Consensus Building and its Incidence on Policy: The ‘National Agreement’ in Perú

Iguiniz Echeverria, Javier Maria (2014). 'Consensus Building and its Incidence on Policy: The 'National Agreement' in Perú' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, 2-5 September 2014, Athens, Greece.

Consensus Building and its Incidence on Policy: The 'National Agreement' in Perú

Javier M. Iguíñiz Echeverría[1]

Public deliberation has an important place in 'capabilities approach' (Sen 1999). It has been considered an activity valuable in itself, an expression of human freedom, and also a crucial factor to influence society and public policy. Recently, Dreze and Sen (2013) have analyzed the difficulties to introduce in the agenda of Indian deliberations the most pressing issues pertaining to the poor. The result has been a weak influence of the poorest in the political sphere, and in public policy.  In general, the nature and incidence of democratic institutions in each country has to be put under scrutiny.

Consensus can be seen as a democratic method, among others. 'Various democratic methods, such as decisions by consensus have been used in limited settings around the globe over the centuries.' (Dreze and Sen 2013: 243) In this paper we present the workings of the National Agreement (NA) in Peru. A peculiarity of the NA is that it approves by consensus, indeed unanimity, long term policy objectives and guidelines to implement them. One additional curious feature is its endurance, long after the foundational moment, that is, the process of transition to democracy starting in the early years of the XXth century, lost strength in Peru. Another original element is its composition. Three types of agents, designated by their organizations, participate:  i)  Government (national, regional and local), ii) the main political parties, including those in the opposition, and iii) several organizations of civil society (workers, entrepreneurs, professionals, academics, religious, etc.).

In the past twelve years, since its inception, the NA has approved 34 'State policies' on four broad categories: Democracy and Rule of Law, Equality and Social Justice, Competitiveness and Efficiency, Transparency and Decentralization of the State. Also a few short and medium term commitments.

Consensus, formalized by the NA Forum, have been usually on matters whose importance was and still are consensual in society. 'Sometimes it is clear that a given capability is central in this way: The world has come to a consensus, for example, on the importance of primary and secondary education.' (Nussbaum 2011: 32). Obviously, and also in Peru, the implementation of agreements can be contested, slow and incomplete. That is why establishing their incidence and limitations becomes important. We are going to restrict our work to the incidence on public policy and not in the final effectiveness of specific policies.

Indeed, the practically unanimous recognition of the usefulness of the Forum to establish more or less personal ties and mutual respect between representatives of organizations that compete with each other in the political and social arena has been accompanied by some doubts about its incidence. After describing the everyday building of consensus in terms of the way the NA operates, dealing with this last point is the main objective of the present paper. Based on declarations by policy-makers we produce a first approximation to its incidence in the form of i) plans designed by different governments and governmental institutions of the Executive, ii) laws enacted by Congress, and iii) policies and strategies applied in Peru since 2002.

Public deliberation, consensus, public policy, National Agreement, Peru.


[1] Emeritus Professor of the Department of Economics of the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. With the collaboration of Maria Luisa Valdez and Paula Arriaga

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