively simple, POs should consider creating a Guide to Common Problems, including a description of the problem, the responsible local government agency, and how they can be contacted. The guide could also include numbers and addresses of local institutions and emergency contacts such as firefighters, police stations, hospitals and schools, as well as a short description of the key programs and resources offered by NGOs with contact information.
• A consistent hiring policy for staff with specified tasks
Anyone hired should have appropriate skills for the job, or be willing and able to learn. The specific duties of an office assistant will vary for each office, but should include at least some of the following: managing the office; helping constituents to connect with appropriate government offices; arranging meetings; keeping records of meetings and constituent requests; assisting with telephone calls and other constituent correspondence; planning public meetings and other activities for the representative to attend; organizing news conferences and writing news releases; and, where appropriate, help the legislator report to the party about his or her constituency work. • Keeping records
Legislators and their staff need to keep a good record of efforts made to help constituents. When someone enters the office, or meets with the legislator, access to documentation of who they were and why they came is vital, so that legislators and staff are not relying on their memories alone to resolve the situation later. Legislators might also consider creating a method to collect and record comments received by them, their staff or their district offices. When people call the office of a legislator with a comment about a local issue, a national problem, or a personal concern, staff should have the ability to quickly document it and enter it into a permanent record. Knowing how constituents feel about an issue is important in representing the constituency effectively and to understanding changes in public opinion.
Part 3: Planning and organizing a public consultation
Before undertaking a public consultation a number of decisions need to be made, such as how
many consultations should there be, where and when they should be held, what issue they should
focus on, and how resources can be found. To answer these questions, public consultations must
be effectively planned.
3.1 Devising a public consultation strategy
Parliamentarians face a number of different responsibilities and pressures; they cannot do
everything for everyone. Not only are their powers limited, so are their time and resources, which
means it is vital to plan effectively in advance of any consultation. Strategic planning requires the
Successful parliamentarians generally define a limited number of goals for their constituent work and then select activities for meeting those goals. Goals should be major political and policy priorities – especially those promised during election campaign - and reflect a personal sense of mission as an MP. Goals are the broad targets toward which you move by means of various activities Goals should be demanding, yet achievable. It is best to choose two or three goals for the purpose of your consultation activity, such as:
¾ Working for the interests of the people who voted for you or your party;
¾ Working for the interests of under-represented groups of citizens;
¾ Developing a relationship with potential voters/supporters;
¾ Developing an ongoing relationship with local government officials in your district;
¾ Becoming a spokesman on a specific issue that is important to your district (such as
the impact of HIV/AIDS, agricultural policies, land reform etc).
¾ Getting feedback on and support for a specific law
2. Establishing activities for fulfilling your goals
In order to reach a goal often several activities will need to be conducted. For example, an MP might decide that he/she wants to develop a better relationship with a large rural population in an isolated area of their district or province. In order to reach that goal they might plan to hold public meetings in that district two or three times a year. The MP may also determine that he/she will speak on the telephone with different heads of the commune councils once a month.
Now an MP faces the difficult task of listing their activities in priority order, which means deciding on the relative importance of different activities. When determining priorities, the following factors should be considered:
¾ The specific characteristics of the constituency, such as geographical conditions
(for example, is the area prone to floods or drought), the poverty level, areas with lots of migrant workers, indigenous people or different religious groups, etc.
¾ How many people will be reached by the consultation? ¾ How important is the activity to the community? (Does the focus of the activity
reflect the views and problems of most of the community or just a small group in the community?)
¾ How much work is involved? Are the resources available? (Should resources be
limited, you should look for other sources of support such as local NGOs)
4. Develop a goal-oriented action plan
An action plan should list a general goal and the activities that will be performed to move toward that goal. The action plan should specify deadlines for the activities and the persons who are responsible to implement the activity.
Periodically (about every three to four months) an MP and their staff should assess whether the public consultation strategy is moving towards the goals. The following things should be considered:
¾ Have the activities been implemented? ¾ Have the activities helped in achieving the goals? ¾ Are the local partners reliable and helpful? Should other local leaders be found? ¾ Are there enough resources? Do more need to be found?
In all of these decisions it is important to remember that it is better to have a small success than a large failure.
3.2 Who are the targets of the consultation?
Deciding who gets involved in consultations is a key part of devising a public consultation
strategy. Choices about who to consult and how far to extend the reach of the consultation will
reflect a sense of local demand, capacity and need. The groups that need to be considered are:
These are people or groups directly affected by the decision being made, and represent the first group of people who should be consulted. There are ordinarily five categories of stakeholders:
¾ Local communities ¾ Civil Society ¾ Local government, such as the Commune Councils ¾ Private sector bodies ¾ Other institutions
Those who are directly affected by the focus of the consultation are the ‘primary stakeholders’. However, identifying the audience for a consultation does not simply mean involving the ‘usual’ stakeholders, e.g. those who are most vocal or well known for their position on particular issues. It is important to include ‘other’ stakeholders - those who are indirectly affected. Depending on the nature of the issue being discussed, these other stakeholders could become primary stakeholders, which means it is important that their views are taken into account. Stakeholder analysis should be undertaken before deciding who to consult, and the following things should be considered:
¾ Who will be directly or indirectly and positively or negatively affected? ¾ Who are the most vulnerable groups? ¾ Who might have an interest or feel that they are affected? ¾ Who may react positively or negatively to the issue being discussed? ¾ Whose opposition could be detrimental to the success of the consultation? ¾ Whose cooperation, expertise, or influence would be helpful in providing input
Once primary stakeholders are identified, it may be useful to seek their advice on priorities and direction for the consultation process before it begins. Early and constructive engagement with stakeholder groups can produce benefits in terms of both overall visibility and the level and quality of participation. It may also be more appropriate to have a consultation for primary stakeholders alone, before the general public is invited, as they may dominate proceedings.
It is often necessary to reach beyond those who are directly affected by a decision. However, when consulting the general public, often those members of the public who are most inclined to become involved dominate the consultation. Thought should go into designing a mechanism to give those who are not regularly involved a chance to consider the options put forward, with the aim of ensuring maximum legitimacy for the consultation.
Outside the parties’ supporters, other social categories should be invited as well. Youth organizations, teachers, students associations, women groups, monks and other religious groups are often very vocal and could create a particularly warm atmosphere during the debate. A public consultation is also an opportunity for women to make their voice heard, and efforts should be made to ensure that different age ranges are represented. Those who
struggle to get involved or are difficult to attract to consultation events may include the frail, elderly, young people and some ethnic minorities. Thought should be given as to how these groups can be reached
3.3 Organizing a public consultation
Once decisions have been made regarding planning and who is to be consulted, it is time to
organize and hold a consultation. The following things should be considered:
• How many consultations to hold? Where should they be held?
This will depend on the policy, law or subject being discussed. For example, if a law has been passed, regular consultations throughout the country may be necessary to check on the implementation of the legislation. If a law is being drafted, it may only be necessary to involve key stakeholders in a single consultation held in parliament.
• How can you ensure a political balance?
Regarding MP’s participation, there are three options: using MPs from one party only, from two or from all parties. The all-party formula is the best option. It provides a strong legitimacy and credibility to the process. It promotes the culture of dialogue among parties that have different views on key issues and generates a high quality of participation.
• Issue focus or general topic?
Should the public meeting focus on a single issue, or should the topic be more general,
focusing on, for example, issues relating to youth or women? Generally, a specific issue will
attract more people to the meeting and will be more appealing to the media.
open forum may be more suitable in a community that MPs do not often have an opportunity
to visit. If an MP is being proactive and organizing a public consultation themselves, they
will need to think about the following issues:
¾ What government programs impact most directly on residents? How do they feel
¾ What about the quality of life most bothers people in this area? What is considered
to be working well? What issues most excite or anger people?
¾ What goals do local leaders and citizens have for the coming year? ¾ What legislative or program initiatives, if any, have community residents, leaders
• Organized geographically or by commissions?
The geographical constituency approach provides some flexibility in organization. The advantage of this approach is that it allows the attendees to raise a number of issues from their daily lives, and raises topics that the MP might not have considered. The disadvantage is that it needs a long time-frame and often the discussion may focus on a number of issues, meaning the MP may not be able to respond to specific problems faced by attendees. This approach requires adequate resources and a strong follow-up strategy.
Using commission-based public consultations focusing on a specific issue such as land, forestry or fisheries for example, sends a message to the public that parliament is willing to listen to their views, and builds on the expertise of the commissions. Drawbacks to this approach include the fact that the current composition of the Commission does not include MPs from all the parties that have seats in the National Assembly. Also, another issue is that the National Assembly Commissions (including technical staff) are in an on-going capacity building process and are not yet in a position to face and satisfy the people’s concern. • Is there strong enough knowledge of local issues?
If the public consultation is constituency-based, there must be a strong knowledge of local issues. The more a representative knows, the more effective he or she will be at identifying the most important issues for constituents. For example, if a legislator’s district has a limited number of health centers, then he or she can be sure that access to health care is an important issue for local residents. The following areas should be considered when creating a profile of the constituency:
¾ Demographic factors (size of population; ratios of young or elderly people;
predominant ethnic, linguistic or religious groups; unemployment rates; literacy rates; etc.);
¾ Work of NGOs and charitable organizations; ¾ Commune Council offices; ¾ Businesses and other sources of employment; ¾ Schools and universities; ¾ Major transportation or communications infrastructure; ¾ Media outlets; ¾ Issues relating to local natural resources.
3.4 Making best use of resources
Without adequate resources, activities to strengthening government-citizen relations cannot go
ahead. Public consultation requires both financial resources
(the funds available to pay for
materials and services needed) and human resources
(people with capacities relating to education,
experience, management skills and commitment who are available to fulfill the tasks related to
the activity). Whatever the resources at your disposal, in the end, everything cannot be achieved
and done at the same time. Some important resources are low-cost and readily available. In the
case of scarce funds, resources must be prioritized:
1. A positive relationship with the media 2. Permanent contact information for members 3. An information filing and access system, not matter how basic. 4. A mechanism for keeping records of constituent feedback
1. Regular office hours for public access while the parliament is in session (This is
useful when traveling allowances are low and people can predict when an MP is at their office and come to visit).
2. Office space and regular hours in constituencies.
3. Individual contact information for each member. 4. Staff in the parliament assigned to institution-wide public outreach and public
consultation (they could write press releases, write newsletters or respond to requests made by individuals)
1. Stand-alone constituency outreach facilities within districts. 2. An information centre within the legislative building (this centre would act as the
first point of call for citizens requiring more information on parliamentary business, proceedings or outcomes, it would provide services such as the regular publication of the hansard, summaries of parliamentary proceedings, and the circulation of legislative schedules).
3. Publication of newsletters and/or radio and TV programs that cover legislative
4. Travel budgets that enable parliamentarians to travel to their constituencies more
In the case of scarce resources, consideration should be given to using help from other sources. For example, to overcome the problem of constituents expecting gifts when MPs visit them, NGOs could be used to organize or help facilitate the visits, as if trips are organized by, or on behalf of, NGOs people do not expect any donations. While this strategy may be useful the first few times parliamentary consultations are organized, this is not a sustainable strategy.
Using NGOs to organize public consultations in Liberia
Poor transportation infrastructure in Liberia creates challenges for legislators to remain connected
to districts that are a great distance from the capital of Monrovia. Efforts to organize public meetings are difficult, and costs can be prohibitive to reach the more remote areas. Some legislators have found assistance from local NGOs to be essential. In Bassa County the Bassa Concerned Citizens Movement (BCCM) helped legislators to plan and implement a public forum. BCCM identified a venue, arranged logistics before, during and after the meeting, and advertised the event. With BCCM’s help, the public forum was a success, with more than 100 constituents attending.
National Democratic Institute(2008) – Constituency Relations: A Guide to Best Practices
A better strategy is to use students as community volunteers. In Cambodia, where legislators lack a budget for district offices and staff, Community Volunteers (CVs) have helped them stay in touch with and be more responsive to constituents. CVs reside in the district, so they can check in with constituents on a regular basis. They assist with keeping records of constituent requests, making sure the legislator is aware of concerns, and sharing information with constituents about the legislator’s efforts to solve their problems. Other benefits are:
¾ As PO staff are from political parties originally, using students in the selection
process of the participants can overcome problems of political bias.
¾ They can provide a very cost-effective administrative structure. ¾ They can help build trust amongst communities as they are seen as non-political. This
is particularly useful when the organizing team needs to use casual conversations with local residents to find out about problems in the area.
¾ They are flexible, have less commitments and therefore can move around quickly
¾ Allowing students responsibility for organizing public consultations gives them
strong work experience and sensitizes them to the life of the legislative institution. This point is very important because current students could become future MPs.
In order to institutionalize public consultation practices, efforts should be made to build strong media and civil society networks, to publicize upcoming and past public consultations, and to mobilize key stakeholders to attend public consultations. This should ensure that trust is built, and a healthy dialogue is established.
How legislatures around the world provide resources for public consultation
• Soon after democracy was re-established in Chile following the end of the Pinochet
regime, parliament adjusted its calendar so that MPs could spend one week each month in their districts.
• South Africa’s National Assembly grants funds to each represented party (the amount is
based on the number of party members in the Parliament) to use at its own discretion for constituent services.
• Lithuania’s legislature revised its Rules of Procedure to allocate funding to each legislator
to maintain a constituency office and pay for travel, telephone and other related expenses. Constituency offices are located in municipal buildings. Parties report to parliament on the use of these funds during the regular budget cycle.
• In Mexico, legislators do not receive funding directly from the Congress to conduct
constituent relations, but political parties have found a way to fund and organize
National Democratic Institute(2008) – Constituency Relations: A Guide to Best Practices
3.5 Public consultation tasks
Organizational tasks will fall on the General Secretariat of the National Assembly (GS), the POs
(if the consultation is held outside parliament), and other sources of help such as student
volunteers. The following tasks need to be undertaken:
1-2 months before the public consultation
• Training of basic research skills such as data collection, data analysis, interview
technique, report writing, etc. should be provided to organizers, especially to assistants to Members of Parliament, before the field visit. This will enable them to collect and analyze the data, and to make an analysis report for the Members of Parliament.
• The General Secretariat should begin research into local issues and stakeholders and
formulate the strategic plan for the public consultation, including the location, people involved, budget, media strategy etc. If the public consultation is to take place outside parliament, the General Secretariat will need to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the PO and develop a support plan if required. This review session should also draft a detailed task breakdown log frame indicating clearly all the tasks that need to be done,
who is in charge, what kind of resources needed and the timeframe and deadlines for each task.
• Formulate the budget, using a transparent financial system.
• Obtain clearance from the relevant authorities for the public consultation. The GS will
need to draft letters to the Minister of the Interior and the Governor of the province, if the public consultation is held outside the parliament.
• Plan for the selection of the participants, reflecting various representations among the
public, the provincial authorities and the civil society. Informal meetings could be held with potential stakeholder groups to identify the issues that could arise during the public consultation.
• Set an exact date and time for the public consultation, and send invitations to those who
• If the public consultation is held in the provinces, send someone to the PO to issue
reports for the MPs concerned about the PO and the relevant issues in the area.
• Confirm attendance to the public consultation
• Prepare a press announcement, with the approval of the chairperson and submit it to the
• Provide support for MPs if they need to travel to the public consultation. The PO is
responsible for travel and accommodation arrangements.
• Select the venue for the public consultation needs and arrange for items such as
refreshments and a sound system if needed. When dealing with ethnic minority groups, provide translation services where necessary.
• Prepare and circulate an agenda amongst organizers and attendees.
3-4 days before the public consultation
• Submit press announcement to local media. • Write a brief report on the purpose of the public consultation and the issues to be covered,
• Prepare copies of materials for attendees, such as draft bills and the attendance/registry
• Distribute all materials, including press materials. • Give out a sign in sheet to attendees and reporters, including contact information • Take photos and minutes of the consultation
• Contact the media representatives who attended to ask if they need additional information
• If the legislator has agreed to provide information, write it down and send it directly to
• Prepare a news release, summarizing the public meeting, and distribute to media
3.6 Logistics of the consultation
A moderator for the meeting should be selected, this could be a MP, a well-respected leader of civil society or a well-known leader or wiseman of the village/commune. The moderator should introduce the topic for discussion, announce the rules for questions and answers, and state the time that the meeting is scheduled to end. The role of the moderator is crucial to the success of the public consultation, and the moderator must have a strong understanding of current affairs, experience in a public forum, good time management skills and a quick understanding of issues.
The MP should begin the meeting with a statement addressing the issue concerned and/or the need for the consultation. Any parliamentary work that is relevant to the issue should be mentioned by the MP. The legislator should make it clear from the opening presentation that he/she is there as a public servant to listen to citizens, answer questions, and have a discussion, not to promote a particular political viewpoint.
• Keep a registry of attendants
Attendants should be asked for personal details in order to conduct any follow-up work and to identify possible local residents to work with in the future. The registry should be in paper form, with a space for attendants to write any comments they may have in order to improve the consultation process in the future.
• Allow time for questions and answers
Remember that the public consultation is not a campaigning opportunity for an MP; it is a chance to listen to the ideas and opinions of stakeholders or the general public. Enough time must be given up for those being consulted to consider the issues and respond. Participants should be permitted to ask only one question at a time, and their questions should be brief and to the point. Some participants may feel passionate about the issue they are raising and may speak for a long time before getting to the actual question. In such a case, it may be wise to interrupt the speaker and ask him or her clarify what they are speaking about, or to set a time limit for questions in advance.
Successful public consultations require a dynamic and focused discussion, with equal time to speak for all concerned and enough time left for questions and answers. If someone at the consultation is causing a deliberate interruption as a member of a rival party or is angry about a particular issue, the MP should act professionally and try not to get angry or shout back. Answer the question, cut them off politely and have the moderator by-pass their subsequent questions. The moderator and the legislator should encourage people who clearly have inquiries to speak, but seem afraid to ask. One idea is for the meeting organizers to provide citizens with pencils and small cards on which to write their questions. These cards are then collected and given directly to the official to answer. This encourages people who might otherwise be too nervous to speak in public to participate and allows the moderator to change the focus of the conversation if it is being dominated by a particularly loud individual.
• Provide good feedback
Authorities must give the impression that the views of those attending will be listened to, and action taken. Participants expect feedback about the consultation, including the follow-up strategy, issues or opinions made in other consultations and decisions made and reasons for them. Participants need to feel like the opinions they express in consultations are valued. • Accept Criticism from the Public
Not everyone is going to like their legislator, their legislator’s party or his/her stance on the issues. If some critical comments have merit, the legislator may wish to admit them and hope the audience will appreciate the display of honesty. Always try to turn criticism into an opportunity for constructive problem solving. If someone complains a legislator has been ineffective at helping with unemployment rates, ask them what ought to be done? This shows that a legislator is willing to listen, and it also shows people how difficult it is to get certain things accomplished in government.
Part 4: Communication and follow-up strategy
A strong communication strategy by the legislature as a whole, particularly where legislative
roles and authorities are relatively new, is important in helping the public understand why public
consultations are necessary. It gives the public information about the work of parliament, helping
them understand the process by which their views and problems are dealt with. Efforts to
communicate the results of legislative business or to make legislative processes more transparent
can be among the most effective ways in which to demonstrate the role of parliament in
representing citizens’ needs and dealing with issues that are part of daily life for most citizens.
In terms of public consultation, communication is important to publicize the consultation before it
happens, and to let participants know about what will be done with the findings of the public
consultation. Follow-up work relating to public consultations needs to be publicized through a
well thought-out communication strategy, this is important to ensure the transparency of the
results of public consultation, and also to show the public that their views have been listened to
and action has been taken. 4.1 Communication tools
Information passed on from person to person is the most important and widely-used form of publicity. News travels fast in villages and small towns, and constituents will soon hear about the activities of MPs if they are active in their constituencies. However, it is vital to use modern communication technology as well.
• Strengthened relationships with the press
Legislatures with limited resources may find that they are able to effectively reach out to the public through earned (or free) media coverage. Making contact and building relationships with reporters is a low-cost, high-impact way to improve public consultation on issues relevant to constituents. However, it should be remembered that reporters should not be expected to approach an MP, the MP must seek out reporters and have a press strategy to keep them informed of the MP’s activities. Also, not everything an MP does is newsworthy and not everything a reporter records or writes is broadcasted or printed. Reporters should not be expected to cover every public meeting or project that an MP initiates. An MP must be selective in choosing the events they want covered, based on the understood level of local interest.
One way to follow up on the lessons learnt from public consultation is to send legislators to participate in radio or television broadcasts to discuss parliament’s response to the issues raised in a public consultation`, this could also help cultivate media/legislative relations. Tapes can be distributed and re-broadcast by local stations. Appearing on radio call-in programs that allow citizens to directly ask questions may be particularly useful for legislators attempting to reach more urban areas and displays a willingness to discuss citizens’ questions, building on the success of public consultations. In Cambodia, many NGO-run radio programs are well supported by the public. MPs can use these programs free of charge to reach their constituents. The General Secretariats of the National Assembly and Senate could use their communication departments to create their own programs or/and make work together in partnership with NGOs offering those services.
Using the radio – Experiences from Sierra Leone and Yemen
In Sierra Leone, legislators used the radio to broaden their audience. They combined a public meeting with a radio broadcast to reach as many constituents as possible. During the forum, they invited a local radio station to broadcast the proceedings. After the forum, they held a ninety-minute call-in radio show, during which they answered questions from constituents who were unable to attend the public forum. The radio shows were popular, and allowed the legislators to get their message out to and engage with a much broader audience than if they had conducted the public forums alone. One legislator in Yemen combined his public speaking skills with his knowledge of radio media and started broadcasting a radio program a few weeks before every constituency visit. He shared details of the visit, including the dates, where he would be, and public events he planned to hold. Without staff in his district or the ability to travel there frequently, the Yemeni legislator had a double challenge of trying to advertise his visit on limited funds while needing to ensure he could reach as many people as possible during each visit. With his radio program, he solved both problems, and raised his public profile at the same time. National Democratic Institute(2008) – Constituency Relations: A Guide to Best Practices
• Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
MPs could record a public service announcement for repeated radio broadcasts regarding the
parliament’s work in a particular area of concern for local residents, or publicizing the results
of a recent public consultation. In countries with networks of community radio stations, one
or more MPs (or appropriate leadership figures) could record the announcement in the capital
city and distribute the tapes to regional radio stations throughout the network, meaning less
resources are spent on travel costs.
• Provide Office Hours
Having a set time to meet constituents, either in the constituency or in the National Assembly/ Senate, can help provide parliamentarians with useful information for organizing future public consultations, and can help a parliamentarian follow up issues brought up in past public consultations. Constituency office should be open at hours convenient to the public. Flexibility here is important.
If an unexpected issue is raised in a public consultation, if a parliamentarian wants to find out about how their constituents feel about legislation or government programs, or if a parliamentarian wants to gain more information about the issues relevant to their constituency before a public consultation takes place, it is possible to use questionnaires. The first page could focus on local issues. At the top of the page there should be a simple and short introduction that will explain to voters why the survey is being conducted. The second page could focus more on broader issues or draft laws that affect the country as a whole. The survey could be coordinated with grassroots CBOs and local NGOs such as volunteer groups or teacher/parent associations, depending on the issue being discussed, strengthening ties to these groups. It is vital that the results of the survey are published in a bulletin or released to the press. This feedback tells citizens that they are involved in decision making process
• Bulletins and Issue Publications
Bulletins represent the most common publication format. These are short (one or two-page), regular (monthly or bi-monthly) publications focusing on the activities, such as public consultations of an MP in their constituency, or on an MPs activities relating to one single issue of importance to their constituents. The bulletin is also a forum in which to present views and opinions that you have received from constituents during public consultations. It can be published as a leaflet or put on a website, depending on the nature of an MP’s constituency. MPs could also, where possible, cooperate with existing publications to have their activities/agendas published and disseminated. The National Assembly provincial offices and the Senate regional offices should conduct a mapping exercise of existing publications that could be used for this purpose.
An effective way to generate free media attention is to create a press release. A press release can be used to publicize a public consultation or highlight issues and achievements from past public consultations. Press releases should be a short (about one page) summary of major
points and issues of the consultation, should quote the MP and include pictures and contact details.
4.2 Follow-up work by parliamentarians
It is very important not to lose the information learnt during public consultation, if this happens the public will become apathetic and will be less likely to participate in future consultations. Therefore, the results of public consultations must be transferred by parliamentarians to relevant line ministries, and the issues discussed must be acted upon and the results of the action made public. This can happen in a number of ways:
Parliamentarians should write letters to the relevant line ministries detailing the issues mentioned in public consultations. This should be completed no more than a week after the consultation has taken place. However, writing letters is just the beginning, politicians need to:
¾ Make sure that the copies of those letters are delivered, through the Provincial
Offices, to the concerned Communes and the people.
¾ Follow-up with the cabinets of the relevant Ministers about the actions of the
ministries vis-à-vis those issues raised in the public consultation.
¾ Follow-up with the cabinet of the provincial governor about the actions of the
governor’s office vis-à-vis those issues raised in the public consultation.
Although these measures would involve a lot of work, over time they would give the representational role of MPs strong credibility and generate deep trust from the people towards their MPs.
Letter writing alone is not sufficient for results of public consultations to be adequately
followed up, it is also necessary for parliamentarians to meet with the relevant line ministries
to get full explanations of issues raised in public consultations, and so they can report back
their findings to constituents. Letters can often omit important information; even if there is no
resolution to a particular case/issue, if the public are to have faith in the public consultation
process, it is vital for them to know why there is no solution
and what has been tried.
After a public consultation in the field has taken place, a roundtable should be organized to discuss the results of the consultation with specialists from the Government and other various institutions. The roundtable would help to validate the result and information analysis from the field visit and to disseminate the results to other stakeholders. After the roundtable, a plan of action should be drawn up between the relevant line Ministries and public consultation organizers to act upon the issues raised at the public consultation, and to choose from different communication strategies to publicize the results of the follow-up action.
The parliamentary Provincial Offices are vital for the feedback from public consultations to reach the public. The staff’s services should include gathering the results of the feedback
initiated by parliamentarians with the relevant line ministry, and disseminating the results to the public, using a communication strategy based on the communication methods listed above.
Citizens need an individual who can help them when have problems with bureaucratic issues, or face problems within the reach of their MPs. MPs have a broad knowledge of public administration, and they and their staff should be sympathetic people with human faces who can use their authority to solve problems. Solving individual queries on an individual case basis is called ‘casework’. Casework allows MPs to acquire a first-hand understanding of the way in which parliament and government is working, or not working, for their constituents. Casework also lets constituents know that MPs care about the impact of parliamentary decision-making upon their daily lives.
It may be useful to constituents wishing to meet with the parliamentarian to fill in a short form detailing the nature of the problem or complaint. This forces the constituent to write a short summary of the story, presents parliamentarians with the basic facts of the case and provides staff with a permanent record of the problem. Once the fact sheet is returned, the legislator and his or her staff will want to go over it with the constituent and conduct an initial interview.
An MP faces four general options in deciding how to address a constituent request:
Most parliamentary offices refer cases that are not within their jurisdiction to the appropriate government agency. In many situations, citizens do not have a basic understanding of where they can go for help or how they should solve the problem. In such cases, a parliamentary office can offer some friendly advice to confused and frustrated citizens. However, it is important that MPs do not refer the case unless they are sure that the authority they have referred the case to can adequately answer it.
• Option 2: Tell the person there is nothing you can do.
Saying “no” is often the hardest thing for a politician, but in the long run, most MPs believe it is politically unwise to hold out false expectations. This is especially important for issues which the public sector has no control.
• Option 3: Try to solve multiple problems of constituents at a later date
Sometimes it is easier and more efficient to solve problems that are shared amongst constituents collectively at public meetings or forums. Joint submissions/applications could be completed by those attending and be sent to the office responsible for resolving the issue a letter stating what the legislator would like to see done with these complaints and how they would like to see these problems resolved. If this course of action is pursued, let the constituents know that the office took the time to do this on their behalf.
• Option 4: Play the role of an advocate
If an MP or staff member determines that a case should not be referred or rejected, there are variety of ways in which an MP can play an advocacy role. Firstly, the MP must open the case by giving the person a chance to tell his/her story in his/her own words. The meeting in this case should be personal and as short as possible. At the end of the meeting the citizen should be informed of the steps the MP plans to take to try to resolve the issue. It is important to keep good records of all efforts made to help a citizen.
Often after exploring various ways to resolve a problem, an MP’s efforts may be unsuccessful. In these cases, it is vital that the MP provides an honest and clear answer to the constituent without hiding behind bureaucratic language, making it clear that often the MP is not the final decision-maker and cannot be blamed. Often cases will have negative outcomes since citizens usually request the assistance of their MP as a last resort and have probably already exhausted most of the alternatives for resolving their problems. However, if the case is handled with a human approach, the citizen will have had at least one positive experience with the Cambodian system of democracy governance. When an MP works on a case, they take small steps to empower people to find solutions to their problems. They have also performed a wise political act that may be remembered at election time.
4.4 Evaluating the consultation process
Review and evaluation is an integral part of the overall consultation process. There are a number of reasons why evaluation is important. Planning and conducting evaluation helps parliament to:
¾ See if their activities were successful
: Were the tools effective? Have publics been
contacted as planned? Were the resources adequate? Have the objectives been reached?
¾ Demonstrate to others that the activities were successful
: This is important to justify
¾ Learn from experience
: Evaluating and sharing the results enable parliamentarians to
learn from their activities. It enables parliamentarians to compare activities and set standards for good practice.
¾ Redesign activities and create new ones
. This increases the chance for success in the
future and builds capacity to respond to new and emerging demands.
Some issues to consider when reviewing a consultation include:
¾ Did the consultation reach its target audience? Was this audience representative? ¾ Did the consultation provide all participants (and potential participants) with an equal
¾ Were the methods appropriate to the objectives? ¾ How much time and resources, human and financial, were actually used in comparison to
what was anticipated? Was the consultation cost-effective?
¾ Was the process transparent and easily understood by those participating? ¾ What was learned from running the consultation and what can be improved in future
consultations? How can this learning be shared with colleagues?
¾ Was the consultation timetable maintained? If not, why?
Evaluation can be carried out in the following ways:
Through public consultation with citizens, and by asking for and listening to their comments, parliamentarians get an impression of how their activities have been received by the public. This can be done through surveys such as questionnaires. Open discussions with staff within parliament allows public consultation organizers to learn about how the activities are valued. These reviews can be formalized and extended into workshops. If not, these informal reviews remain simple tools which do not deliver systematic information.
• Collecting and analyzing quantitative data
The parliament can collect data on a wide range of relevant areas, such as the number of requests for documents and information services, on the amount and content of complaints received from the public and on attendance of events such as public consultations. Data collection and storage procedures should be standardized across parliament and will provide evidence as to whether public consultations produce interest from the public and what type of demand for services the public has.
Reviews use all the date collected in evaluation methods such as the ones listed above to provide in-depth analysis of activities, formulated in a report. They are used to show the strengths and weaknesses of public consultation, what needs to be improved and how public consultation can be better coordinated between government, parliament and the public.
Of course, there is a need to use the results of the evaluation so that the effort put into conducting them makes sense. Once the evaluation is done, it needs to be communicated within the government. This can happen via reports and presentations. The parliament may also choose to publish the evaluation reports, thereby contributing to higher transparency and accountability.
Public consultation allows legislators and political parties to listen to their constituents and put in place policies that make positive changes in their community. An effective public consultation strategy strengthens democracy by building accountability and transparency, and improves trust in parliament by the public, showing citizens that the government represents their concerns and interests. In building an effective public consultation process, legislators work involves a strong communication strategy, effectively using a provincial office, where necessary, and undertaking casework on particular concerns of their constituents. These approaches to a parliamentarians’ representational role ensure an effective system of two-way communication with constituents. A public consultation strategy should also involve working with local CBOs, student groups and NGOs, in order to share information and be more cost-effective.
These guidelines are the first part of a process of evolution towards effective public consultation in Cambodia, and are intended to be added to with real-life experience of consultations. It is hoped that the guidelines and subsequent experience will provide parliamentarians with the knowledge and skills to build a long-term strategy for consulting with the public.
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