Advisory Councils as a Form of Participation
Standing advisory councils are a cooperation form with quite a long tradition for a country like Estonia; the first such advisory bodies were established already in the early 1990s.
PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies did the analysis to map advisory councils and identify common criteria.
The role of an advisory council in policy formation process is somewhat different. There are those playing primarily a strategic role – the council has actively participated in the creation of the field strategy and law-making. Other councils may also have a strategic orientation, but on a more general level, not so strongly tied or limited to the specific drafts of policy documents. Members of advisory councils are representatives of various sectors, citizens’ associations, in addition to the public sector and often organisations and researchers. Depending on the main addressee of the council – Government of the Republic, minister or ministry – the bodies with the so-called high-level and broader membership can be distinguished.
In general, the officials as well as the representatives of non-governmental organisations are mostly satisfied with the results of the work of advisory councils. The officials and representatives of associations underlined the advantages of this form of participation, including their permanent nature (more effective than temporary work groups), an opportunity to obtain various opinions and knowledge, broader discussion of decisions, direct exchange of information and feedback to one’s work.
In conclusion, the following circumstances can be outlined which make the advisory council unique compared to other forms of participation and cooperation: established on the basis of the legislation; improves the transparency of the decisions; permanence and longevity of the advisory body; enables to accomplish the highest form of partnership.
In addition, the advisory council enables explaining to the interest groups of the field the opinions of the ministry and the state and share the decision-making right with the organisations and experts operating in the field (e.g. funding decisions, trends).
The article also highlights recommendations for the functioning of an advisory body.