An open and inclusive Public Consultation process in policy-making is considered an international best practice for nations seeking to consistently implement responsive, appropriate, and effective legislation and policy. Studies from reputed sources such as the OECD, The New Zealand Government and The World Bank all stress the importance of identifying and including key stakeholders and public interest groups to creating effective law and policy.
Public Consultation allows law-makers to gain a broader perspective, balance bias, and benefit from exposure to additional expertise in the drafting of legislation and policy. This creates a greater breadth and depth of understanding of the issues the policy is meant to address and the context in which it will be implemented.
This practice not only leads to better policy, it also creates a culture of transparency and promotes a greater sense of trust and cohesion within the public. A Public that better understands, trusts, and has a stake in the lawmaking process will more readily buy-in to the result making implementation and enforcement easier and often cheaper.
The tendency for public backlash against policies not brought for consultation is evident in the Bahamas with the resistance against the controversial Interception of Communications Bill 2017, nicknamed the “Spy Bill” and the no less contentious Employment and Industrial Relations Amendment Bills 2017. Likewise, lawmakers have benefited from public consultation in the cases of legislation and policy such as Freedom of Information and the implementation of Value Added Tax.
The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) joins a coalition of Civil Society Groups to call for a standard process of public consultation in the policy-making and legislative processes, especially in the cases of legislation, policies or developments that would utilize public resources and/or significantly impact the environment.
In the interest of fostering more inclusive, democratic and transparent legislative and development processes ORG and its partners have outlined specific steps drawn from international best practice that the government can take to ensure the consultation, review and input of the Bahamian public.
The joint position paper recommends that government issue a “Green paper” or a discussion document at the outset of the policy-making process showing the reasons and context for a particular policy and follow with public review and input both before and after the bill is proposed to Cabinet, providing ample opportunities for stakeholders to assess and generate substantive, constructive feedback.
For More on ORG’s stance on Public Consultation see our joint Position Paper.