The OECD Trust Strategy : A Stronger Voice for Citizens

By Thomas Scapin

Following our previous post on OECD’s activities regarding trust in government, we are now delighted to provide you with an overview of the OECD Trust Strategy launched in 2013 and especially its enduring efforts to promote a stronger voice for citizens.

Ministers of OECD countries already claimed the importance to strengthen trust in government ten years ago during a meeting in Rotterdam (OECD, 2005(a)).

However, the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis shed light on the urgent need to deal with this crucial issue more effectively, as stressed during the OECD Council meeting at ministerial level in 2013.

The latter gave birth to the Trust Strategy, a 2-year project aiming at better understanding and assessing this phenomenon as well as providing guidance for OECD governments willing to restore their citizens’ trust in public institutions (OECD, 2014:3).

The Trust Strategy draws on the existing work about public governance and a systematic and horizontal approach (OECD, 2014:4). One of its main purpose is to give citizens a stronger voice in the design and delivery of public policies and services.

Indeed, trust is related to citizens-state relationships, and more specifically the “congruence between citizens’ preferences – their interpretation of what is right and fair and what is unfair – and the perceived actual functioning of government” (OECD, 2013(a):21).

Thus it is a subjective phenomenon depending on citizens’ perception of their demands being correctly fulfilled by public action. That’s why research demonstrates that there is no automatic positive link between the actual performance of public services and the level of trust in government (Bouckaert, Van de Walle & Van Roosbroeck, 2005(b):4).

Public administration and management reforms have been focusing for many years on getting better outcomes and results for the public sector. Nonetheless it is by now largely acknowledged that it is not sufficient to raise trust in government due to variations in citizens’ expectations.

The OECD Trust Strategy then strives to emphasize “the way policies are designed and implemented” (OECD, 2013(b):68) pointing out to the inclusion of citizens in decision and policy-making through information, consultation and participation of the public.

The importance of trust in government shows a new way in dealing with public governance since it highlights the need to manage citizens’ perceptions and expectations of the quality of public services through a pro-active and comprehensive approach.

Finally, a stronger voice for citizens strengthens the “social contract” (OECD, 2013(a):36) between the state and the public which guarantees not only effective public policies but also social cohesion and economic prosperity.



OECD, Strengthening Trust in Government: What Role for Government in the 21st Century?, Meeting of the Public Governance Committee at Ministerial Level, Rotterdam, 28 November 2005(a).

BOUCKAERT Geert, VAN DE WALLE Steven & VAN ROOSBROECK Steven, Data on trust in the public sector, prepared for the OECD Meeting of the Public Governance Committee at Ministerial Level, 10 November 2005(b), GOV/PGC/MIN(2005)2/ANN.

OECD, Government at a Glance 2013, Paris, OECD Publishing, 2013(a).

OECD, It’s all about People Jobs, Equality and Trust, Meeting of the OECD Council at Ministerial Level, Paris, 29-30 May 2013(b), C/MIN(2013)4/FINAL.

OECD, Towards an OECD Strategy on Trust in Government, Meeting of the Public Sector Integrity Network, Paris, 16-17 June 2014, GOV/PGC/ETH(2014)8.

Scapin (2)Thomas Scapin is a PhD student at the Institute of Political Studies in Lyon (France) and he is currently doing an internship at IIAS in Brussels. His main research interests are public service ethics and public administration reforms.




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