If there is political will displayed to enter an international agreement or to take on certain obligations, there are steps that can be taken to achieve real benefits and avoid whitewashing. These include ensuring the adoption of an evidence-based policy in advance of any finalisation of agreements.

Inform citizens about the agreement/obligation that is considered.

  • Share the information about the intended action with citizens in a timely manner. That way, they have enough time to familiarize themselves with the idea.
  • Explain what the intended action means, and what its implications and benefits are. Translate the document to the local language and publish it with explanations.
  • Assign a lead to answer questions about the document, and conduct a proper information campaign to share the news about these processes.

Conduct public consultations.

  • Allow interested parties to participate throughout the process. In the beginning, encourage the submission of suggestions, comments and recommendations. Throughout the process, enable monitoring, and try to build mutual ownership of the process. A multisectoral group can be asked to: i) share their expertise, skills and resources ii) offer feedback on the process iii) Identify the practices that might hamper implementation iv) point to existing good practices.
  • Hold a parliamentary hearing on the process and include any emergent conclusions in the decision making process. Open offline and online channels of communication, where the intended action will be presented and opened for questions, comments and suggestions. Keep in mind that not everyone uses online tools and that input from that offline constituency is also valuable.
  • Draft public guidelines on how output from consultations will be presented to and processed by the government. This can help assure people that their suggestions are taken seriously, and that they have a real chance to influence the process. These guidelines can also make it clear that there are certain suggestions (e.g. any that decrease the scope of human rights) that will not be incorporated.

Screen institutional capacities.

  • Identify the tasks, competencies and resources needed for completing the agreed-upon activities. Then identify the leading institution, section and responsible employee(s).
  • Conduct a training needs assessment, and communicate with responsible teams about the mission and their specific obligations within the timeline and expected output.
  • Establish communication channels and reporting mechanisms within the institution and across institutions involved.

Analyze the effects.

  • Conduct analyses (e.g. economic, social, environmental, administrative) with stakeholders and directly affected groups in order to identify potential impacts of the policy.
  • Develop safety measures or alternative solutions for achieving goals in case the impact analysis shows potential negative impacts.
  • Share the information that comes out of the evaluation, including plans for handling any risks that might have been identified

Develop the policy.

  • Summarise and publish results from the process in a final report.
  • After a final consultation, develop the policy. Before finalising the policy, give stakeholders another opportunity to give final suggestions and voice their preferences regarding the offered solutions.

This policy process can result in: an understanding of country preparedness to step into an intended agreement or obligation; an overview of problems and solutions related to the commitment(s); a proposal for a different approach - in the cases where solutions are not found -, postponing entrance into the agreement or taking over obligations until the conditions are met.