AuthorHajnal, Gyorgy
  1. Introduction

    In recent decades, the practice of governance and the literature on public policy design and implementation have shifted their focus from the state as the central policymaker to more participatory forms (Howlett, 2014, p. 192). One of several concepts exemplifying this general shift is collaborative governance (CG), understood here as the conscious and systematic application of various institutional arrangements for involving non-state actors in policy processes (Ansell and Gash, 2007, p. 544). Recently, this approach has been increasingly deployed in many (Western) countries and policy fields, maybe most prominently in health and social services (Rees, Mullins and Bovaird, 2012) where an increasing number of services are provided through co-production with non-profit sector involvement (Brandsen and Hout, 2006, p. 538).

    Turning to Central-Eastern Europe (CEE), however, a markedly different picture appears. First, it is argued that NGOs in CEE are weaker than their Western counterparts, as has been the case since the systemic change in 1989-1990 (Howard, 2003). Besides this 'base-line' difference, however, a new and remarkable trend seems to be emerging in some of the region's countries. As part of a more general turn away from liberal democratic values, virtues and governance practices, it seems that in certain countries of CEE, the (non-deliberate) lack of NGO development and accompanying co-governance practices is evolving into deliberate underdevelopment. Behind this new trend, it is not hard to discern a change in government policy from simple disregard to outright hostility, at least with regard to certain types of NGOs and certain forms of involving them.

    Scholars writing about this emerging pattern of development in the region usually focus on two countries: Hungary and Poland. Importantly, both countries are prime examples of a far broader political turn, denoted variously as de-democratization (Agh, 2015), democratic deconsolidation (Foa and Mounk, 2017), autocratization (Luhrmann and Lindberg, 2019), to mention but a few terms, and illiberalism (Hajnal and Rosta, 2016; Zakaria, 1997) (1).

    This new illiberal turn, featuring an apparently determined crackdown on certain NGOs, is still largely unexplored in terms of its implications for CG. Much of the literature on CG refers to it as though it emerges, albeit enabled by the institutional infrastructure and partly driven by the incentive system created by governments, to a significant extent spontaneously. We argue that CG is not necessarily spontaneous; on the contrary, governments can and do undertake conscious actions facilitating or preventing CG. We pursue two closely related ambitions. Firstly, our theoretical ambition is to develop a classification of collaborative governance regimes (CGRs, for conceptualization of the term see section 2.2.). Secondly, we wish to better understand how illiberal governance affects CG.

    Below we present a comparative case study of the drug policy areas in four countries in CEE: Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia. While these countries share many historical, cultural and political features, one essential difference is the recent illiberal turn occurring in Hungary and Poland.

    In section 2 we briefly review the relevant parts of the literature dealing with CG, in order to derive a conceptual and analytical framework with which to describe and compare the regimes presented in our examples. To delimit and justify our research objective, in section 3 we summarize the latest research on how NGOs are involved in policymaking in CEE. Section 4 outlines our research question, and the data and method used to answer it. Section 5 presents the empirical findings. The paper concludes with a brief discussion of the results.

  2. Collaborative governance: conceptualization and operationalization

    2.1. Collaboration, collaborative governance and collaborative governance regimes

    Various forms of governance involving non-state actors have gained scholarly attention in the last three decades. Due to the increasing emergence of wicked policy problems (Head and Alford, 2015), the failure of hierarchical governments to address international issues (Bingham, 2011, p. 386), and criticism of the intra-governmental focus of New Public Management (Osborne, 2006, p. 380), public management has significantly shifted from hierarchical government to more participatory policymaking. Collaborative governance is one of the prominent approaches grasping this shift.

    Collaboration, briefly, can be defined as a situation where 'a group of autonomous stakeholders of a problem domain engage in an interactive process, using shared rules, norms, and structures, to act or decide to act on issues' (Gray and Wood, 1991, p. 146), although many other, largely similar definitions exist (Bedwell et al., 2012, p. 130; Bryson, Crosby and Stone, 2006, p. 44).

    However, the number of conceptual works on collaborative governance is far lower. While some authors use the term in a narrower sense (Ansell and Gash, 2007) a broader conceptualization defines it as 'the processes and structures of public policy decision making and management that engage people constructively across the boundaries of public agencies, levels of government, and/or the public, private and civic spheres in order to carry out a public purpose that could not otherwise be accomplished' (Emerson, Nabatchi and Balogh, 2012, p. 2). This concept of CG does not imply being initiated by public/governmental actors, nor does it exclude informal arrangements. In this study, we apply this definition.

    The concept of collaborative governance regime (CGR) was recently developed by Emerson and Nabatchi (2015) as a reasonably coherent and stable system of government policies and government actions that shape and affect CG. What we call CGR corresponds, to a large extent, to Emerson and Nabatchi's (2015) 'system context' (a broader category encompassing the environment where CGR occurs). In other words, in our approach, CGR includes: (i) the political and policy environment of CG, and (ii) the government actions undertaken within CG processes.

    Consequently, we attempt to conceptualize and operationalize CGRs which support CG arrangements to a varying extent, including regimes designed to undermine CG development (for details see Table 1). Our analytical framework was developed to enable differentiation between such understood CGRs.

    2.2. Analytical framework

    Based on a broad array of literature describing state--NGO interactions in policymaking, we have identified a number of analytical variables operationalizing key features of CGRs.

    The first set of analytical variables includes those describing the political and policy environment of CG.

    --Operational space refers to 'possibilities and freedoms for NGOs to operate' (van der Borgh and Terwindt, 2012, p. 1069), and thus includes the extent of state protection of NGOs' rights to make claims vis-a-vis the government, the legal and policy framework and the political context in which NGOs operate.

    --System stability relates to the extent to which the operational environment of NGOs and CG (including legal and policy frameworks) is subject to unpredictable, uncontrollable and/or frequent changes. Such changes tend to destabilize the environments in which CG takes place (Bryson, Crosby and Stone, 2006). On the other hand, it is argued that high system stability increases the effectiveness of inter-organizational networks (Provan and Milward, 1995).

    The second set of analytical variables refers to substantive features of CG, i.e. the government actions undertaken to initiate and maintain CG processes:

    --Mechanisms for involving NGOs in policy formulation and design. In addition to organizational forms, this dimension includes mechanisms (e.g. public consultations, round tables, coordination fora, etc.) for involving NGOs in policy formulation and design.

    --Mechanisms for involving NGOs in policy implementation. This dimension includes mechanisms (e.g. tenders, contracting, etc.) for involving NGOs in policy implementation. It also involves factors potentially hindering effective policy implementation.

    --Indirect resources variable refers to the non-earmarked financial resources available for NGOs to fulfil their tasks (while revenues received for direct service provision, for example, would be classified differently as direct resources). Such resources come in a variety of forms, e.g. tax concessions (corporate as well as personal income tax) or external (international) funding administered by national governments. Other factors being constant, the munificence of such financial resources has a positive impact on the effectiveness of collaborations (although abundant resources alone are no guarantee of effectiveness or efficiency) (Provan and Milward, 1995), and on their sustainability (Sharfman, Gray and Yan, 1991).

    --Direct resources refer to the amount of earmarked government funding provided in exchange for specific activities or provision of specific public services (such as direct earmarked financial support or service contracts). Similar to indirect resources, there is a supposed positive relationship between the munificence of direct financial resources and the effectiveness and sustainability of CG. This dimension also includes ways of allocating resources, e.g. transparency and merit-based as opposed to politically or ideologically driven, or clientelist.

    --Joint operating procedures refer to the degree to which the two sectors are aligned and mutually adjusted in terms of operations and decision-making processes and procedures aiming to achieve common goals (Tatcher, 2007 apud McNamara, 2012, p. 393), the degree of inclusiveness and participation of various non-governmental stakeholders in decision-making (McNamara, 2012), and measures for the empowerment of the least powerful participants (Bryson, Crosby and Stone, 2006).


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