Towards clear rules for consulting, engaging and receiving feedback from citizens
The constitution guarantees the right of petition and stipulates that Jordanians shall have the right to address the public authorities on personal matters affecting them, or on what is relative to public affairs in the manner and conditions prescribed by law (Article 17). Since 2013, the Legislative and Opinion Bureau (LOB) has been obliged to publish any draft legislation on its website9 for no less than 10 days to enable citizens and the private sector to provide comment (Regulation No. 5/2013, Article 9). The regulation was introduced as part of Jordan's first National Action Plan for the OGP (OECD, 2013). While this is an important step towards involving non-governmental stakeholders in the policy cycle, the OECD Regulatory Policy Outlook 2015 underlines that stakeholders should be given sufficient time to respond to the consultation. For instance, at the EU level, the minimum duration amounts to 12 weeks whereas U.S. agencies often provide 30 days or more depending on the complexity of the proposed regulation (OECD, 2015). The Ministry of Public Sector Development (MoPSD) offers a web-based complaint system through which sector-specific requests are forwarded to the line ministries. Line ministries have one week to clarify with the MoPSD whether the request was addressed, which can, if necessary, raise a pending case in a report submitted to the Prime Minister’s Office. According to the MoPSD, the annual number of requests received since 2013 is decreasing, and in 2016, 94% of all requests were solved. The third action plan for the OGP commits the MoPSD to developing a smartphone application and telephone hotline to increase the access of citizens for submitting complaints by July 2018.
The survey results suggest that, in parallel to the formal procedures described above, informal meetings between government officials and non-governmental stakeholders take place on an ad hoc basis. These meetings are typically initiated by the government and open to selected non-governmental stakeholders, but rarely to the wider public (OECD, 2013). In line with good practice in the United Kingdom (see Box 4.6), Jordan could consider clearly determining the duration of public consultation exercises and the procedures to participate, and raise awareness in order to ensure that a maximum number of interested parties are able to participate. In this regard, line ministries could make more extensive use of existing manuals to guide policy makers, such as the “Participatory Approach to Strategic Planning in the Public Sector” (2014), which was prepared by the MoPSD and circulated by the Prime Minister to all ministries. A set of common principles applied widely across the public administration can reduce the risk of a fragmented approach to public consultation, which bears the risk of discouraging citizens from becoming involved.
The experience with the Code of Practice on Consultation in the United Kingdom (see Box 4.6) shows that a clear set of principles can contribute to increasing the transparency, inclusiveness and efficiency of consultation activities.
Box 4.6. Guidance on consultation: The case of the United Kingdom
Prior to replacing it with the much shorter “Consultation Principles” in 2012, the United Kingdom had a detailed “Code of Practice on Consultation”, which aimed to “help improve the transparency, responsiveness and accessibility of consultations, and help in reducing the burden of engaging in government policy development.”
Although not legally binding, and only applying to formal, written consultations, the Code of Practice constitutes a good example of how a government can provide its civil servants with a powerful tool to improve the consultation process. The 16-page Code of Practice is divided into seven criteria, which are to be reproduced as below in every consultation.
Box 4.6. Guidance on consultation: The case of the United Kingdom (cont.)
- • Criterion 1. When to consult: Formal consultation should take place at a stage when there is scope to influence the policy outcome.
- • Criterion 2. Duration of consultation exercises: Consultations should normally last for at least 12 weeks, with consideration given to longer timescales where feasible and sensible.
- • Criterion 3. Clarity of scope and impact: Consultation documents should be clear about the consultation process, what is being proposed, the scope to influence and the expected costs and benefits of the proposals.
- • Criterion 4. Accessibility of consultation exercises: Consultation exercises should be designed to be accessible to, and clearly targeted at, those people the exercise is intended to reach.
- • Criterion 5. The burden of consultation: Keeping the burden of consultation to a minimum is essential if consultations are to be effective and if consultees’ buy-in to the process is to be obtained.
- • Criterion 6. Responsiveness of consultation exercises: Consultation responses should be analysed carefully and clear feedback should be provided to participants following the consultation.
- • Criterion 7. Capacity to consult: Officials running consultations should seek guidance on how to run an effective consultation exercise and share what they have learned from the experience.
Sources: UK Government (2016), Consultation principles 2016,
UK Government (2008), Code of conduct on consultation, www.bis.gov.uk/files/file47158.pdf.