Compacts between the Government and Third Sector in Great Britain and What Can We Learn from Them
The preparation of the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept (see http://www.ngo.ee) began in the early summer of 1999 with the aim of contributing to the development of a contemporary society of citizens and regulating the relations between the public and the non-profit sector.1
The process of regulating the relations between the public sector and the non-profit sector is closely tied to completion of a new paradigm in society and to its acceptance thereof by both sides. The co-operation agreements – or compacts – concluded in the end of 1998, in Great Britain between the governments and voluntary sectors of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are superb and well organised auxiliary materials in the preparation of the public and non-profit sector co-operation agreements and concepts. The experience acquired during the preparation and enforcement of these compacts is priceless not only for the British, but also for all other nations.2
Implementation of this experience, and our own commitment to the development of relations between these two sectors, depends only on our own will and knowledge. Due to the tender age of our new democracy several issues that our politicians and non-profit figures face must be handled differently in comparison to countries with developed democracies. The article compares the experience acquired during preparation of the Estonian Civil Society Development Concept to the experience acquired in the preparation of the British compacts.
The author describes the procedural and substantial issues that emerged during the preparation of the ECSDC by comparing the British experience to the Estonian. Concerning the first, the author looks at the structure of the non-profit sector process, inclusion of non-governmental organisations, and representation of the non-profit sector as well as the problems that emerged during the preparation of the ECSDC draft. According to the author, the British experience has been of big help in solving nearly all the described problems. In the part on substantial issues, the author emphasises that a clear determination of basic co-operation principles and good practices (formation of a common “language” to solve problems) as well as a clear institutionalisation of co-operation mechanisms is of utmost importance in today’s Estonia. The author also argues that a more thorough consideration of these issues in the ECSDC, in comparison to the British compacts, is necessary due to the underdevelopment and inadequate rooting of democratic practices in a transitional society. The author argues that, in spite of the fact that we have much to learn from the British compacts, the experience that we acquired during the preparation of ECSDC enriches our knowledge in this field. They are unique, despite the fact that we are living in a country that is still in the making, and has recently been released from a supremely centralised rule.
1See also – Memorandum of Co-operation Between Estonian Political Parties and Third Sector Umbrella Organisations: http://www.riigikogu.ee/rva/rito1/artiklid/summary.htm#10-1.
2The Scottish Compact (1998): http://www.scotland.gov.uk/library/documents-w3/comp-00.htm; Minutes of the Annual Meeting between Government and Representatives of the Voluntary and Community Sector to Review the Operation and Development of the Compact: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/acu/compmeet.htm