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Sub-national level – regional structures

Last edited: March 07, 2019

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Where nations have highly centralised decision-making power or services are delivered at a particular level of government due to the constitutional arrangements of particular federations, such as the U.S., Australia, etc., they can face difficulties ensuring that national/federal policies are delivered on the ground.  In some cases, decentralisation can also present challenges to ensuring national laws and policies on violence against women are effectively and consistently implemented.  This is because there is room for variation at the provincial and local levels in what laws and policies exist, in how national policies are applied and implemented and in the levels of commitment to and leadership in addressing the issue of violence against women (Franceschet, 2008).

Regional structures or mechanisms can act as a useful conduit between local and national efforts to ensure greater consistency of approach, and/or to coordinate implementation of national policies and plans. 

Successful approaches for bridging national and local policies through supportive regional (or state) structures can be found in some federal territories:

  • Drawing on existing state-level coordination structures (e.g. Australia)
  • Creation of state-wide councils (e.g. Illinois, US)
  • Mandating creation of local coordinated responses through state legislation (US)

Build on an existing sub-national coordination structure:

Example: Using existing inter-governmental coordination structures (Australia)

Australia has multiple coordinated responses to forms of violence against women, particularly intimate partner violence, across its states and territories, which are planned and implemented at the state and local levels.  In 2009, the Australian national government tasked the National Council to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children, a newly created advisory body on violence against women, to develop an evidence-based national plan for reducing violence against women.  The National Council produced Time for Action, in which it nominated the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the main inter-governmental forum, as a key vehicle for implementation and coordination of all levels of government.  The role of COAG was reaffirmed by the Australian national government in its response, which shaped the formation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022.

The COAG is comprised of the Prime Minister, State Premiers, Territory Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association.  It is chaired by the Prime Minister and located within the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Its role is to initiate, develop and monitor the implementation of policy reforms of national significance that require cooperative action by Australian governments, for example, major initiatives of one government (particularly the national government) that impact other governments or require the cooperation of other governments.

The role of the COAG in relation to reducing violence against women was to:

  • obtain agreement from all Australian governments to a long-term plan;
  • develop a governance framework and allocate funding;
  • drive implementation of the plan across Commonwealth, state and territory agencies; and
  • create links with other key reform agendas the COAG is working on, such as early years, indigenous communities, mental health, disability and homelessness.

The COAG coordinated actions across these different jurisdictions to develop the First and Second Action Plans, culminating in the formation of the National Plan to Reduce Violence against Women and their Children 2010-2022..  The COAG set out an integrated multi-layered governance structure to oversee implementation of the plan involving:

  • the COAG;
  • relevant Commonwealth, state and territory ministers to oversee implementation of the National Plan, monitor progress and develop further action plans;
  • a newly established National Plan Implementation Panel to advise on development and implementation of the National Plan, advise ministers on emerging issues for subsequent action plans and ensure effective cross-government and cross-community collaboration;
  • working groups comprising representatives from government and the specialist violence against women sector to progress implementation of national priorities; and
  • various existing jurisdiction-level structures as per each state/territory.

Sources: Council of Australian Governments website; COAG national plan

Create a new sub-national coordination structure:

Example: State-wide councils (Illinois, US)

Illinois is an example of a statewide structure designed to facilitate local coordinated responses to intimate partner violence through coordinating councils.  At the local level, there is a network of Family Violence Coordinating Councils (FVCC) across 22 Judicial Circuits in the State (covering 102 counties), which were created in 1990 by the Administrative Office of the Illinois Courts.  Collaboration at the FVCC level is between relatively small numbers of people (10-20), and up to 100-200 at the circuit level. 

The FVCCs are supported by a statewide steering committee called the Illinois Family Violence Coordinating Council (IFVCC) and a state-level office with permanent staff.  The steering committee is chaired by the Director of the IFVCC and a judge and includes decision-making representatives from across the state government, as well as the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence.  The IFVCC receives state funding through the Illinois Supreme Court, and more recently through the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority, which covers grants, staffing and operations. The councils are funded equally through an allocation of $19,500, which typically provides for a part-time local council coordinator and partially pays for the expenses of the local council.

The advantages of this multi-level structure include:

  • greater cross-council communication
  • the provision of technical support
  • the dissemination of knowledge (e.g., on new state policies and promising practices).

Evaluation of this model has indicated that this type of multi-layered system is successful because it balances the need for locally informed processes with the provision of external support, meaning that local efforts and state-level efforts are mutually reinforcing.

Source: Allen, N., Javdani, S., Anderson, C., Rana, S., Newman, D., Todd, N., Lehrner, A., Walden, A., Larsen, S. and Davis, S. (2010) Coordinating the Criminal Justice Response to Intimate Partner Violence: The Effectiveness of Councils in Producing Systems Change, available in English.

 

Enact state legislation mandating or facilitating sub-national coordination

Many US states have enacted laws that encourage or mandate the formation of multi-disciplinary teams, such as coordinating councils, to promote state- and local-level coordination, particularly around domestic violence and child protection.  For example, in Minnesota, following the success of the Duluth Project, legislators mandated that similar intervention projects (CCRs) be established across all districts in the state.

Another example is in New York State, where a law was passed containing a provision to convene a task force to develop a model county domestic violence policy to ‘provide consistency and coordination by and between county agencies and departments […] by municipalities or other jurisdictions within the county and other governmental agencies and departments, by assuring that best practices, policies, protocols and procedures are used to address the issue of domestic violence’ (NY EXC LAW § 575).  A Model Policy for Counties (first produced in 1997 and since updated) was produced and distributed to all relevant agencies offering definitive guidance from the State on how to structure and develop local responses to domestic violence.

The concept of a coordinated community response to sexual assault is also mandated in New Jersey, where state law specifies that every county prosecutor’s office must establish a Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and a SART Coordinating Council (N.J.S.a. 52:4B-54; see also sections 52:4B-50 to 4B-60).