Policy is a carefully planned system of rules to guide conduct and achieve reasonable outcomes. A policy is a formal statement of purpose, which is formally implemented as either a process or procedure, or as an abstract statement of intention. Policies are usually adopted by a governing body within an organisation. It is generally accepted that there are three types of policies: general principles, functional requirements, and specifications. A policy document can define the procedures to be adopted in order to achieve the objectives of the organisation.
General Principles is legally binding rules that specify how organisations must do business. However, there is no room for creativity as every rule must have a well defined set of intended consequences. There is no room for deviation, since these types of policies are generally drafted to ensure compliance with the law. There are some exceptions to this general principle, especially where there is broad recognition of the rights of individuals under Article 13 of the European Convention on the Rights of the European Union.
Functional Requirements are a set of rules that are intended to achieve some specific outcomes, with certain minimum conditions. These outcomes and minimum conditions need to be determined before the implementation process begins. Once implemented, there is little scope for changing these requirements once they have been formally recognised. However, there is flexibility to design processes and procedures to ensure that desired outcomes are attained. There is also the potential for deviation from these rules in terms of the identification of permissible circumstances where government action is justified.
Specifications refer to the determination of the extent to which the public policy will achieve its intended results. This involves a process of analysis of how different public policy outcomes are likely to affect the achievement of the policy objectives. It involves a careful assessment of the implications of introducing new measures and procedures for achieving these outcomes. These specifications are legally enforceable and need to cover all the possible ways by which adverse public policy outcomes may occur.
citations may appear as pre-requisites for all policies. In fact, all policies must cite certain relevant facts that support their claims. However, citations in many cases are not legally enforceable unless they clearly identify the sources used by the policy maker. Citations in environmental policy statements can therefore be viewed as an important way to ensure the reliability of the policy statement. Also, the importance of citations is increasingly recognised in case of legal disputes.
Effectiveness of a public policy or regulation is measured by its ability to achieve the public policy objectives. All policies must be consistent with the law so that they are enforceable. They should also be able to achieve the policy objectives over a period of time that is commensurate with their complexity. In addition, all policies must demonstrate their effectiveness by providing a justification that is based on facts, rather than suppositions or assumptions about the world as a whole or about the effects of their implementation on individual persons.