The Political, Social, Cultural and Economic Context
Policymaking takes place within greatly varying
settings. Countries have different political systems and forms
of government (see Box 1), in addition to various
social, cultural, and economic systems and levels of development. For example,
Judice notes that “since Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, it is
a new democracy characterized by fledgling nongovernmental and private sectors.
These characteristics affect how a policy problem is identified and prioritized,
the process of its resolution, and the actual policies and programs that result.
As NGOs and the private sector become more distinct and truly independent of
the government, the dynamics of policy development and implementation will
also change” (Judice, 2004).
Gender dynamics vary considerably around the world;
for example, policy prescriptions related to girls’ education or access to reproductive health services
will vary according to women’s participation in the social domain (Boender
et al., 2004; Schuler, 1999). Policymaking differs whether the political situation
is stable and the government is working according to business as usual or whether
a crisis is precipitating rapid policy change (Thomas and Grindle, 1994). In
his model of policy streams, Kingdon defines politics as swings in national
mood, vagaries of public opinion, election results, changes in administrations,
shifts in partisan or ideological distributions, and interest group pressure
(Kingdon, 1984). The international political context is also important in the
national policy process, as noted in various sections of this paper.
Social settings and cultural practices can vary not
only between countries but also within countries, affecting all components
of the Policy Circle, as
shown in a recent assessment of the status, issues, policies, and programs
related to adolescent and youth reproductive healthcare in 13 countries in
Asia and the Near East (ANE) that included countries as diverse of Yemen in
the Near East and Cambodia in Southeast Asia. The assessment concluded that “adolescent
and youth RH in the ANE region is influenced in great part by the traditional
cultural and religious norms and values that pervade and dictate both family
communication and national policymaking” (Hardee et al., 2004: 41).