Charters are official commitments to quality and reform. Belgium introduced its Charter of the User of Public Services in 1993. The federal administration’s Copernicus reform began in 1999 and had a strong external outlook. It therefore may be considered as a second User Charter. In this article we focus on the administrative and political contingencies of the introduction of the two charters in Belgium. We show that actual administrative reform and political attention for administrative reform are distinct phenomena. Variations in political attention for reform depend on crises and on political realignment. Both charters were introduced in a period of disturbed relations between citizens and politics. The introduction of a User Charter and the launch of the Copernicus reform were definitely political events, and not merely administrative ones. A charter was needed to restore citizen-government relations. The charters, as pledges for reform, served as lightning rods for political discontent.

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Public Management Review: an international journal of research and theory
Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Van de Walle, S., Thijs, N., & Bouckaert, G. (2005). A tale of two charters. Public Management Review: an international journal of research and theory, 7(3), 367–390. doi:10.1080/14719030500180930