The Swedish Agency for Public Management

National commissions regarding men’s violence against women. An analysis of the Government’s steering (2016: 21)

The National Board of Health and Welfare, Uppsala University (The National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women), the County Administrative Board of Östergötland and the County Administrative Board of Stockholm have been commissioned by the Government to increase knowledge and coordinate activities on a national level  for the gender equality policy subgoal concerning men’s violence against women. Target groups for these commissions are usually government agencies, county councils, regions, municipalities, organisations and professionals who meet women subjected to violence and perpetrators of violence.

Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has evaluated the Government’s steering of these commissions and has analysed whether the Government needs to change its steering or the organisation and division of responsibilities between the agencies. Our commission has not included evaluating activities conducted by the agencies as part of the national commissions.

The commissions are not fully consistent with the subgoal

The subgoal that men’s violence against women must stop encompasses all forms of violence and threats of violence against women and girls. The goal also encompasses prostitution and human trafficking for sexual purposes as well as honour-related violence and oppression. However, it does not include violence in same-sex relationships.

None of the four agencies has a commission covering the entire subgoal. Two of them have commissions that are broader than the subgoal. The Government’s commission to the National Centre for Knowledge on Men’s Violence Against Women at Uppsala University also encompasses violence in same-sex relationships. The commissions to the National Board of Health and Welfare are, in turn, often based on the concept of violence in close relationships, regardless of sex. Statskontoret has however analysed the two agencies’ overall work on these commissions, partly because it is difficult to distinguish the elements that are only part of the subgoal. A comprehensive approach to the commissions is also more consistent with the target groups’ need for support.

The Government’s steering has functioned relatively well despite some deficiencies

Statskontoret assesses there to be both strengths and weaknesses in the Government’s steering of the four agencies’ commissions. One strength is that its steering has been explicit for the four agencies. They also consider themselves to have enjoyed a good dialogue with the Government regarding their commissions. The steering has given the Government opportunity for flexibility, e.g. by allowing them to adapt the agencies’ commissions to new needs.

One weakness of the steering is that the Government has not started from an analysis of how the agencies’ commissions can combine to achieve the goal that men’s violence against women must stop. The four agencies, and other agencies as well, lack an overall picture of central government initiatives currently in progress. The lack of such an overall picture has also made it insufficiently clear to all target groups how responsibility between the agencies is divided and which agency they should turn to in order to obtain knowledge support regarding an individual issue.

Retain the current organisation and division of responsibilities

Statskontoret has not identified any major problems regarding the division of roles and responsibilities between the four agencies. We therefore see no need for the Government to change the organisation and division of responsibilities. Our assessment is based on the following observations:

  • There are few overlaps between the four agencies’ commissions and in their implementation of the commissions. Where overlaps do exist, they entail no major problems for the agencies’ implementation of the commissions. However, it might be unclear to some target groups which agency they should turn to.
  • The agencies partly address the same target groups. However, when they address the same target groups in the same policy areas, they do so in different ways, with a different focus and mandate. For example, the National Board of Health and Welfare is the only one among the agencies to have a normative role, though only with respect to social services, healthcare and dental care.
  • To some extent, the agencies provide knowledge support in similar areas, but since they have different expertise, commissions and mandates, their knowledge support differs in focus.
  • The agencies have established structures for how to collaborate and coordinate their activities.

The overlaps that exist between the agencies’ commissions are primarily due to the unsatisfactory functioning of coordination at the Government Offices. However, the Government has reduced the risk of overlaps by informing the agencies about previously implemented or parallel commissions and has required the agencies concerned to collaborate on their commissions. For this reason, the overlaps identified have not entailed any major problems for the agencies in practice. However, some target groups believe that the division of responsibilities is unclear. We mainly assess this to be the result of  inadequate communication from the Government concerning how responsibility is divided.

Statskontoret has presupposed that changes to organisation and the division of responsibilities might be justified if there are major problems in the division of roles or significant deficiencies in the activities. We have not seen signs of either in this investigation.

We can, however, see several risks with reorganisation in the short to medium term. Above all, there is a major risk of losing expertise, which ultimately could affect those who are subjected to violence or threats of violence. We also believe that it is difficult to achieve a fully effective and appropriate organisation in a cross-sectoral area like gender equality. There will be strengths and weaknesses with every organisation and division of responsibilities.

The Government can change its steering on some points

It is Statskontoret’s assessment that the Government, by changing its steering of the agencies’ commissions, can secure steering that is more strategic, long-term and clear. In our opinion, the most important point is that the Government gives each agency a new integrated, but time-limited, basic commission, with a clear link to the Government’s forthcoming strategy for the subgoal concerning men’s violence against women. Integrated basic commissions for each agency will make it clearer to the surrounding agencies and target groups which commissions the four agencies have. To reduce the risk of new overlaps, we believe that the Government should also prepare the new commissions in parallel and coordinate the scope and duration of these commissions.

The renewed commissions will thus provide the agencies with similar conditions and time frames for implementing their commissions. Some of the Government’s commissions to three of the agencies have run for a short period and have sometimes been extended at short notice. This has affected the agencies’ opportunities to plan activities and recruit personnel. However, we see no reason for the agencies to be given permanent commissions. This is partly because it might signal to agencies, county councils, regions and municipalities that they do not need to have knowledge of the subgoal concerning men’s violence against women.

Statskontoret’s proposals in summary

  • The Government should give each agency an integrated, but time-limited, basic commission.
  • The Government should prepare the agencies’ commissions in parallel and coordinate the scope and duration of the commissions.
  • To bring about a more strategic steering towards the subgoal, the Government’s forthcoming strategy should clearly communicate how the goal is to be achieved. This includes specifying which agencies are to contribute to goal achievement and in what way.
  • Statskontoret proposes no change in the Government’s steering as regards organisation and the division of responsibilities between the four agencies.