Although citizens’ and stakeholders’ involvement has not been new for some areas of the Austrian administration, common quality standards of public administration did not previously exist. Especially at local and regional level there is a tradition of public participation. At federal level only a few examples can be found, mainly in the field of environmental protection and sustainability. Participation of interest groups (e.g. social partners) in the law-making process is well established in the Austrian parliamentarian culture; however, citizens are hardly ever involved in policies, plans or programmes. This leads to the fact that, due to the lack of experience and exchange, every public administration deciding to run a public participation process is reinventing the wheel over and over again. Some principles and minimum standards (e.g. eight-week time limit to provide comments) are drawn up by the EU Commission (among others KOM (2002)704). One of the Good Practices in Europe, the British ‘Code of Practice on Consultation’, offers a valuable background and also inspired the discussion on the Austrian ‘Standards of Public Participation’. Following the example of the United Kingdom, an interministerial working group - with the participation of NGOs, external experts and interest groups - developed the ‘Standards of Public Participation’.
This project was introduced by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (promotion of sustainability) in cooperation with the Federal Chancellery. The ‘Standards for Citizen Involvement’ should offer guidelines to public servants who want to involve citizens in the development of high quality plans, programmes, policies or laws. The standards are supposed to be recommendations for good practice and should be used in the future as a matter of routine. The ‘Standards of Public Participation’ deliver an institutional framework to promote transparency, consultation and involvement in decision-making by offering quality standards for the procedure. They are already broadly communicated and accepted by the key actors and users of the ‘Standards of Public Participation’, since they were included in the development process. The ‘Standards of Public Participation’ also deliver a policy framework since the Council of Ministers has decided to recommend the use of the Standards in all fields of public administration. The ‘Standards of Public Participation’ professionalise the process of public involvement and thereby raise the quality of the process, and by this, its result.
The Austrian Standards for Citizen Involvement were recommended for use by the Council of Ministers on 2 July 2008. The Standards have already been in use since summer 2008. In 2009 an IT platform following the model of the ‘Your voice in Europe’ platform of the European Commission (www.europa.eu.int/yourvoice) will be developed. There the public will be able to access all running public participation processes as well as the documentations of the completed processes.
|Award category:||citizen involvement|
|Sector:||Public administration, modernisation, institutional affairs, reform|
|Type of activity:|
|Keywords:||Participation standards, good governance, legal instruments, open government|
|Short English description:||The ‘Standards of Public Participation’ professionalise the process of public involvement and thereby raise the quality of the process, and by this, its result|
|Organisation:||Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management|
|Level of government:||national level|
|Size of organisation:||>100|
|Number of people involved:|
|EU membership:||EU member|