THE COORDINATION OF SOCIAL POLICIES (Fabián Repetto)

Nowhere in the world, including in European and Latin American countries, do social policies have a univocal dimension. Conversely, social policies are defined by each State (as well as at the subnational and local government levels), and they depend on historical patterns in terms of their connection with social forces, production systems, and ideological dynamics. Nevertheless, beyond such a possible heterogeneity, there arises a common need, as social issues are increasingly becoming complex and determined by multiple causes following the demographic, labour, and cultural changes experienced by the different societies: to coordinate strategies, power resources, and operational practices so as to be able to face many of the challenges emerging from the “social question.”

Socially crucial topics such as poverty, exclusion, vulnerability, and inequality, although their expressions and magnitudes differ in the two regions (and within them,) are central problems that require the integrated intervention of government action. Those issues become even more complex when they are examined in terms of specific populations, as it may be the case (by way of illustration only) with early childhood, youths, women, or indigenous peoples.

Therefore, coordination is a fundamental challenge for contemporary governance as a way to achieve the mentioned integrated approach, concerning all social policies or their essential components, for instance what would constitute a social protection system. Inclusiveness, with respect to social policies, responds to expectations for benefits and services centred on the needs and the violated rights of persons, families, communities or territories. Within this scope, it seeks to make government interventions more consistent and impactful, through the convergence of the same, by enhancing the recipient’s perspective (be it the perspective of an individual, a family, a particular social collective or of a territory at large.)

The coordination function refers to the relation among actors who need to convey and articulate power resources, given their interdependency, in dealing with complex problems, with specific tasks and responsibilities, which are however complementary and oriented by a common strategic direction. Generally speaking, it implies a process among specialized organizations with little incentive to work in an articulated way with other organizations (be they governmental or not, they are also specialized,) that consider coordination as a threat in so far as to progress in it presupposes to share purposes, processes, and resources.

What we have been saying highlights, in its turn, the need to bring together regulatory frameworks, political decisions, and technical instruments so that coordination may really be effective. Therefore, any effort to promote a greater coordination is expected to clearly define what must be coordinated and when. In this line, it is mandatory to reflect over some of the resources that are subject to coordination, for instance information, organization, budget and/or authority. Likewise, there is a need to identify the phases of social policy where a strengthening of coordination mechanisms is required. Thus, it is important to determine whether coordination should be promoted to: a) define and characterize the problem; b) prioritize and choose among different possible alternatives; c) plan the primary routes of the intervention, by ensuring the required budget; d) implement the course of action decided on; and/or e) monitor and evaluate the intervention in such a way as to improve the achievement of the same.

For quite some time Europe and Latin America have been pursuing coordination efforts as concerns their social policies and they have considerably progressed in terms of coordination oriented towards regional integration in the European instance, and more centred within the borders of the single States in the Latin American one. Of course, this does not entail that the latter region is not taking steps towards integration, at least at the sub-regional level, nor that in Europe there has been no record of very interesting coordination experiences within the different countries.

This issue of “Reciprocamente” is meant, within the framework of the objective of a bi-regional dialogue which characterized it since its beginnings, to go over actual coordination experiences, both in Europe and in Latin America, learning new lessons from successful cases, without setting aside the efforts that have not achieved the expected objectives, or those that are still looking about to find their own way.

Fabián Repetto | CIPPEC, Social Protection Program Director
Ph.D. in Research in Social Science, Latin American Social Sciences University (FLACSO), Mexico Seat. M.A. in Governments and Public Issues, Latin American Social Sciences University, Mexico Seat. M.A. in Public Administration, School of Economic Sciences, Buenos Aires University. B.A. in Political Sciences, Buenos Aires University. As part of his work in Public Administration, he held the position of Sub-Coordinator of Information, Monitoring and Evaluation System of the Social Programs of the Ministry of Social Development and Environment. His experience in Academic Management includes Academic Secretary of the Master in Administration and Public Policy, San Andres University, and Graduate Secretary at Social Sciences Scholl, Buenos Aires University. He taught graduate courses in several universities in Latin American, and he was Manager of SOCIALIS, a Latin American Social Policy Journal. He published more than forty articles in specialized journals and books. Besides, he is author of the book “Public Administration and Social Development in the ninety”, and editor of numerous books. He has been a consultant for international organizations such as UNICEF, UNESCO and CEPAL. He has been the Resident Coordinator for the National Program of the Inter-American Institute for Social Development in Guatemala (2003-2005). Between 2005 and April 2008 he has been a professor in the Inter-American Institute for Social Development at the Inter-American Development Bank at Washington DC.