The Civic Forum and Negotiated Governance
This paper is based on a New
Agenda seminar held in Belfast in February 1999 and on a year's involvement
by New Agenda and Democratic Dialogue in facilitating, contributing to
and monitoring developments on the civic forum as proposed in the Good
Friday Agreement of April 1998. The purpose of the seminar was to explore
the civic forum's potential contribution to the culture and practice of
politics in Northern Ireland and it was attended by a range of participants
from both political and civil society backgrounds. The seminar was held
under the Chatham House rule although it was agreed that a paper based
on the proceedings could be produced. Professor Paul Hirst of Birkbeck
College, University of London and Professor Rory O'Donnell of University
College Dublin made short presentations to the seminar and both have given
permission for their attributed contributions to be used in this paper.
It is not intended as an account of the seminar but rather as a distillation
of the views of participants combined with information and views garnered
through ongoing dialogue on the issue.
This paper has been compiled
by John Woods and is one of a series of working papers from Democratic
Dialogue which seek to stimulate constructive discussion and debate on
Northern Ireland's political future.
Further copies are available
from Democratic Dialogue, 53 University Street, Belfast BT7 1FY (tel:
028 9022 0050; fax: 028 9022 0051; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org). More
information about DD is available on our web site at www.democraticdialogue.org
© Democratic Dialogue
Negotiated governance - theory and practice
It is generally recognised
that government at the end of the 20th century is no longer a matter of
collecting taxes, delivering a programme of public expenditure, doing
things to the economy and doing things to people. In the post-Thatcher
era the new consensus is one of keeping tight control on public expenditure
partly to combat inflation but also to ensure re-election by tax cuts.
Governments in Europe (whether in or out of the Euro) no longer have control
over interest rates so they can no longer meet public expectations by
stimulating the economy or affecting exchange rates. Add to this a rejection
of the kind of paternalistic government which characterised most of this
century, burgeoning globalisation and deregulation of so many aspects
of the economy and it is plain that government just isn't what it was.
Another set of challenges which
governments now have to face is the increased complexity of the social,
economic and environmental problems which their electorates require them
to tackle. The implications of New Labour's "Tough on crime, tough
on the causes of crime" go well beyond what we might expect from
such a soundbite. If crime is to be tackled by addressing the causes then
measures by the criminal justice system must be complemented by measures
in education, employment, housing and social security policy. Other cross
cutting issues such as long-term unemployment or sustainable development
require equally integrated approaches. Thus governments not only have
fewer resources and less powerful policy instruments but if they are to
make any difference they must break free from the traditional, purely
departmental, way of governing and achieve an integrated means of facing
Paul Hirst has described how
the traditional hierarchies of government and society are adequate for
tackling only simple problems. He charts the emergence of governance through
social actors and the replacement of hierarchies with networks. The process
involves the sharing of information and fostering of commitment from participants
or partners. It is the role of government to coordinate the different
actors and to achieve results through cooperation and negotiation. This
phenomenon of negotiated governance compensates for the shortcomings in
the traditional institutions of government and supplements them with other
ways of doing things. Negotiated governance also compensates for undesirable
outcomes from purely market led approaches, such as the creation of cartels.
And finally it short-circuits the hierarchies to bring people face-to-face,
formalising networks and bringing in those who have been traditionally
To some, but for this last
point, this sounds like a form of cosy corporatism. All too easily, some
argue, the worthy goal of including the excluded could be forgotten and
the traditional power bases in society (politicians, business and unions)
would simply sort things out together over Chablis and canapés
at No 10. Hirst argues that corporatism exists all over Europe in creative
ways which have little in common with British flirtations with the genre.
The excluded must be at the table because they are crucial to achieving
results from whatever governance measures are being negotiated. To leave
them out would be not only unjust but plain stupid.
Much of what Hirst describes
from observations throughout Europe is born out by the practical experience
of the National Economic and Social Council (NESC) and the National Economic
and Social Forum (NESF) in the Republic of Ireland. The former was established
in 1973 to deliberate and provide advice on the development of the economy
and achieving social justice. Its major achievements were a series of
responses to the severe economic and social crisis of the mid 1980s. The
NESC comprised the social partners (trades unions, farmers and business
organisations) together with government and was tasked with seeking consensus
on a plan to turn the economy around. This resulted in the negotiation
of a national programme which involved a good deal of hard bargaining
in smoke-filled rooms. The outcome was more than a successful economic
policy, however, in that the process produced a shared understanding and
some agreed principles. Social partnership, it seemed, was here to stay.
The major shortcoming of the
NESC, however, was that it did not involve those groups whose unemployment,
social exclusion and inequality were some of the very issues which the
social partnership needed to address. Accordingly in 1993 the NESF was
established. It comprised one third politicians, one third from the traditional
social partners and one third "representing groups such as the unemployed,
women, disadvantaged, youth, older people, people with a disability and
environmental interests." The forum had a remit to focus on social
exclusion and inequality.
Although a certain shared understanding
had emerged between the traditional social partners through their deliberation
in the NESC it did not necessarily follow that the modus operandi of tri-partite
agreements, one of bargaining, would suit the forum. The forum's emphasis
on including the excluded meant, almost by definition, that bargaining
would be inappropriate as many of those present had little to bargain
with. Rory O'Donnell (a former Director of the NESC) has described how
the third strand in the NESF brought with it voluntary sector values of
solidarity, inclusiveness and participation - elements which are not necessarily
natural bedfellows of the bargaining and deal making habits of the traditional
social partners. O'Donnell argues that both these 'dimensions of partnership'
(the 'inclusive' and the 'bargaining') are limited and from the experience
of the NESC and the NESF has emerged a process which can be described
as 'dependent on a shared understanding and characterised by a problem-solving
approach designed to produce consensus' . The 'problem solving' approach
alluded to here appears to be the key to the successful functioning of
a forum which comprises people with widely differing agendas. O'Donnell
argues that problem solving allows people to leave their visions at the
door (although that is not to say visions are abandoned) and to get down
to tackling problems which all agree must be addressed. While it is still
early days for the NESF in terms of producing measurable results, there
is a consensus both within government and amongst the social partners
that this form of governance is crucial to the economic and social well-being
of the country.
In Northern Ireland too, forms
of negotiated governance are being practised. The interactions between
the Concordia group and Government are one example and the Northern Ireland
Partnership Board and the 26 District Partnerships are another. The Governments
'New Deal' relies on business and the voluntary sector for its delivery
and both have been involved in the development of the policy.
All this raises a number of
questions to be addressed by this paper:
- is the civic forum the appropriate
place for the assembly and its executive to engage with the traditional
social partners, the voluntary sector and others in negotiating the
governance of Northern Ireland?
- how can the forum be genuinely
inclusive and what are the boundaries between representation and participation?
- how can a 'problem solving'
approach be developed by the civic forum?
- what work areas could and
should the forum focus on?
- is the civic forum as proposed
by the First and Deputy First Minister up to the job envisioned by Hirst
An arena for negotiating governance
Is the civic forum the appropriate
place for the assembly and its executive to engage with the traditional
social partners, the voluntary sector and others in negotiating the governance
of Northern Ireland? It may not be safe to assume that the main parties
in the assembly have bought in to the idea that the effective governance
of Northern Ireland will depend on the development of partnerships and
networks involving the different elements of civil society. It is clear,
however, that the resources available to implement the programme of government
developed by the executive will be highly constrained . These constraints
may well lead ministers to conclude that the resources and influence of
others will have to be harnessed in pursuit of policy goals. Added to
this is a general expectation of a 'participative' element to government,
an expectation raised by the inclusion of the civic forum in the Good
Friday Agreement. If the forum is to be more than an elaborate consultation
exercise (and surely it is fair to assume that no one wants to waste £400,000
a year and the time of sixty people on something which will not constitute
a highly significant advance on current practice) then a serious examination
of exactly what it is for and how it can contribute to the good governance
of Northern Ireland is surely crucial.
The stipulation in the Agreement
that the forum should comprise "representatives of the business,
trade union and voluntary sectors, and such other sectors as agreed by
the First Minister and Deputy First Minister" suggests that the forum
has the potential to stimulate participation by the main social actors
together with other elements of civil society. The composition, therefore,
seems to lend itself to the three dimensions of partnership identified
by O'Donnell. Bargaining and deal making can certainly be practised amongst
the participants. There is no direct involvement by elected representatives
in the forum but a close relationship with government would surely be
a sine qua non of the forum's success whether it is seen to have a bargaining
function or not. The second dimension of inclusivity and solidarity can
also be happily accommodated in the forum as described in the Agreement.
The central role envisaged for the voluntary sector (alongside business
and trades unions) together with recognition that other sectors may be
involved should allow participation by those traditionally marginalised
and enable solidarity between such groups and with other sectors. Critically,
this composition lends itself ideally to O'Donnell's over-riding dimension
of partnership - the problem solving approach.
All the social actors needed
to investigate some of the most challenging problems facing our society
are present in the forum. The assembly would know that proposals achieved
by consensus within the forum would have been negotiated between the traditional
interest groups and could count on the cooperation of the sectors represented
in the forum in implementing them. Furthermore, given that the forum comprises
people drawn from a cross-section of society which goes well beyond the
traditional interests of capital and labour, government could also be
reasonably confident that such proposals could be sold to the electorate.
None of this is to usurp the role of the assembly, especially that of
its committees. Any proposals from the forum should naturally be subject
to the full democratic processes of the assembly, but it will be by carefully
choosing what policy areas to concentrate on or by responding to a specific
request from the assembly that the forum will be able to add genuine value
to the work of the assembly. And finally, in the event that the forum
makes proposals which may be electorally unpopular, the assembly can point
to the added legitimacy lent to such proposals by virtue of the consensus
achieved in the forum.
If it is correct that the forum
does lend itself to the practice of negotiated governance, and if there
is a recognised need for such governance then the forum seems to be the
obvious, appropriate and legitimate (by virtue of its inclusion in the
Agreement) place in which to locate such activity.
How can the forum be genuinely
inclusive and what are the boundaries between representation and participation?
Seamus Mallon, while Deputy First Minister, stated "the forum must
be truly representative of all groups in society. And I am personally
committed to ensure that nobody will be overlooked or excluded."
This is a bold statement which deserves close examination. Leaving aside,
for the moment, exactly what is meant by representation, the question
arises how it is possible to ensure that the forum is truly representative
of all groups in society with the exclusion of no-one. If the mechanism
by which exclusion is to be avoided is to allocate a seat in the forum
to the excluded interest, the sixty seats will be swiftly allocated and
still leave many dissatisfied. Civil society is a complex web of interests,
identities and relationships the value of which can only be diminished
by allocating seats on such a basis. And there would be little room for
recognising the significance of key social actors such as business and
the trades unions in particular. If it is accepted that negotiating governance
requires the commitment and full participation of the social partners,
then the arena in which this activity takes place must enable this. A
forum whose primary aim is to ensure that every interest in civil society
enjoys actual representation amongst its membership will find it impossible
to attract the full participation of those who have traditionally had
direct access to government. Put simply, they will go elsewhere to do
the real business.
If achieving inclusion through
offering a forum seat to every societal group until the seats run out
is unlikely to work, how might inclusion actually be achieved? A start
could be made by implementing Seamus Mallon's commitment that nobody will
be overlooked or excluded by incorporating just such a commitment into
the modus operandi of the forum. Paradoxically, the interests of the most
marginalised may be better served by the implementation of such a commitment
than by knowing that one person is 'representing' their interests in the
forum. The key point is to ensure the forum takes account of all views
rather than containing all views within it. Indeed if the forum believes
itself to be "representative of all groups in society", why
should it bother to talk to anyone else?
Inclusion in the work of the
forum can be maximised by ensuring that all views are actively sought
and those particularly relevant to the piece of work in hand are given
due weight. In practice the forum will conduct much of its business in
working groups which lend themselves to the co-option of individuals as
appropriate for the subject being tackled. Nor should the forum be expected
to produce all the necessary expertise from within its membership as this
can be brought into working groups when needed. Innovative methods of
public involvement could also be used: citizens' juries; citizens' panels;
deliberative opinion polls; consensus conferences; or forms of electronic
democracy, for example.
It is crucial, however, not
to confuse these methods of citizen participation with the forum itself.
The temptation to achieve legitimacy by creating a forum whose membership
is a microcosm of society should be resisted. From there it would be a
short step to competing with the assembly as to which body is more representative.
The forum does not derive its legitimacy from the fact that it is a representative
sample of the citizenry, but because it provides a means of participation
in governance for a wide spectrum of interests manifested in organised
civil society. Individual citizens should continue to look to their elected
representatives to represent their interests.
These considerations raise
the issue of what is actually required of a forum member. Hirst argues
that the concept of negotiated governance involves participation in the
delivery of policy and it is therefore important that participants have
a real claim to speak for their sector. This, says Hirst, can come in
two forms. Either participants have 'power' in that they represent a large
number of people on certain issues (trades unions immediately come to
mind) or they have 'voice' in that they represent an interest which simply
must be heard (the long-term unemployed, for example).
But this is not to say that
the pursuit of the interest which members represent should be their priority.
Indeed, as alluded to above, given that all interests cannot possibly
be accommodated within the membership, giving primacy to this representative
role could serve to exclude others. Under the 'include all interests in
the membership' model it would seem that the only requirement is that
the individual be able to 'represent' their interest group. But if the
purpose of the forum is to participate in governance then surely much
more should be required of its members than merely to demonstrate that
they represent a particular interest. This could be addressed by adopting
an over-arching commitment to articulate, via a problem solving approach,
the public interest.
In terms of the individual
nominations to the forum, while the process should achieve a balance of
gender, community background, geographic spread and age profile (as stipulated
in the First and Deputy First Ministers' report ), and there must be no
barriers to membership due to disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity,
marital status or dependants, the overall aim must be to nominate people
with the right combination of experience, abilities and qualities.
Perhaps what is missing is
a clear enunciation of the role of the forum. This has not been forthcoming
from the First and Deputy First Ministers beyond Seamus Mallon's commitment
to inclusion. This paper seeks to demonstrate that the forum has a key
role to play in the negotiation of governance in Northern Ireland through
bargaining and inclusion and critically "dependent on a shared understanding
and characterised by a problem-solving approach designed to produce consensus".
If this is the case, then two things follow. First, the forum must attract
the fulsome participation of those social actors who possess the bargaining
chips. Secondly, the membership must adopt an over-arching commitment
to articulate, via a problem solving approach, the public interest . It
is only through this latter commitment that members can be free to explore
innovative options and even to 'think the unthinkable' while reassuring
the society from which they come that it is the interests of that society
which they are committed to serving without favour or prejudice.
The alternative is a forum
which is worthily representative of a large, but not exhaustive, list
of societal groups which talks to itself while the real work of exercising,
brokering and negotiating power is done elsewhere.
If O'Donnell's analysis of
Irish social partnership suggests that the most productive modus operandi
for the civic forum is likely to be 'dependent on a shared understanding
and characterised by a problem-solving approach designed to produce consensus',
the question arises as to how such an approach can be developed. While
the key determinant of whether such an approach will emerge will be contained
in the day-to-day functioning and development of the forum, a number of
pointers might usefully be considered as an aid to achieving a productive
way of working.
O'Donnell speaks of 'a shared
understanding' by the participants. This is not to say that participants
share a vision of how society should be but that they at least have a
common understanding of the problems faced by society. Implied here also
is a willingness to understand each other's interests. In practice such
understanding will take time to develop and is likely to be a product
of collaborative working. Many of the sectors which will participate in
the forum have, however, significant experience of working together so
the forum is not starting from scratch in this respect. What may be absent
at this stage is an understanding of the role of the forum. It does not
bode well for achieving understanding that there has been very little
discussion as to what the forum is actually for and there has been little
indication of its role from the First and Deputy First Ministers. Much
of the debate has centred around who is to be involved rather than why
they are involved. The composition of the forum may itself help to determine
its role. There is some evidence of an understandable lack of commitment
to the forum from the business and trades unions sectors as a result of
their much lower than expected representation. An early task for the forum
might therefore be to reflect in some depth on achieving a shared understanding
of its role.
and partnership between the public, private and voluntary sectors is now
an established part of the public administrative landscape in Northern
Ireland and elsewhere. Much has been written on what makes some partnerships
successful and others not so. If partnership is a state of mind then the
forum will inevitably take a little time to settle comfortably into such
a mindset, but there is such wide experience of successful partnership
immediately to hand that the forum could reasonably be expected to achieve
a very steep learning curve in this regard.
In practical terms the identification
of problems will obviously be a prerequisite of solving them. Paul Hirst
has emphasised the importance of recognising that it is not necessary
to have the same ultimate goals to achieve this. What is important is
to identify the problem and work together to find ways of solving it.
If this means being a little bit 'fuzzy' about ultimate social or economic
goals then so be it. O'Donnell emphasises the importance of 'learning
by doing' - it will be through the experience of working together that
effective ways of producing worthwhile proposals will be learnt.
Of course problems cannot be
solved unless those involved have the capacity to deliver their part of
the solution. The forum must surely be more than a 'think tank' offering
up ideas to government. Members must possess the 'power' or 'voice' described
above and underpinning this must be a range of skills and experience present
in the forum which can be brought to bear in its work.
O'Donnell argues for basing
forum work on aiming to achieve consensus. While there are important arguments
against the pursuit of consensus above all other considerations, it is
clear that the forum will be unable to present any convincing solutions
to the problems it addresses unless it is on the basis of consensus. Negotiating
governance suggests that agreement must be reached if proposals are to
be successfully implemented. Thus minority reports are unlikely to be
a constructive contribution to the process. Nor is a system of voting
likely to play a dominant role in the forum's deliberations. Having said
that, voting can be used in the pursuit of consensus and the forum could
experiment with some innovative methods.
The ultimate goal of adopting
a consensus-based problem-solving approach must be to utilise the forum's
power of persuasion to achieve feasible, practical and workable solutions.
There has been relatively little
debate on the substance of the forum's work. It has been suggested that
the forum should comment on all or selected assembly legislation, a task
which would certainly keep it extremely busy. It is also likely to be
of limited value given that the forum would lack any powers of amendment
and would be entering the process of the development of a particular policy
at a very late stage. For the forum to become a pale imitation of the
assembly would offer very limited 'added value' and it could also find
itself in conflict with assembly committees which is unlikely to be productive.
The premise of this paper is that the forum has the capacity to act as
an arena for negotiated governance and the scrutiny of the final stages
of legislation could not be described in that way.
It has been suggested elsewhere
that the forum should respond to specific requests from the assembly to
work on particular issues and that it should be able to initiate work
of its own. The particular strengths of the forum should be utilised in
this regard, drawing on its capacity to take a holistic perspective and
to produce a seamless narrative on multi-faceted problems. It should use
its capacity to be innovative and creative to best effect and should carefully
consider its role in tackling division in our society. One view of this
role is that the forum is nothing if it has not the courage to confront
issues such as punishment beatings, decommissioning and parading even
if these areas do not fall within the remit of the assembly. It can be
argued that the forum would find it easier than the assembly to deal with
such issues. Another view is that such problematic areas should be addressed
more indirectly via the forum's work on social, economic and cultural
In the social, economic and
cultural policy fields it is likely that the forum can best draw upon
its strengths by working in areas which cut across the traditional departments
of government - the so-called 'wicked' issues. Examples could include
addressing long-term unemployment, sustainable development, crime or applying
a broader focus to the delivery and monitoring of economic strategy. It
would be important to avoid insoluble issues giving rise to worthy but
dull reports. Perhaps a discrete number of addressable issues could be
agreed upon at the outset. Suggestions include: in economic policy, how
to build human capital and enhance the skills base of the population;
in social policy, how to tackle the shortage of child-care which prevents
the full participation of women in the work force; and in cultural policy,
how to resolve the issues raised by kerb painting and murals.
Another area of activity in
which the forum could make a vital contribution is in the formulation
of the programme for government. If the programme is going to depend on
the cooperation of the social partners and a range of social actors for
its delivery, the involvement of the forum at an early stage is likely
to enhance the government's ability to deliver on public expectations.
Similarly the participation of the forum in the budgeting process would
strengthen the outcome of that process.
Whatever the forum decides
or is decided for it, its value and success will depend on setting the
agenda in challenging policy areas - taking a long term view and presenting
a different kind of discourse. One senior politician has expressed the
hope that the civic forum will challenge the assembly. The nature of four-party
coalition government may, he fears, take consensus too far and there may
be a danger of reducing policy to a lowest common denominator - the civic
forum could be an important foil to such a tendency. The value and success
of the forum will also depend on rising to the challenge of doing something
different and going well beyond commenting on proposals drawn up by others.
Offering opinions is not negotiated governance. Rather, offering solutions
to problems together with a commitment to help deliver those solutions
is what ministers should reasonably expect in return for putting their
faith in a civic forum.
In February 1999 the First
and Deputy First Ministers presented their proposals for the civic forum
in a report to the assembly . Will these proposals produce a civic forum
up to the job envisioned by Hirst and others? Can it be an effective arena
for social partnership and negotiated governance; will it achieve a workable
synthesis of inclusion, representation and participation; and will it
be able to address effectively some key problems faced by our society?
There is no elaboration in
the report on the forum's role. It limits itself to restating the Agreement's
description as 'a consultative mechanism on social, economic and cultural
issues' and states: 'We will make arrangements for obtaining from the
Civic Forum its views on such matters.' Those arrangements, when they
are announced, may provide pointers as to the forum's role and there may
be some scope for the forum to develop its own role, if only through a
generous interpretation of the paragraph which requires the forum to draw
up its own 'procedural guidance...for approval by the Assembly' .
The vast majority of the First
and Deputy First Ministers' report is devoted to the 'nominations' process
for the forum's 60 members, a process which, as described, has huge implications
for its ability to perform the role suggested in this paper.
A major feature of the proposals
is the relative strengths of the different sectors. The traditional social
partners (business, farmers, trades unions) will comprise a little over
a quarter of the total membership. These three sectors combined have one
fewer place than the voluntary/community sector block which has 18 places.
Other sectors which are, in practice, largely located within the voluntary
sector (culture, victims and community relations) account for a further
eight places. The remainder go to churches, arts and sport, education
and six nominees of the First and Deputy First Ministers.
With just seven places each
in a forum of this size it is unlikely that either business or the trades
unions will treat the forum as their primary means of engagement with
each other, with other sectors or with government. They will be small
groups in a sea of voluntary and public sector voices. On a purely practical
level, if the forum is to operate in working groups, participation by
the most powerful social partners will be spread pretty thin. In Hirst's
terms, the forum lacks those with 'power' and 'voice' in favour of attempting
to include as many interests as possible, all of whose voices will not
be critical all of the time. Like it or not, power-blocks such as business
and the trades unions have a role to play in most policy areas. This is
simply not true of the arts, sport or victims, for example. The voluntary
sector is clearly a diverse constituency harbouring a wide range of interests
but that sector can only have an impact on governance if it can engage
the other social partners on more or less equal terms. The voluntary sector's
problem in the civic forum is that having been a 'poor relation' in terms
of traditional social partnership, it now appears to be something of an,
albeit unwilling, cuckoo in the forum nest. The smart birds are unlikely
to hang around knowing that they can build a better nest elsewhere.
And that is exactly what appears
to be happening. The Department of Economic Development's Strategy 2010
document was drawn up by a steering group which comprised a public sector,
business and trades union membership. Proposed in that document is an
economic development forum which will be tasked to monitor and adjust
the strategy. In the absence of political progress it is likely that this
forum will be established with public, private and trade union membership.
One can hardly blame business and unions for displaying rather more enthusiasm
for a forum in which they are key players than for the civic forum in
which their role, as indicated by the places allocated, is substantially
curtailed. Thus the economic development forum could well become an arena
for negotiated governance, or at least for bargaining and deal making.
But the price to pay will be the exclusion from economic policy making
of all whom it was felt important to represent in the civic forum, most
notably the voluntary sector. It will also be a missed opportunity to
develop a process "dependent on a shared understanding and characterised
by a problem-solving approach designed to produce consensus".
Thus, although this paper is
optimistic that the forum as described in the Good Friday Agreement could
provide a workable arena for negotiated governance, the membership composition
as stipulated by the First and Deputy First Ministers seems likely to
reduce the forum to a much more modest, if not marginal, role.
For this to be the case would
be a tragic loss of a tremendous opportunity for democratic innovation,
an opportunity which does not currently exist elsewhere in the United
Kingdom (although 'bottom-up' civic forums are developing in London and
Scotland, and in the case of the latter, receiving formal recognition
The civic forum offers an opportunity to add the benefits of broad social
partnership, participation, networks and inclusivity to the institutions
of representative democracy in a wholly benign project. If we are to avoid
missing this opportunity, a number of steps need to be taken in moving
the debate on from who is in the forum to what its role is to be and how
it can be made to work.
1. The First and Deputy First
Ministers stated in their report of 15 February 1999: "We will make
arrangements for obtaining from the Civic Forum its views on..."
social, economic and cultural issues. The nature of these arrangements
could have an enormous bearing on the effectiveness of the forum and could
be an excellent opportunity to define its role. The First and Deputy First
Ministers could consider hosting a round-table discussion comprising leaders
in the sectors to be represented in the forum to decide on what the forum's
role should be.
2. Although the scale of business and trades union representation in the
civic forum may well hamper the development of negotiated governance,
the system is not unworkable. Both these sectors could commit themselves
to fielding strong teams who can speak for their sectors in the forum.
3. All those sectors involved in the proposed economic development forum
could signal their commitment to the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement
by indicating their willingness to see the functions of the economic development
forum subsumed, as a working group, by the civic forum.
4. All sectors represented in the civic forum could signal their commitment
to inclusion by ensuring that participation in forum business is extended
to wider society through innovative forms of participation and public