On November 9, 2012, the Forum of Federations was invited to deliver a presentation on "Intergovernmental Coordination of Social Policy in Federal Systems” during the International Conference on the Coordination Challenges in Social Policy, organized by Mexico’s Federal Department of Social Development and the Economic Research Institute (CIDE). The objective of the panel discussion was to identify how orders of government can cooperate to better address issues of social and economic exclusion, as well as to co-finance social welfare projects. Workshop speakers included Rosario Castro Lozano, Coordinator of the National Federalism Institute (INAFED), Lorena Martinez, Mayor of Aguascalientes, and David Parks, Representative of the Forum of Federations in Mexico.
Rosario Castro Lozano provided an overview of intergovernmental coordination between Mexico’s federal, state and local governments, focusing on the priorities given to reduce the poverty indicators in Mexico’s 200 poorest municipalities. Ms. Castro Lozano attributed many of the improved indicators to the collaborative intergovernmental efforts to ensure that the numerous governmental programs cooperated rather than competed in the many overlapping policy areas of economic development, agricultural intensification, access to social services and more. She identified coordination challenges to obtaining results, noting that horizontal coordination within orders of government can be equally important as integrated vertical decision making.
David Parks (Forum of Federations) provided an overview of the organization’s work in Mexico, and directed the bulk of his remarks to the Canadian experience of coordinating social programs. Noting that Canada’s extreme decentralization in social policy make the sub-national governments key players in developing and implementing social policy. For example, education has been decentralized to such a degree that there is not a Federal Ministry of Education, which is a rarity among federal countries. The provinces are responsible for primary and secondary education, and there is no national authority for harmonizing curriculum or learning outcomes. Provinces also maintain policy control over healthcare, although the broad criteria established in the Canada Health Act ensure a larger degree of federal influence in this social sector. Mr. Parks noted that even entirely federal social programs like Employment Insurance are influenced by province and region, as eligibility and conditions are determined by the applicant’s province of residence. In closing, he underscored the fact that Canada’s extensive and effective social welfare program is only possible through the constant intergovernmental dialogue of public officials and policy makers from all orders of government.