White Paper

White Paper The term 'white paper' is generally associated with the parliamentary tradition of the United Kingdom, but is said to be followed by other western countries such as Australia and Canada which have the same parliamentary model of government. White Papers are documents produced by the government setting out details of future policies on particular subjects and circulated by the government prior to laying out of a policy, or a proposal for action, or current issues of public concern. It may come as reform issues or a new legislation. The White Paper allows the government an opportunity to gather feedback before it formally presents the policies or a Bill for legislation before the Parliament.

White Papers are also issued by the European Commission. These are documents that outline proposals for action in a specific area.

In the United Kingdom, it is said to have been put more in practice to make room for an 'Open Government' recommended by the Fulton Committee of 1968. However, the practice of issuing White Paper was in vogue as seen from Churchill White Paper, 1922, White Paper of 1939 calling for the creation of a united Palestinian state. Some important White Papers of Australia and Canada respectively include White Paper on Full Employment (1945) and White Paper on Defence (1964).

In the British parliamentary tradition, there is also the concept and practice of issuing a Green Paper. This is basically consultation document on various issue of public concern. It is a discussion document in which the government outlines a problem, makes proposals for dealing with it, and invites public comments on the proposal. The practice is also vogue in Australia and Canada as well as the European Commission.

By contrast, White Papers are sometimes issued by the Government of Bangladesh not as draft statements policy but as documents to inform the public about the misdeeds of the immediately preceding government of a different political party. The White Paper published by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led government after 2001, is a case in point.

The concept of issuing a Green Paper in a formal sense and in the way it is done in the United Kingdom and followed by other western democracies that practice white hall type of democracy, is absent in Bangladesh. However, whether it relates to framing of policy or of proposing an action on important public welfare issues, the practice now is to hold workshops and seminars with relevant persons and institutions before it is given final shape. Consultation with aid-giving agencies and countries is also a part of this process. Examples are Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), local government reform, public administration reform etc. In addition to the above, private sector thinkers also periodically bring out important action proposals on reform issues. [AMM Shawkat Ali]

Bibliography Frank Stacey, British Government 1966-1975, Years of Reform (1975), Macmillan Publishers.