Rli publishes advisory report on “Bridging the Implementation Gap: Tackling Factors Impeding Policy for the Physical Living Environment”

Implementation of policy for the living environment is lagging behind, meaning that urgent problems are not being solved. The Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) therefore calls on the Dutch government to strike a much better balance between policy development and policy implementation in actual practice. The Rli does so in its advisory report on “Bridging the Implementation Gap”, which was published on 19 December.

Photo: Cover of the advisory report

The world of policy in the seat of government systematically pays too little attention to the actual implementation of policy in practice. As a result, objectives facing the Netherlands in its physical living environment, such as building large numbers of homes, are being insufficiently implemented. The Rli advocates placing policy and implementation on an equal footing and making far better use of insights derived from actual implementation when drawing up policy measures. Placing policy and implementation on an equal footing and actually implementing policy plans will contribute to public trust in government.

Give implementing parties a permanent role in policy development

Implementing parties must be able to indicate in good time whether policy is actually implementable. Central government implementing organisations can do this if they are involved, as standard, in consultations between top-level civil servants at all Dutch ministries; that is by no means always the case at present. The Rli also envisions an important role for the Secretary-General (SG) of each policy department, who should ensure that other parties that contribute to implementation are also involved in policy development at an early stage. 

Furthermore, the Rli calls for attention to be paid to municipalities, provinces, and water boards that have to carry out a large number of central government objectives. They must not be assigned implementation objectives without sufficient funding. The Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations should ensure that that does not happen. Given that many such objectives need to be successfully tackled in the various regions of the country, it is important for the Minister to enhance administrative cooperation at regional level. 

Professionalise how implementation is organised

Implementation often fails to get off the ground because it is unclear who exactly should make the substantive decisions and allocate the relevant budgets. It is crucial that policy-makers and implementers make clear arrangements for this, on an issue-by-issue basis.

Arrangements are needed regarding the culture of cooperation. Trust and transparency need to be at the heart of this, so that dilemmas, doubts, and uncertainties can be raised for discussion unhindered. It is important for parties to feel confident enough – even when the situation becomes tense – to seek solutions and take difficult decisions.

Adopt a smart approach to dealing with the scarcity of human resources

For the present, the scarcity of human resources is structural and unavoidable. A smarter approach is therefore needed when dealing with it. Creating a pool of experts and sharing know-how and specialists (regionally) can provide a solution. A lot of work can also be standardised, so that there is no need to constantly reinvent the wheel everywhere. 

Read the press release “Advisory council calls on Dutch government to pay greater attention to implementation of policy for the living environment” 

Read more about the advisory report on “Bridging the Implementation Gap: Tackling Factors Impeding Policy for the Physical Living Environment” 

For more information about the advisory report, please contact the project leader Tim Zwanikken at uitvoeringskracht@rli.nl  or on +31 (0)6 5287 4404.