When think-tanks make a difference …

January 11, 2012

A sample of cases highlighting where PASOS members have contributed to shaping public-policy decisions in 2011

 

Peace Institute campaign for “The Erased” hails major victory
For the past ten years, the Peace Institute in Slovenia has been actively engaged on the issue of “The Erased”, a group of people who were stripped of their legal status after the dissolution of Yugoslavia. The Institute continued its multi-pronged campaign in 2011. Activities included monitoring of government compliance with court rulings, documenting the stories of the affected people, and providing expert advice to the legal team fighting on behalf of “The Erased” before the European Court of Human Rights. This last component yielded a significant victory for the campaign in 2012, when the Court ruled that Slovenia had violated the rights of “The Erased.”

 

CRPM research helps curb undemocratic voting practices
Based on research and recommendations offered by the Center for Research and Policy Making in Macedonia, national and local government officials in Skopje adopted a “Strategy against Proxy and Family Voting and the Strategy for Gen der Equality of the City of Skopje”.  The strategy is credited with helping to curb family and proxy voting in the 2011 parliamentary elections.

Government to tackle “brain drain” in wake of CRPM project
After reviewing the results of Advocating for Brain Gain policies in Macedonia: Transforming Brain Gain, a study by the Center for Research and Policy Making and Grupa 484, the Macedonian Ministry of Education and Science announced it would create a programme to address the issue of skilled workers who leave the country for better jobs.

 

CASE completes technical assistance program for Azerbaijan
In the beginning of 2011, the Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE), Warsaw, completed a two-year technical assistance project in Azerbaijan. CASE experts provided high-quality policy advice and training services to the Ministry of Economic Development (MED). The aim of this mission was to upgrade the quality of economic policy-making process and enhance the institutional and human resources capacity of this key government agency. As a result, MED will have better technical capacity to diagnose the economic situation of the country and will be able to propose adequate policy responses. The scope of the mission tackled three main areas: macroeconomic policy (including monetary and fiscal policy, budget reform price stability), structural and investment policies, and social policy.

 

BCSP helps defeat legislation that threatened privacy
Joining forces with the Serbian Commissioner for Free Access to Information, the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), Serbia, successfully lobbied against the adoption of the “Law on Private Detectives”, which would have enabled an unprecedented infringement of the privacy of individuals and businesses in Serbia.

Book based on BCSP research named top publication in 2011
An information book used by three Serbian government security agencies that was based on the findings and analysis of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), Serbia, was named the best such publication produced in 2011 by the Ministry of Defence.

 

KCSF successfully lobbies for citizen referendum legislation
The Kosovo Civil Society Foundation (KCSF) was one of the main advocates pushing for the government of Kosovo to draft a law creating concrete procedures for citizens who want to enact legislation via referendum. Althought the Kosovo Constitution guarantees this right, there were no provisions for how to exercise the right. A number of governmental working group meetings on this law were held at KCSF premises, and the Foundation made several key contributions to the draft. By the second half of 2012, the Law of Legislative Initiatives was in the the last stages of Assembly discussions and it was expected to be approved, a step further in enabling Kosovar citizens to exercise their constitutional right of direct participation in decision-making.

 

European Commission includes CPS-CEU report in policy review publication
The findings of EDUMIGROM, a project led by the Center for Policy Studies at the Central European University, Hungary, which focused on education and marginalised youth, was featured in the European Commission’s series Evidence Based Policy Review, with the title “Social Inclusion of youth on the margins of society: More opportunities, better access and higher solidarity”. The series is used to highlight the recommendations from comparative studies funded by the European Union’s Framework Seven Research Programme.

 

AMO report inspires Austrian diplomats to commission additional study
The Austrian Embassy in Prague commissioned a study from the Association for International Affairs (AMO), Czech Republic, on the roots of the complicated state of Czech-Austrian relations after the think-tank released a report on Czech foreign policy. The diplomats were reacting to AMO’s finding that the Czech foreign policy elite view Austria more negatively than other neighbouring countries.

 

IPA voting reform goes into effect for parliamentary elections
Experts at the Institute of Public Affairs in Poland proposed a series of reforms to Polish electoral law (proxy voting and postal voting for elderly voters, voters with disabilities and voters abroad) which went into effect in 2011. More then 40,000 Poles used proxy or postal voting during the 2011 parliamentary elections.

EU members adopt IPA recommendations on volunteerism
Acting on a recommendation from the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs recognised volunteering to be an important factor in the development of social policy and made it one of the themes of the Polish EU Council Presidency. Moreover, on IPA’s recommendation (and with active participation of its analysts on the draft text elaboration) during the Polish EU Presidency, a joint declaration of the EU on the role of volunteering in social policy was developed. As a result, in October 2011 the EU Council Conclusions on the role of voluntary activities in social policy was adopted by the ministers of all member countries of the EU, one of the tangible results of the Polish presidency.

IPA contributes to Poland’s reform of its anti-drug legislation
Experts at the Insititute of Public Affairs participated in drafting Poland’s new Anti-Drug Act. The country’s approach to criminality and drug abuse was influenced by research the think-tank had conducted on the topic, including a cost-benefit analysis.

 

Azerbaijani government adopts CESD standards on IT and R&D
The State Committee on Standardisation, Metrology and Patents of Azerbaijan approved two new standards in information technologies and research and development that were  developed by the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD). The committee also approved 65 other standards based on policy recommendations developed by CESD.

Central bank accounces changes to mortgage lending rules
The Central Bank of Azerbaijan announced that it would adopt a series of reforms to its mortgage lending rules inspired by a set of recommendations issued by the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD), Azerbaijan. The CESD proposals called for a lowering of interest rates and reduction of paperwork, and it was expected that the number of mortgage approvals will double.

CESD proposal to simplify privatisation rules moves forward
The State Property Committee of Azerbaijan approved a plan by the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD) to create an e-privatisation system. The system enables people to participate in auctions on the privatisation of state property, the registration of real estate and other related activities through the internet. The recommendations were issued by CESD at its National Anti-Corruption Conference in Baku in July 2011.

 

Ukraine adopts ICPS recommendations on environmental protection law
A number of amendment bills proposed by the International Centre for Policy Study’s Energy and Environment Research Group were included in a final version of Ukraine’s National Environmental Protection Plan for 2011-2015. Using the findings of the “Strategy of Integration into the European Energy Community” project, ICPS experts concluded that measures to ensure the approximation of Ukraine’s legislation to the EU environmental acquis were not sufficiently elaborated in this Action Plan. Four of the five formulated amendments were accepted by the Parliament’s Committee and were applied to the text of this crucial bill.

 

 

A sample of cases highlighting where PASOS members have contributed to shaping public-policy decisions in 2010

 

Campaign for “The Erased” in Slovenia makes progress
For more than three years, The Peace Institute, Slovenia, has been working to restore the rights of thousands of Slovenians whose legal status was literally erased from official records in the 1990s, leaving them without citizenship and the benefits that come with such status.  The campaign yielded results in 2010, when the Slovenian Parliament passed amendents to the 1999 Act Regulating the Legal Status of Citizens of Former Yugoslavia Living in the Republic of Slovenia (ZUSDDD). Although the court-ordered changes did not address all of the issues affecting “The Erased”, the legislation was a landmark moment in the campaign to redress an historical injustice. The issue promises to continue to be a major one for the Peace Institute.

 

Government of Azerbaijan adopts anti-corruption recommendations
The government of Azerbaijan adopted a number of policy recommendations included in a package of reforms written by the Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD), Azerbaijan. For example, a presidential decree inspired by CESD’s Anti-Corruption Strategy for the Azerbaijan Republic simplified procedures and increased transparency in the customs department. The decree required the State Customs Committee, the Interior Ministry, and the Ministry of Justice to simplify procedures related to customs registration, automobile ownership, creating a permanent record of vehicles imported into the country, and providing certificates of state registration and state registration numbers for vehicles.

 

Creating a legal framework for democratic lobbying in the Czech Republic
Czech leaders’ efforts to adopt legislation regulating the lobbying of political representatives took a big step forward with help from the EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, Czech Republic. In 2010, EUROPEUM completed a two-year programme called “Regulation of Lobbying as the Right Direction towards a More Transparent and Corruption-Free Legislative Process”. The programme focused on how to create a legal framework for the practice in a manner that prevents lobbying from becoming anti-democratic. Their report was submitted to the government. Consequently, the Institute’s Executive Director was invited to participate in discussions with lawmakers on how to draft a lobbying law that is now under consideration.

 

Campaign boosts transparency of public decision-making in Moldova
A campaign to increase public awareness of the importance of having a transparent decision-making process in government agencies yielded quantifiable results for the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT, Moldova. ADEPT’s monitoring groups created reports on the agencies that resulted in decision-makers introducing more transparency into their activities.

 

Electoral reforms put into practice in Poland
Experts from the Institute of Public Affairs (ISP), Poland, co-operated in the preparation of the Polish Electoral Code. One of the most important achievements of the Institute in 2010 was the introduction into the Polish electoral law of procedures aiming to guarantee the principle of the universality of elections and to facilitate, by technical and organisational means, Polish citizens’ participation in elections (for instance, the introduction of the procedure of proxy voting for disabled and elderly people). The new system was put into practice in the 2010 presidential elections.

 

Recommendations adopted by Slovakia in EU compliance reports
Slovak officials used materials produced by the Research Centre of the Slovak Foreign Policy Association (RC SFPA), Slovakia, as they prepared documents for submission to the European Commission that outline the country’s progress in complying with EU standards. The EU-mandated reports, “Stability and Convergence Programme of the Slovak Republic up to 2012”, and “The National Reform Programme of the Slovak Republic 2011”, contain policy recommendations written by the Centre.

 

 

Housing report inspires co-operation with UN commission in Kazakhstan
Acting on recommendations made by the Public Policy Research Center (PPRC), Kazakhstan, the government invited the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe-Committee on Human Settlements to make an assessment of Kazakhstan’s housing sector. The prime minister also invited a PPRC team to assist with a state housing construction development programme.

 

 

Bringing gender equality to the security sector of Albania
The Institute for Democracy and (IDM), Albania, has been spearheading a multi-pronged campaign on gender-related issues within Albania’s security sector. The efforts bore fruit when the Union of Albanian State Police established the Forum of Women in the State Police. In addition, IDM assisted with the consolidation of Women in Albanian Armed Forces, an organisation established in the wake of the Institute’s ongoing advocacy efforts. IDM was invited by UNIFEM Albania to be a member of the Steering Committee for the Joint Programme on Gender Equality in Albania. These achievements follow an intensive programme of conferences, workshops, studies, policy briefs, monitoring reports, advocacy meetings, and more.

 

Connecting citizens and leaders in Latvia via online communications
In 2010, the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS, Latvia, sought to create a political communications vehicle that would bypass massive one-way political advertising, harness trends in social media, and enable direct one-on-one voter-candidate communications. PROVIDUS created and launched a new website, gudrasgalvas.lv, during the 2010 election cycle, providing direct communications opportunities to all parliamentary candidates. The site was highly successful, enabling thousands of conversations between candidates and voters. Following the elections, the site was revamped into a direct communications vehicle between Members of Parliament and citizens, creating a direct line of accountability to voters for each individual elected official.

 

Report on ministries’ engagement practices sets benchmarks for Estonia
In 2010, PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies, Estonia, completed an analysis of engagement practices for Estonian government ministries for the years 2007-2009. The objective was to map and analyse the overall performance of engagement practices in Estonian ministries. The ensuing report has become a baseline study on this topic that the ministries are using to draft studies for improving their engagement practices and to create benchmarks to measure improvements. Information from the study is also being incorporated into engagement-themed training programmes. In addition, data from the study was incorporated into an Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) analysis called Estonia – Towards a single government approach, part of the OECD’s Public Governance Reviews series.

 

Electoral reform plan boosts quality of elections in Moldova
Recommendations made by the Association for Participatory Democracy ADEPT, Moldova, for improving how the country conducts elections were adopted in 2010. International electoral monitoring groups reported that the three elections held under the new regulations (a September 2010 referendum, the November 2010 early parliamentary elections, and local elections in June 2011) were of higher quality than previous votes.

 

Campaign financing changes go into effect in Poland
The Institute of Public Affairs (ISP), Poland, prepared a package of legislative changes to render the system of financing presidential elections in Poland more transparent and more fair. The majority of changes proposed by the Institute were introduced in the recent amendment to the Presidential Election Bill and were approved by the Constitutional Court. The new law came into force at the end of December of 2009, and was put into practice during the presidential elections in 2010. The Institute also put forward a proposal of systemic changes regarding transparency and control over political party financing. The majority of changes proposed were introduced in the recent amendment to the Political Parties Bill and were approved by the Constitutional Court.

 

Public discussion groups inspire intiatives for peace in Georgia
The Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD), Georgia, together with its partners the Georgian Young Lawyers‘ Association (GYLA) and Saferworld (UK), initiated a series of public discussions, called “Planning for Peace Together”, in four regions of Georgia: Shida Kartli, Samtskhe-Javakheti, Kvemo Kartli, Samegrelo – as well as in the capital, Tbilisi. The main goal of these discussions was to promote constructive dialogue between local/national government and local authorities on how to manage key challenges for peace, security and stability, both specific to each of the four target regions and for the country as a whole, and to inform respectively policy- and decision-making process. Each discussion was filmed and broadcast on local television, and will form the basis for a range of local communications activities (e.g. expert policy discussions). A number of initatives and follow-up activities were agreed during the discussions.

 

NATO adopts recommendations for project monitoring in Ukraine
In 2011, the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS), Ukraine, offered a set of recommendations to the NATO Communications Department in Ukraine on project monitoring requirements. The main recommendation was to conduct a cause-and-effect analysis of steps already taken and of future actions. ICPS’s propositions were accepted and applied.

 

Voluntary associations forged to link up residents and city officials in Sofia
The Center for Economic Development (CED), Bulgaria, implemented the first phase of its “The Neighbour, I, and the Municipality” programme in 2010. Using the same principles used to create civil society groups, CED developed and implemented a plan to organise resident-owners of flats into voluntary associations. They launched the project in three Sofia-area districts, helping the newly registered groups adopt EU best practices in building management and maintenance. More importantly, the groups helped residents connect with their city government.

 

EU Insitution-building programme for Ukraine built on study’s conclusions
The conclusions and recommendations of Assessment of the Ukrainian Government’s capacity to organise implementation of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, a 2009-2010 study by the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS), Ukraine, were presented to the Ukrainian Government in 2010. They were then included in a resolution by the Ukrainian part of the EU-Ukraine Co-operation Committee, the official bilateral co-operation institution. Subsequently, these conclusions and recommendations were used in the design, planning and implementation of the EU’s Comprehensive Institution Building Programme for Ukraine. The purpose of the second phase of this project was to draw up an institution-building plan for market surveillance as a pilot sector. The methodology and templates provided by ICPS to the State Consumer Protection Authority were subsequently accepted and applied.

 

Provincial land reform plan adopted by Donetsk Oblast Council
The Donetsk Oblast Council adopted in a plenary session a Land Reform Implementation Plan for 2011-2012, based on the plan proposed by the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS), Ukraine. The plan contains three main reform components: drafting a document on the reform of public consultations; carrying out an institutional and fiscal audit of central executive bodies mandated to implement the reform; and establishing a civic platform of support for the reform and engaging municipalities in monitoring land reform implementation.

 

Research lays foundation for rural anti-poverty project in Azerbaijan
Inspired by research conducted by the Economic Research Center (ERC), Azerbaijan, the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population (MLSPP) launched an anti-poverty pilot programme in the Vahidli village of Tovuz. Officials met with representatives from ERC ahead of starting the programme, and offered ERC the opportunity to monitor the project. The institute’s research examined the country’s Targeted Social Assistance (TSA) efforts, and proposed a series of reforms intended to help lift rural Azeris out of poverty, while addressing national macroeconomic concerns about such welfare programmes. Similiar pilot projects are now planned for the country’s Masalli, Ismayilli, and Guba districts.

 

Analysis of public services feeds into regulatory standards in Kyrgyzstan
The government of Kyrgyzstan is using recommendations and data from an analytical study by the Center for Public Policy (CPP), Kyrgyzstan, of the country’s public service sector. The document is also being consulted as a new set of standards are being drafted to regulate municipal services throughout the country.

 

Influencing the direction of a legal framework for NGOs in Kosovo
Working with a coalition of like-minded NGOs, the Kosovar Civil Society Foundation (KCSF), Kosovo, successfully lobbied against elements in a proposed law that would have crippled the efforts of NGOs in the nascent republic. Afterwards, KCSF monitoring groups sustained the pressure on officials working on legislation to create a legal framework for NGOs in Kosovo. They also targeted selected parliamentarians for lobbying efforts. The approach yielded the passage of a law acceptable to the NGO community.

 

Environmental protection plan for Ukraine incorporates recommendations
A number of amendment bills proposed by the Energy and Environment Research Group of the International Centre for Policy Studies (ICPS), Ukraine, were included in a final version of Ukraine’s National Environmental Protection Plan for 2011-2015. Using the findings of the “Strategy of Integration into the European Energy Community” project, ICPS experts concluded that measures to ensure the approximation of Ukraine’s legislation to the EU environmental acquis were not sufficiently elaborated in this Action Plan. Four of the five formulated amendments were accepted by the parliamentary committee, and were applied to the text of this crucial bill.

 

Estonian Integration Strategy project moves forward on implementation
In 2007, PRAXIS Center for Policy Studies, Estonia, helped to prepare the Estonian Integration Strategy. Policy recommendations were made about implementing integration policies on the local level. The main focus in 2010 was on analysis of the implementation of the Integration Strategy, and on consultations for the drafting of the implementation plan covering the years 2011–13 of the strategy. The implementation plan was updated in close co-operation with the appropriate target groups and stakeholders, and the responsible institutions: PRAXIS led six thematic discussion seminars, three regional round-table discussions, and a survey of target groups, all together engaging 200 people. Those activities have led the integration policy towards more engaging policymaking. PRAXIS has observed positive results also in the emergence of clearly focused policies and action plans that take into account the actual needs of target groups as well as the latest experience and best practices of integration activities.

 

Czech government adopts ideas gleaned from foreign policy non-paper
From October to December 2010, a team of analysts from the Association for International Affairs (AMO), and the EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy, Czech Republic, co-ordinated by the director of AMO’s Research Center, produced an alternative concept of Czech foreign policy in the form of a non-paper. The non-paper was unveiled at a joint event with the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs, Karel Schwarzenberg, on 17 January 2011.When the Czech Republic’s new foreign policy concept was unofficially released in May 2011, a team of AMO analysts composed a critique that was provided to the Ministry as an expert view on the document. Several critical comments were then applied in the final version of the document.

 

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