National Economic Partnership Agreements

Genuine Social Partnerships – A Necessary Enhancement for Dysfunctional Institutions of National Governance ?

2009-06-03:  Since 1987 … Ireland has had continuous, and a quite positive, experience of National Economic Partnership Agreements


1987-1900     Programme for National Recovery (PNR)


1990-1993     Programme for Economic & Social Progress (PESP)


1994-1996     Programme for Competitiveness & Work (PCW)


1997-2000     Partnership 2000


2000-2003     Programme for Prosperity & Fairness (PPF)


2003-2005     Sustaining Progress


2006-2015     Towards 2016


But … where is the Social Progress ?   Where is the Fairness ?




In 2009


We – the People of Ireland – face a different reality … a twilight zone of interlinked, seemingly insurmountable challenges at national level.


This time around, the challenges are not just economic in nature … but social, environmental, institutional, political, legal and judicial.


The key to meeting these challenges … a stark realization that our Institutions of National Governance are in dire need of change, re-organization … and urgent enhancement by genuine Social Partnerships … a large scale effort requiring creativity and innovative strategic thinking …



[ The following text, intended for application in the European Union, was drafted in 2003. ]



Recalling(1) that direct and meaningful consultation with people, partnership between all sectors of society, consensus, transparency, institutional openness, and political accountability, are essential elements in Social Wellbeing for All – a Social Partnership is a collective of groups and individuals, i.e. the social partners, business, industry, civil society and experts, which acts as a ‘catalyst’ in enhancing and broadening implementation in an area of human and/or social policy.  Set out below are a number of Guideline Principles which should be actively considered as a basis for their establishment and operation within the European Union (E.U.) …


1.         Common Aim, Agenda & Objectives of a Social Partnership

Although of a voluntary and self-organizing nature, specific commitments should be made by partnership participants to co-operate together around a common aim, agenda, and a set of objectives with targets;  these core elements should evolve over time.


2.         Respect for International Law, Peace & European Values

A respect for International Law, Peace and European Values – Human Dignity, Human & Social Rights, Equal Opportunity, Social Justice & Solidarity, Sustainable Human & Social Development – should underpin all partnership activities.


3.         Vertical Co-Ordination of Activities

Mobilizing latent social capacity for translating policy into tangible results, partnerships should act in accordance with E.U. Law;  they are supplementary to, and not a surrogate for, Institutional competences at Union, Member State, regional and local levels.


4.         Horizontal Integration of Outcomes

Partnerships should coherently integrate ‘social’, ‘economic’, ‘environmental’, ‘institutional’ and ‘political’ aspects of Sustainable Human & Social Development in all outcomes.


5.         Multi-Sectoral & Multi-Disciplinary Participation(2)

Partnerships should adopt a widely multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach, and should proactively involve significant actors within the boundary of its remit – in order to more readily achieve a ‘balanced’ horizontal integration, and a timely realization, of outcomes.


6.         Openness, Transparency & Accountability(2)

Partnerships should be operated in an open, transparent and accountable manner – and in good faith, so that ownership of the partnership process and its outcomes are shared equally by all participants;  its activities should be accessible to the public.


7.         Effectiveness & Coherence(2)

Partnership performance, outcome coherence and implementation effectiveness should be regularly reviewed against objectives, targets, and overall impact on the common aim.


8.         Funding Arrangements

Funding arrangements for partnerships should be clearly identified, should not give rise to conflicts of interest, and should be accessible to the public.


9.         Freshness & Self-Renewal

Efforts should be made by participants to retain a spirit of freshness and self-renewal in a partnership;  new participants should be welcomed, and research given a high priority.


10.      Progress & Future Growth

The operation of a partnership is an iterative process;  precise and accurate feedback from outcome implementation is essential for its progress and future growth.





(1)  See Appendix II of the European Charter on Sustainable Design & Construction, adopted in Dublin on 6th November 1998.


(2)  See also EU Commission Communication COM(2002) 704 final, issued in Brussels on 2002-12-11: ‘Towards a reinforced culture of consultation and dialogue – General principles and minimum standards for consultation of interested parties by the Commission’.







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