Stakeholder Engagement in Regulatory Policy

Regulatory Policy Outlook, OECD Publishing, 2015

62 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2015

Date Written: November 15, 2015


Regulatory policy has traditionally been tackled from the top down, that is to say, from the perspective of regulators (bureaucrats, officials, politicians) rather than from the perspective of the regulatees (citizens, businesses, consumers). Amid contemporary challenges of representative democracies, such as civic disaffection and increased distrust of political parties, OECD countries are progressively recognizing the importance of public engagement in policymaking. In particular, a process of communication, consultation and participation that allows for the public engagement of stakeholders in different phases of the policy cycle is increasingly perceived as fundamental in understanding citizens’ and other stakeholders’ needs and improve trust in government. While the rationale underpinning stakeholder engagement varies among countries, this is generally pursued to help policymakers to collect more information and resources - thus enhancing the evidence base of regulations, - increase compliance and render more legitimate the outcome of the regulatory process. As a result new forms of public participation and engagement are emerging - within the framework of our representative democracies - that open new avenues for citizens to participate more fully in policymaking.

Despite some notable achievements resulting from this new impetus, evaluations of current practices suggest that public engagement has not yet become part of the policy process. Traditional engagement mechanisms, such as consultation, coexist with new initiatives that have not yet turned into mainstream policymaking. Enabling citizens and other stakeholders to become progressively more involved in the regulatory process does not automatically lead to a renaissance of citizen participation in governmental affairs. Lack of awareness, low participation literacy and information overload represent major obstacles to effective public participation and engagement. Given its potential in democratising civic involvement in policymaking, the rapid advancement of information and communication technology might help overcome these flaws.

However, the current practices of digital engagement have not changed the landscape of public participation. With a few exceptions, policymakers have not embraced digitally enabled technologies to promote new forms of public engagement, but have rather turned to digital technologies to make pre-existing procedures more efficient. Even though digital engagement is a complement not a substitute of conventional practices, it might assist in developing a participatory model of policymaking in which governments not only recognize but also capture the value of public opinion in helping to identify problems and identify solutions so as to turn citizens in valued partners in the policymaking process. In order to do so governments must design cost effective and participatory, bottom-up public engagement mechanisms tailored not only to their needs but also to those of all stakeholders, especially those who lack expertise and who have limited government literacy. It is indeed becoming increasingly clear that if governments want to regain the trust of their societies, they must capture, then listen to, the perception of regulation by its users all along the policy cycle. Yet genuine co-production and co-evaluation of policy require major shifts in the culture and engagement of both policymakers and citizens. While civil servants need to acquire new skills so as to actively channel, engage and moderate public inputs, the public must develop a new orientation towards the public good. In sum, both systemic and cultural barriers to meaningful engagement must be addressed.

At the time in which it appears increasingly clear that regulatory policy needs to be shaped by users as much as by officials and politicians, this report provides a comparative analysis of the policies, institutional mechanisms and structures as well as methodologies and examples of stakeholder engagement in regulatory policy. It reflects the current situation of the practices in stakeholder engagement in regulatory policy in OECD and provides some insights for the future.

Keywords: democratic legitimacy, participatory democracy, public consultation, referendum, petition, deliberative mini-publics, Technology Industry, Political Systems and Analysis, National Governance, ICT Policy and Strategies, Parliamentary Government

JEL Classification: K19, K33

Suggested Citation

Alemanno, Alberto, Stakeholder Engagement in Regulatory Policy (November 15, 2015). Regulatory Policy Outlook, OECD Publishing, 2015, Available at SSRN:

Alberto Alemanno (Contact Author)

HEC Paris ( email )

1 Rue de la libération


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