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Whole-of-Government Approach (“WGA”) refers to the joint activities performed by diverse Ministries, Public Administrations and Public Agencies in order to provide a common solution to a particular problem or issue.

The approach and content of the initiatives can be formal or informal. Areas covered can be related to policy development, public project management or public services.[1]

Structural reforms performed within Public Administrations during the past decades, mainly in Anglo-Saxon countries, have introduced this new methodology which aims to reflect individual Government’s global policy and priorities through the improvement and coordination of services. WGA also seeks to introduce coherence in the decision making process of Public Administrations.


The first reference to this operational approach is found in Tony Blair’s Administration in the United Kingdom. It was then referred to as Joined-Up-Government (“JG”).[2] By means of this methodology the Government tried to overcome the existing problem of departmentalism within the rigid structures of public institutions, hampering the use of existing resources and incentives.[3] Departmentalism leads to complex procedures in order to deliver desired policy outcomes.

Policy reforms implemented within the Administration were based on the principle that traditional processes, independent in each Government Department or Public Institution, is built according to past reforms, but is also a reflection of past failures.

Nowadays, several internal and external issues justify the coordination among different public administrations:

a) External issues:

Pressures from public opinion, budgetary constraints, security, counterterrorism and environmental impact are some examples of the limitations imposed by external factors. These issues show a growing complexity of social problems and demand meaningful experiences in diverse areas, reflective knowledge and strategic answers to provide solutions.

b) Internal issues:

Aligning common interests, avoiding task duplications, reducing costs, increasing productivity and achieving a coherent line of action, in order to provide desired results, are some elements that stimulate the improvement of vertical and horizontal coordination of different Government Departments and Public Institutions.


On a national stage, the methodology of a WGA challenges the established regulation and political context of any given country. Governmental structures were originally designed for Agencies and Ministries working and approaching issues individually. The challenge is to develop new legal supportive structures for shared frameworks.[4]

Cooperative structures develop as a result of collaboration rather than through hierarchic pressures, thus coordination goals can be achieved by soft and systematic techniques, with a higher degree of consideration on pragmatic interaction before formal interaction. This has been the case of Public Administrations in Canada, where horizontal collaboration has been encouraged through internal communication of “Best Practices” and “Lessons Learned” of selected projects.[5]

Nevertheless, in order to achieve a successful WGA, results are also necessary on the vertical array, where voluntary collaboration is constrained as each actor is part of a definite hierarchical configuration. In this case, a centralized element of leadership is necessary to coordinate the agenda and to supervise principles and policies that need to be accomplished.

The methodology of the Australian Government, to perform projects with a WGA, builds within a simple framework of a shared definition of Top-Down goals, in order to align the interests of the various departments involved. Moreover, each department works internally in order to attain the accorded objectives.[6]

Issue Actions
1. Alignment of interests Description of desired final results
2. Harmonization of interdepartmental cultural differences Arrangement of intermediate objectives and results
3. Human Resources requirements Specification of all services to be provided in order to complete necessary tasks
4. Financial requirements Definition of actual departments and agencies to be involved and their degree of involvement

Ongoing efforts have to be measurable and regularly assessed. Metric indicators are needed in order to measure the development and the success/ failure of any Project.

WGA on International Cooperation issuesEdit

One of the main functions of a WGA, in the international arena, relates to intergovernmental coordination towards the assistance provided to Fragile States. A growing international concern towards terrorism and other security issues after the attacks on September 11 and the military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, together with reiterative downfalls of some unstable states that where left alone to providence, have led into unexpected consequences within the International Arena:

  • Many limitations of traditional military and diplomatic interventions have been uncovered.
  • There is a general agreement towards the need for a greater impetus from developed Governments, to come up with viable formulas towards the progress and well-being of Fragile States, due to these nations’ specific deprived conditions and risks.

Research conducted in this direction highlight the contributions that WGA can bring, towards the achievement of long term development and stability to Fragile States at a lower cost. Moreover, the application of this methodology reduces the risk of failure to meeting planned objectives.[7]

External linksEdit


  1. ^ “Connecting Government report”, Management Advisory Committee (MAC) for the Australian Government (2004)
  2. ^ "So what is joined-up government?". BBC News. 23 November 1998.
  3. ^ “Can Joined-up-Government be a reality?”, David Richards and Dennis Kavanagh, University of Liverpool (2001)
  4. ^ “The Whole of Government Approach”, Working paper, Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies, (2006)
  5. ^ “Basic Research The horizontal challenge”, Bakvis, H. & Julliet, L. (2004)
  6. ^ “Developing Whole-Of-Government Performance Indicators”, Discussion Paper Council on the Cost and Quality of Government (2005)
  7. ^ “Whole of Government Approaches to Fragile States”, OECD Governance, Peace and Security papers (2006)