Title: Intersectoral policy co-ordination in the making of sustainable development policy in Flanders
Authors: Bussels, Matthias
Bachus, Kris #
Issue Date: 2011
Conference: International Sustainable Development Research Conference edition:17 location:New York date:8-10 May 2011
Abstract: The attention dedicated to policy co-ordination has a two-fold origin. On the one hand the subject has always received ample attention in studies investigating the efficiency, effectiveness and quality of public policy, as evidenced by its nomination as the “philosopher’s stone” or “holy grail” of public administration (see for example 6, Leat, Seltzer and Stoker, 2002; Alexander, 1995; Anderson, 1996; Jennings and Krane, 1994; Peters, 1998). In general it can be observed that the need for policy co-ordination, be it intersectoral or intrasectoral, increases as processes of New Public Management are introduced. The intense specialisation and creation of single-purpose organisations which makes up the core of NPM-transformations compartmentalises public policy. This has led to counter-active initiatives (post-NPM) such as “whole-of-government”, “joined-up government”, “horizontalism” or “reviewing the centre” which all emphasize horizontal collaboration and integrated service delivery between public organisations and government levels as essential to “good policy” (see Bouckaert, Peters and Verhoest, 2010; Christensen and Laegreid, 2006). Co-ordation in this perspective ranges from co-ordination between organisations pertaining to the same policy field, co-ordination between these fields, co-ordination between policy levels and public participation in designing public policy.

This already widely studied subject has, on the other hand, merely increased its appeal following the rising importance of sustainable development on the international agenda. Although the concerns regarding “good policy” such as the avoidance of lacunae, overlap, incoherence, etc… have a role to play in the logic of sustainable development (in a minimalistic interpretation: to restrict waste production and to economise government spending), the focal point of concern regards the vertical segregation of Western public policy in isolated “silos”. This impedes sustainable development as it contradicts with the holistic foundations of the concept (Persson, 2004; Robinson and Tinker, 1998, Schnurr, 1998). At the core of sustainable development features the interconnectedness of social life, economic prosperity and environmental integrity, both on a global and a intergenerational scale. Integration across departmental sectors can therefore be regarded as one of the core operational principles of sustainable development (Connor & Dovers, 2004; Jordan, 2008; Lafferty, 2002; Lenschow, 2002). Policy co-ordination as inspired by sustainable development therefore implies a reshuffling of priorities that are at the heart of any public policy measure. As to the degree and extent of this “reprioritisation", academic opinions differ. Some boast environmental policy integration, while others emphasise the centrality of holism. Some stress the priority of sustainability issues over regular economic concerns, while others aim at a principled equality of competing interests (see Jordan and Lenschow, 2008; Lafferty, 2002; Nilsson and Eckerberg, 2009; Persson, 2004). Without taking position in this discussion, we will look into the question how such a reprioritisation can come about.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IMa
Appears in Collections:Research Group Sustainable Development
# (joint) last author

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