Translating Policy into Practice

Back in March 2011, the Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS) held an interesting event on Women, Peace and Security. The event looked into translating policy into practice based on the book edited by Dr. Karen Barnes, Eka Ipke, Njoki Wamai and Dr. Funmi Olonisakin and emphasising how turning concepts into reality is harder to do after its inception. A former diplomat once said that “policies are like fashions - they come and go.” If so, then what is the point of negotiating a policy if its implementation is weak and ineffective? Organisations like GAPS exist to keep the spirit of certain policies alive but we must unite the work of diplomacy, grassroots and policy-makers in order to generate new insights and remove barriers to effectiveness.

The purpose of the event was to reflect on the strength of the UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which was the first global resolution that took into account the role of women in peace and security issues. More than ten years since its creation, the resolution is still struggling to make a full impact in many countries and one of the problems is the lack of monitoring and accountability made by the state. Policies, for the most part, are created for change but for change to appear there must be a willingness to change behaviour.  Much of this change must be tackled and mobilised on the ground but those in powerful positions have the tools and influence to make change a reality. Translating policy into practice is subject to multiple layers of implementation and each layer may challenge the effectiveness of this process. For instance, countries and organisations must challenge the status quo so that policies are incorporated in agendas and is embedded within the social norm for any change to take into effect. There may be a problem of power distribution, matters of corruption over privileges or lack of political will for change.

Grassroot Diplomat recommends that diplomats tap into local NGO expertise and support them to upscale their efforts. This is to ensure that there is easy flow of information between ground mobilisation and top policy-makers and to avoid an overlap of reoccurring mistakes. We could also draw lessons from other countries to reflect on why other countries under-perform when implementing policy. 

Here are a few reasons why policies fail and challenges in implementing policies effectively:

1. Why Policies Fail

  • No clear link between project and strategic priorities
  • Lack of top level ownership and leadership
  • Lack of effective stakeholder engagement
  • Project and risk management not applied
  • Poor senior level understanding of supply industry
  • Evaluation driven by price not long term value
  • Implementation not broken into manageable steps
  • Inadequate resources and skills to deliver

2. Why Policies Aren’t Put Into Practice

  • An inadequate understanding of the issues to be addressed   
  • Lack of clear ownership and well-focused leadership
  • Failure to define appropriate measures of success
  • An inadequate analysis of changes in the external environment
  • Lack of realism about how the policy will work in practice  
  • Failure to secure buy-in from those affected and those responsible for service delivery
  • Failure to secure or develop the capacity and capability for successful delivery
  • Failure to identify and manage risks and plan for unforeseen events
  • Failure to establish an effective framework for monitoring and evaluating performance
  • Poor management of the policy making process itself