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Integrity and Influence in Policy-Making

4 out of 5 citizens around the world think that the system is not working in their interests, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. A key reason for this is the perception that when it comes to politics, money talks.

Finance is a necessary component of the democratic processes. Money enables the expression of political support and competition in elections. 

However, it may be a means for powerful narrow interests to exercise undue influence. For example, newly elected officials may be pressured to "return the favour" to corporations that funded their campaign.

This can lead to policy capture, where public decisions over policies are directed away from the public interest towards a specific interest.

Coalition of influencers

The Coalition of Influencers in Public Decision-Making develops practical solutions to ensure the integrity of policies and identifies positive ways to wield influence in the decision-making process.

See more and join the coalition

Influence Database

The forthcoming database of influence cases will collect case studies of influence practices of vested interests on the decision-making process.

Contribute by sending your case study

Survey on lobbying

Are you a Member of Parliament or lobbyist? Contribute to the OECD’s lobbying monitoring report by sharing your views and insights on lobbying.

Complete the survey

A strategy in 3 priorities to tackle the issue of influence

1. Strengthen the representation of interests:

  • Political parties should have inclusive candidate selection procedures and consensual decision-making mechanisms, supported by digital tools.
  • Unions should elect their leaders democratically, with control procedures and administration reports. Trade associations and corporate governance should also have integrity standards, with public and transparent accounts and registers.
  • Governments should support neutral organisations that provide resources including digital platforms and professional staff, to organise and represent citizens who share the same concerns (as change.org).


2. Reinforce accountability mechanisms in political finance
:

  • Enhance staff capacity on audit and control, and promote transparent and timely accountability of party funding during campaigns (i.e. not just limited to electoral periods).
  • Register all contributions and make information easily accessible to all citizens.
  • Identify future challenges and loopholes to regulate digital campaigns.


3. Strengthen transparency and integrity in lobbying, enforce standards around revolving door practices and improve the integrity of media and information:

  • Strengthen regulations for pre- and post-public employment to prevent conflict of interests arising from revolving door practices.
  • Use transparency to identify trustworthy think tanks and NGOs: it should be clear what their goal is, whether they are linked to a party, who do they collaborate with and how they are financed.
  • Ask newsrooms and social media platforms to fact check and refuse to provide outlets to fake tanks and dark money groups.

Policies can be diverted away from the public interest

A large part of the policy-making process involves lobbyists and advocacy groups influencing decision-makers to tip the scale in their favour.

While this is essential to a well-functioning democracy, some groups use sometimes dubious and unbalanced ways to influence.

Through legal but questionable techniques

Most of the influence techniques they use are legal and difficult to detect.

For example, one may use its connections, or spend much more money in lobbying than the opposite group can.

One may use smokescreens, which consist of diverting the attention away from the issue through public relations campaigns or sponsored scientific studies.

Astroturfing, which consists in creating or funding organisations to produce an impression of widespread grassroots support for a cause, is another practice, often on the fence of legality.

This undue influence can lead to biased decisions that slow progress in some of the most pressing issues of our time, including achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the objectives of the Paris Climate Agreement.

The impact on pressing issues

Health as one example Governments are still not implementing the appropriate taxes on sugar, despite the evidence.

For example, the World Health Organisation estimates that between 2011-2030, USD 1.7 trillion will be lost worldwide due to diabetes.

The UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology reported that reducing the amount of sugar in sweetened drinks by 40% over 5 years could prevent 300,000 cases of type 2 diabetes and 1 million cases of obesity over two decades.

But this applies to climate change, poverty, many other issues. The database of cases developed by the OECD will provide more examples.

What has already been done?

The main mechanisms of influence have been identified and the OECD has developed corresponding guidance for policy makers on how to regulate them. This includes conflicts of interest, policy capture and political finance.

The OECD has also developed guidance to ensure access to information and stakeholder engagement in its Recommendation of the Council on Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying.

In particular, they highlight the necessity of standards, rules and procedures to disclose information, define actors and activities covered, and manage conflict of interest.

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The research

See our country reports, comparative evidence and analysis of international practices:

All resources on the topic

Contact us

Contact the public sector integrity division at:

GOVintegrity@oecd.org