While the precise significance of a covenant is not entirely clear, it is nevertheless a frequently applied instrument of government. In 1994, a survey showed that central government alone was involved in 154 covenants, the majority of which (85) were concerned with environmental matters, followed by energy savings and education. The legal status of more than two thirds of those covenants related to policy matters remains obscure.1 Covenants appear to be unknown, but not unloved. As a first interpretation of the phenomenon, we describe a covenant as: an agreement between government and another party concerning the realisation of government policy.2 One of the hallmarks of a covenant is the way it brings policy objectives into closer focus. For that reason the term ‘policy covenant’ is also used.3 Government does not unilaterally set out policy in a covenant, but makes agreements about such policy: government and other parties involved (citizens, companies, societal organisations) treat with each other as equals. Covenants make an appeal to the capacity of society to organise itself. They fit within the ‘horizontalisation’ of the relationship between government and citizen. The Committee for the Evaluation of Projected Legislation (Commissie voor de Toetsing van Wetgevingsprojecten) states that the ‘horizontal’ governmental culture, within which government and social actors communicate with each other on a basis of equality, is an important factor in explaining the popularity of covenants.4 Consultation fits into a horizontal relationship between government and citizen.5 Consultation leads rapidly to negotiation, to an atmosphere of ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’.
|Title of host publication||Public Priority Setting: Rules and Costs|
|Editors||P.B. Boorsma, C.W.A.M. Aarts, A.E. Steenge|
|Place of Publication||Dordrecht|
|Publisher||Kluwer Academic Publishers|
|Number of pages||22|
|Publication status||Published - 1997|