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Study: Business life and major players have the best access to the preparation of policy decisions – NGOs feel left out

Government Communications Department
Publication date 12.12.2016 10.08 | Published in English on 12.12.2016 at 11.30
Press release 544/2016

Based on a study of the University of Helsinki, many NGOs feel that they are not being heard in the preparation of political decisions. At the same time, certain organisations have a strong position in the preparation of decisions: civil servants who prepare the decisions interact the most closely with business and industry organisations.

The study revealed a number of major players with the most frequent contacts to civil servants in the preparation of acts and decrees. The three most prominent ones are the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, Confederation of Finnish Industries EK, and Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners MTK. 

This is the result of the recent study “All involved? Open government and new forms of involvement” (Kaikki mukaan? Avoin hallinto ja uudet osallistumismuodot KAMU) published by the University of Helsinki. Almost 1 500 nation-wide organisations and 256 civil servants involved in the preparation of the decisions answered the survey conducted at the turn of the year 2015–2016. Besides this, the researchers interviewed representatives of various organisations and civil servants.

The results show that many Finnish organisations are not satisfied with the way they are being heard in the preparation of political decisions and legislative acts. Large organisations and associations representing well-established institutions, business and industry organisations and trade unions have the best access. All of these are well heard in decision-making and they are the most satisfied with their position in the preparation processes.

The position of business and industry organisations is particularly strong. The unofficial contacts of civil servants are also mostly with business and industry organisations: almost half of the 47 organisations they mentioned represented business and industries. The position of NGOs representing various groups of people, leisure organisations and professional and scientific societies is the weakest. Only a third of these were satisfied with how they are being heard in decision-making.

More transparency and easier involvement 

The results also showed that broadly-based and active hearings make it easier for legislative proposals to pass the parliamentary proceedings. However, the civil servants see the tight schedules and shortage of resources as the main problems in the preparation as they may restrict the possibilities to organise hearings: only a fifth of the civil servants considered that the resources available for legislative preparation are adequate.

Various methods have been developed for internet hearings and these are quite well known, but they have still not found their way to common use. The study suggests that “digital committees”, for example, could be tested where the web could be used for more transparency in the preparation of important acts by making information more readily available. It would also be easier for those who are interested to get involved.

The study “Who gets to participate? How is the organisations’ voice heard in legislative preparation” (Kuka pääsee mukaan? Miten järjestöjen ääni kuuluu lakien valmistelussa) was conducted as part of the Government plan for analysis, assessment and research. It was carried out by DSc Juho Vesala and Professor Anu Kantola, who headed the research project.

The study “Who gets to participate? How is the organisations’ voice heard in legislative preparation (in Finnish)

Inquiries: DSc Juho Vesa, University of Helsinki, Department of Social Research, +358 50 448 4305, juho.vesa [at], and Anu Kantola, Professor, University of Helsinki, Department of Social Research, +358 50 583 4644

Further information about the Government’s analysis, assessment and research at