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Methods to analyse the coherence of policies

Policy coherence can be defined as the systematic promotion of mutually reinforcing policies across government departments to create synergies towards achieving agreed objectives and to avoid or minimize negative spillovers in other policy areas. Issues of policy coherence may arise between different types of public policies, different levels of government or between different stakeholders. Next to these issues on national level, issues of policy coherence can also occur on the international level.

There are three main approaches towards assessing the coherence of policies:

  • Analytical approaches: Modelling of cause-and-effect relations
  • Participatory approaches: Involving stakeholders
  • Knowledge management: collection and processing of data

Methodological approaches of all three dimensions can also be combined. Moreover, there are software solutions available to support the analysis. For example, system dynamics models can be used to support an analytical approach towards the assessment of policy coherence. The software application iModeler is a simple version of such a model. Knowledge management can be fostered with the help of wiki software, e.g. Semantic Media Wikis, which also allow for an inclusion of analytical methods. Moreover, software applications can support participatory approaches. EiDos is one example for software solutions that are designed to structure and process the results of stakeholder discussions.

Besides, the OECD has developed guidelines on the assessment of policy coherence in a trade-related context on the international level. The OECD observed that domestic policies that are implemented in advanced or emerging economies may also have an impact on the development prospects of lower-income countries. Hence, these domestic policies may undermine development objectives as well as the effectiveness of international development cooperation efforts (OECD 2013). Policy Coherence for Development (PCD) is seen as a process that has the aims to utilize the potential positive synergies between policies to support development and to avoid or minimize negative side-effects of policies on development. This should be ensured by increasing the capacities of governments to balance divergent policy objectives and harmonizing domestic policy objectives with broader international objectives. To achieve this, the OECD has developed a general framework for PCD that includes procedural steps, and illustrates suggestions for methods to conduct an PCD assessment as well (OECD 2012).

OECD (2012): “Policy Framework for Policy Coherence for Development”, Working Paper 1, OECD Office of the Secretary-General Unit for Policy Coherence for Development, OECD, Paris.

OECD (2013): OECD and post-2015 reflections – Policy coherence for inclusive and sustainable development. Element 8, paper 1, OECD, Paris.

OECD Homepage on Policy Coherence for Development



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