Making government more reflexive: the role of regulatory impact assessment

J. Hertin

Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU

Abstract

The thesis explores whether and how analytical activities during the policy formulation process - typically referred to as Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) - contribute to a reorientation of policy-making towards the goals of sustainable development. During the 1990s and the 2000s, many OECD countries introduced, extended or formalised proce-dures for RIA. Many of these reforms also stated to aim at giving more regard to sus-tainability issues. In the political science literature on environmental policy integration, such appraisal procedures have been considered as an important instrument to ensure that environmental effects of new measures play a more prominent role in decision-making processes.

Based on extensive empirical analysis involving a review of all RIA procedures in the EU as well as 59 case studies of individual assessments, the research aims to establish to what extent and under what conditions these procedures contribute to sustainable de-velopment in practice.

The research finds that RIA offers opportunities to give more prominence to ecological concerns in sectoral policy-making practice, but also contains a considerable risk that narrow assessment practices contribute to sidelining sustainable development. The re-search observes not only a large implementation gap, but reveals that even in cases where a substantial RIA is undertaken, the process functions very differently from what has been envisioned both in guidance documents and in the environmental policy inte-gration literature. After analysing the actual roles of assessment knowledge in policy processes, the study concludes that the positivist perspective underlying both theory and practice of policy appraisal is inadequate to account for its political and practical uses.

The thesis then moves on to adopt the more post-positivist perspective of reflexive gov-ernance which implies a fundamentally different set of expectations about the uses and effects of policy appraisal. By reinterpreting the empirical material from this theoretical lens, the study finds considerable potential for RIA to serve as a reflexive governance arrangement, but also identifies a number of structural limitations. Five approaches for making RIA more reflexive are identified: focusing on the function of opening up rather than closing down decision-making; increasing participation; defining process rather than material standards; extending the appraisal towards frame reflexivity; and understanding RIA as boundary work. The thesis concludes with the argument that the reflexive gov-ernance literature should not only develop and study new government arrangements outside the core institutions of representative democracies, but undertake more efforts to identify opportunities to reshape the working of the classical-modernist institutions in more reflexive ways to foster more integrative and sustainable policy-making/to improve environmental governance.

Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Wageningen University
Supervisors/Advisors
  • Feindt, Peter, Promotor
Award date16 Feb 2016
Place of PublicationWageningen
Publisher
Print ISBNs9789462576384
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • administrative law
  • administration
  • european union
  • sustainability
  • policy
  • sustainable development
  • eu regulations
  • regulations

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