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Participation in policy making, whose responsibility is it ?

I recently completed  the Diplo Foundation Internet Governance Advanced course in Privacy (Aug 2012) and the Introduction to Policy Research (Nov 2012). My project proposal sought to draw attention to the quality of the stakeholder consultation process as a precursor to legislative changes. Specific focus was given to the HIPCAR project on St. Kitts-Nevis which has resulted in proposed and in some cases actual legislative changes in the interception of communications, e-commerce,  transactions, Privacy and Data Protection and Freedom of Information legislation.

Given the widespread impact on society I’m of the view that consultation on these issues should be wide and deep. The question is whom do you invite to the table and for how long you should discuss before decisions are taken. Is it the governments’ responsibility to ensure that a wide cross section of society take part in these discussions ? How exactly is that done ?

The Government of St. Kitts-Nevis and the ITU have sent out invitations (open invitations) to attend a Stakeholder Consultation Workshop to review the legislative frameworks on Privacy & Data Protection and Freedom of Information. The objectives of the workshop are to review the proposals for reform of the aforementioned frameworks to facilitate harmonization in accordance with HIPCAR Model Policy Guidelines and Legislative Text, taking into consideration the national requirements and regional models. The workshop is scheduled for April 29th and 30th.

 

Short of holding peoples’ hands, how does one ensure that the workshop enjoys the wide cross section of participation that is required. My concern is whether the stakeholders, private sector, NGO’s, private citizens, students, all the stakeholders that will be directly affected by the proposed changes participate at the point when their input or voices can make a difference. Or will the workshop be largely comprised of representatives from the various government departments. Then six months down the road we complain that we were not consulted.

 

As a public, we demand that we are consulted when laws are being drafted. This demand must be met by an equally enthusiastic participation in the lengthy, sometimes tedious policy making decision journey if we want to be in a position to impact the process.

This reminds me of the Internet Governance process, everyone has an opinion on how the IG issues should play out, but not all of us want to be involved in the lengthy, tedious policy making multi stakeholder process.

I will provide a follow up report on the workshop.

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Comment by Trevor A. Phipps on June 1, 2013 at 12:30pm

The workshop was attended by about 25-30 persons, with about 6 of us coming from the private sector. The other participants were largely from government or government owned corporations.

The level of discussion indicated that there is deep concern surrounding the Privacy and Data Protection and Access to Information. The term Freedom of Information was changed to Access to information since it was felt that the word freedom may give the wrong impression.

Concerns raised included independence of the enforcing agency, ability of the agency to enforce regulations, reluctance of staff to document given that documents may be subject to Access to Information laws, applicability of laws to public and private entities, can a private entity be forced to comply with access to information laws, standardization of data models across government departments to facilitate sharing and clear defi it ions of what is personal data.

The workshop resulted in several amendments and recommended changes to the draft legislation and a call for wider discussion with the general public.

What was  disappointing for me is the lack of representation from the private sector.

The ICT department and the HIPCAR project team must be commended for their persistence.

The ultimate goal is to have legislation presented that meets international standards while addressing local concerns.

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