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Article

Agencification in Public Administration  

Koen Verhoest, Sandra van Thiel, and Steven F. De Vadder

Agencification is the creation of semi-autonomous agencies: organizations charged with public tasks like policy implementation, regulation, and public service delivery, operating at arm’s length from the government. Although not a new development, agencification became very popular from the 1980s on as part of the New Public Management reforms. Three types of agencies can be distinguished, based predominantly on their formal legal features. Type 1 agencies have some managerial autonomy but do not have their own legal identity separate from the state or their parent ministry. Type 2 agencies are organizations and bodies with managerial autonomy that have their own legal identity separate from the state or their parent ministry. Type 3 organizations have their own legal identity vested in, and defined by, private law and are established by, or on behalf of, the government in the form of a private law corporation, company, or a foundation, but they are predominantly controlled by government and are at least partially involved in executing public tasks. Specific characteristics of agencies differ between countries and findings show few systematic patterns: similar tasks are charged to different types of agencies. A crucial element in the functioning of agencies is the formal and de facto interplay of autonomy and control, and how this can be explained in a static and dynamic way. Studies about agencification list three main categories of its effects: economic, organizational, and political effects. However, there is still a lot that needs to be studied about agencification, its forms, and its effects.

Article

Financial Globalization and Domestic Policy Autonomy in Latin America  

Giselle Datz

Despite theoretical assumptions about the potential for financial liberalization in Latin America to foster economic growth, empirical developments revealed a different story. With financial liberalization came greater macroeconomic instability, exposing countries to financial crises even when domestic economic fundamentals were mostly in order. At the policy front, capital account liberalization posed crucial challenges to macroeconomic governance. Indeed, international political economy literature on financial globalization has highlighted that developing countries’ governments who chose to implement policies that contradicted financial markets’ expectations could be “disciplined” or “punished” by the threat of capital outflows. Yet, capital flows to emerging economies are not determined solely by domestic (push) factors. Even in the most extreme case of noncompliance with investors’ (creditors’) preferences—i.e., sovereign default—evidence shows that market re-access and the cost of new debt are a function of credit cycles rather than solely determined by investors’ decisions to “punish” defaulters. In addition, to the extent that the “market” can indeed be considered as a single analytical category, industry-specific incentives shape portfolio investors’ bets. Caveats also apply to how market reforms differed in nature and degree, even in Latin American countries subjected to similar external pressures. The same is true for policy responses to the 2008 financial crisis. These dynamics add necessary nuance to broad depictions of financial liberalization as a deterministic process unequivocally constraining domestic policy autonomy in predictable ways.

Article

Humanitarian Aid and the European Union  

Francesca Pusterla and Elia Pusterla

The European Union Humanitarian Aid Policy (EUHAP) operates through the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations Department (DG ECHO) in international humanitarian crises to help victims of man-made atrocities and natural catastrophes worldwide. EUHAP is a subject of vibrant debates given its sensitive scope of intervention and institutional uniqueness. This results, first, in discussions of the reason and legitimacy of humanitarian aid as well as the goals and impact on domestic politics of both donors and recipients. Second, EUHAP is institutionally provided with parallel competences that allow simultaneous and autonomous interventions of the European Union and Member States in humanitarian crises. This means that the EU and Member States can formally carry out independent humanitarian aid without obligation to coordinate. This makes EUHAP particularly relevant regarding the role of the EU as a humanitarian aid provider, the relations between the EU and Member States, the policy governance, and the policy implementation principles. First, coordination and cooperation between the EU and Member States are de facto essential, given the collective nature and global effects of humanitarian crises. Shared competence regulation through EUHAP may enhance the effectiveness of joint operations, overcome inefficient division of labor, and avoid divergence between intervention expected outcome and real performance. Second, parallel competences give to the EU the formal competence to carry out humanitarian actions and conduct a common policy, while Member States’ autonomous actions are not prevented. Indeed, despite the undeniable benefits of multilateral intervention, Member States may opt for bilateralism due to concerns for domestic autonomy and sovereignty breaches. Such collective action problems risk affecting policy coherence and effectiveness. Third, policy governance can make the difference in an effective and coherent EUHAP. This depends on the successful coordination of involved actors to avoid overlapping interventions, dispersion of resources, and particular political, economic, and bureaucratic interests to prevail. In so doing, Member States access the benefits of centralized coordination, monitoring, and division of labor and also avoid autonomy and sovereignty breaches. Fourth, the application of a costs/benefits rationale to common humanitarian interventions is not per se sufficient to ground and overcome the drawbacks of collective action and explain EUHAP. As per its Treaties, or in line with international humanitarian law, the EU adopts and pursues a humanitarian aid policy based on shared principles of solidarity, humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality.