Public policy is understood as a course of action, authorised by government, to achieve certain goals. Such a course of action may take many forms. It could, for example, take the form of a law, a strategy or a programme. Even a speech made by a president or a minister could outline a government’s planned course of action.
CAFOD, Christian Aid, Trocaire (2007)
In Zambia, different parts of government are engaged with making policies, this happens from the lowest level of local government through to the highest level of central government. Some policies, such as those related to taxation, affect almost everyone in one way or another. Other policies only target specific sectors (e.g. agriculture or education) or specific groups (e.g. low-income households, children, or people who are HIV positive). Policies take many different forms.
There are different types of policies that the Zambian Government develops which impact on the lives of all Zambians (Cafod 2007). These include:
Sectoral policies These are the policies that guide and regulate the delivery of services such as health, education, water, finance, housing, policing, welfare, justice, agriculture. It is through sectoral policies that most goods and services are delivered to people.
Macro-economic policies. The Zambian Government uses a variety of policies to influence economic activities, for example, to regulate government income and expenditure, to reduce inflation, to promote economic growth and to stimulate job creation. Macroeconomic policies influence how much money will be available for spending on goods and services to reduce poverty; and it also affects how many people will be able to earn a fair income and the minimum wage.
National development plans. The Zambian government has National Development Plans which are policies to guide its overall strategy for development. These policies states how Zambia plans to bring about positive changes over a given time. It combines elements of sectoral, institutional and macro-economic policies, often held together by a set of guiding principles or policy goals. By their nature, these kinds of policies call for high levels of coordination and collaboration across government.
Regulatory policies. Regulatory policies are used to impose norms and standards across a wide range of areas, such as pollution levels, food safety, medicines, endangered species and construction. For example, if water pipes in a poor urban area always seem to leak, it may be useful to look at the regulations guiding water provision and collect evidence on their infringement.
Institutional policies. The Zambian Government creates policies to guide and manage its own institutions, employees and work processes. For example, most countries have policies on how public funds should be managed and on how civil society can participate in decision-making. These kinds of policies have an important influence on effective implementation of other policies.
Global and regional policies. International and regional accords such as human rights treaties and trade agreements influence the policies adopted and implemented by governments. Zambia is signatory to a number of international conventions and treaties, it is important for CSOs to know which of these have been signed and how this impacts on the lives of Zambians. .
The development and subsequent implementation of government policies follow a Policy Cycle made up of five stages:
In reality though, policies rarely follow this pattern because of personal and party politics and political influence. So instead the policy processes ends up looking like this:
Whilst the policy cycle is not as linear as presented, this simplification does make it easier for civil society organisations and citizens to know how and when they can become involved in a policy making process.For more information and examples on the policy-making cycle in Zambia you can have a look at the following documents
- HIV/AIDS policy-making processes in Zambia
- Zambia Policy Framework Formulation in Zambia
- GIZ documents
- The National Level Decision Making Pipeline
- Toolkit on Policy Engagement and Influencing