A Federal Government - Voluntary Sector Accord: Implications for Canada's Voluntary Sector


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Making the Most of the Accord for the Voluntary Sector

Phase II: Development of Codes of Good Practice

The second year of the accord process normally involves the development of specific codes of good conduct for government and the sector. The advantage of this two-step process is that the general framework agreement does not get bogged down with detail, and eventual agreement on such detail is more likely to be achieved in the light of success in reaching an accord on shared vision and principles. The JAT seems prepared, wisely, to follow this model and to use the same joint process for developing the codes of good practice as will produce the accord itself.

The development of codes of conduct would benefit from a good knowledge of existing practices by governments and their impact on voluntary organizations, and of understanding what kinds of practices would better facilitate the work of voluntary organizations. This is best done through a commissioned piece of research than garnered more experientially or casually through the consultation process. Because such research will take time to complete and communicate, the JAT would need to commission it even before the initial accord is signed. The results of this research should then be fed back to voluntary organizations through the sector's multiple networks and to government departments for comment.

Once codes are drafted, another engagement process should follow similar to the original one on the accord itself.

In many respects, agreement on codes of good conduct will affect how the relationship between government departments and voluntary organizations is experienced on a daily basis to a greater degree than the accord itself. Such codes will also necessitate some important measures of capacity building within the sector. If we assume, based on the experience of the UK compacts, that at least the areas of funding and consultation practices are covered by good practice guides, then there are likely to be pressures on the sector to:

Most of these things the sector needs to do anyway if it is going to have a serious role in governance and in promoting active citizenship, but the pressures will be more explicit under codes of conduct. These longer term matters of capacity building are issues that will need to be considered in a collaborative way by the national umbrella organizations and in the broader VSI. They also have implications for reform of government institutions since support for good governance and accountability is one aspect of consumer service provided by the federal regulatory agency. Therefore, the needs of the sector, particularly smaller organizations, in being able to meet the governance challenges created by codes under the accord should be taken into consideration in making recommendations on changes to the mandate and form of the regulatory body.

Notes

21. For instance, the English Code on Consultation and Policy Appraisal establishes an undertaking by voluntary organizations to"take account positively of specific needs, interests and contributions of women, minority groups and the socially excluded."


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