CEDEM conference: Advocating for Open Government – lessons learnt and future prospects

December 21, 2016

 

aogThe conference ”Advocating for Open Government – lessons learnt and future prospects” was organised by CEDEM (Centre for Democracy and Human Rights) under the EU-funded project: Advocacy for Open Government – Civil society agenda-setting and monitoring of country action plans. The objective of this project was to enable CSOs taking lead in OGP actions to engage with their governments constructively, by developing and applying a common methodology to advocate for, and monitor standards in open government, good governance and rule of law in the six target countries in the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, FYR Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia). The project targeted the following groups: NGOs working in OGP policy areas; citizens, including women, ethnic minorities and non-citizens; public officials; policymakers and public institutions; media; interest groups and businesses entities.

In 2011, the Montenegrin Government joined the global initiative for Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international platform for Governments and civil society organisations (CSOs) committed to making their governments more open, accountable and responsible to citizens. In line with the obligations for all the countries that joined the initiative, the Government adopted its first action plan in 2012, with various success in the implementation of envisaged measures. In 2015, the Government started with the preparation of the next OGP action plan, including through the establishment of the new OGP Operational Team and adoption of the draft version of the second action plan.

This particular conference was organized as a closing project events, as well as an opportunity to gather all relevant stakeholders in the preparation and implementation of OGP action plans. The conference objective was to promote the OGP initiative and to discuss the progress achieved in the country, to create space for dialogue among the CSOs and the Government institutions about OGP experiences and challenges, including the design of the next action plan. The conference also facilitated sharing of relevant information from the region and the sharing of good regional practices.

The conference gathered representatives of state institutions, independent experts, international organizations and CSOs working in the areas relevant for OGP, as well as representatives of foreign embassies.

Conference opening

The conference was opened by Mr Nenad Koprivica, executive director of CEDEM, who elaborated on the importance and results of the project and emphasized some of the ongoing challenges and shortcomings in the implementation of OGP initiative in Montenegro, as well as some positive OGP flagship projects which have been implemented under this initiative. He also underlined some of the future recommendable lines of cooperation among the civil sector, the media and the government institutions.

Mr Srđan Kusovac, Head of Press and Information Office Adviser to the Prime Minister and National OGP Coordinator spoked about the progress achieved in the implementation of OGP, as well as about challenges in implementing the first OGP action plan and designing the second one (mostly about the lack of human, technical and financial resources and the lack of solid interinstitutional cooperation in the implementation of OGP sectorial measures).

Mrs Nikoleta Tomović, Executive Director of the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) elaborated on the role of CEMI in the Advocacy for Open Government Project and stated some of the key activities implemented by CEMI vis-à-vis OGP grand priorities, especially in the field of anti-corruption, monitoring election processes, transparency and free access to information.

Presentation of pollic results and panel discussions

After the opening of the conference, CEDEM’s Program Associate presented the results of the public opinion polling which was conducted under the project. His presentation indicated level of public trust in certain institutions, non-governmental organizations, religious organizations, media and politicians. It also indicated trends in public perceptions relating to levels of their transparency, openness and cooperativeness towards citizens, and civil sector as a whole (for more details on the specific polling results and trends, please refer to Annex III).

OGP in Action

The rest of the conference was divided into two panel discussions, the first dedicated to OGP at the country level, including its practical results and key developments by the civil sector and public institutions, and the second dedicated to regional experiences. The first panel was moderated by Ms Marija Vuksanovic, CEDEM Project Coordinator. Participants to the panel emphasized the importance of CSO engagement in OGP initiative, including through participation in the Operational Team, engagement in the design of OGP action plans, monitoring of their implementation, as well as through advocacy for greater interactions among CSO, the media, business community and public sector.

MsDubravka Popović (Centre for Monitoring and Research – CEMI) elaborated on the implementation of the first action plan, in terms of anti-corruption, transparency and access to information. She also have an overview of the most recent anti-corruption legislation and of the National Anti-Corruption Agency in terms of its establishment, mandate and recent operations in relation to parliamentary elections that were held on 16 October 2016. She declared a need for greater openness and proactiveness of this institutions, as well as the need for furher capacity building, especially vis-à-vis administrative investigations and supervisory role of the Agency.

Mr Marko Sošić (Institute Alternative /Westmnister Foundation for Democracy) spoked about one of the OGP grand challenges and priorities -effective management of public resources – especially in part that concerns the design and execution of the state budget, both the organic and the annual budget, as well as about citizen budget. Mr Sosic particularly refered to non-transparency of the design and execution of the capital investment’s part of the budget. He also reflected on the role of the Parliamentary Committee on Finances in this process and advocated for its greater involvement in this process.

MsMilica Kovačević (Centre for Democratic Transition -CDT) gave a presentation on participatory policy making and onpromoting the good governance principles by the highest legislative body, the Parliament of Montenegro. She presented CDT project Open Parliament that was initiated in early 2000’s, particularly about its key achievements, such as publishing of parliamentary acts and documents, information about MPs, agendas of parliamentary sessions, etc. She also spoked about the growing role of the parliamentary committes, but urged for greater replication of good practices among different committees. Ms Kovacevic also stressed out a need for more detailed preparation and publication of minutes from the sessions of parliamentary committees, especially regarding the voting process.

Regional approaches to OGP priorities

The second panel discussion was devoted to presentation of regional experiences, gathered through the implementation of the Advocacy for Open Government Project. The participants to the second panel were coordinators of the AFOG project in Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo, who all shared their experiences in project implementation and presented key OGP developments and challenges in their respective countries. The panel was moderated by Mr Ognjen Markovic, Program Associate at CEDEM.

Ms Quendresa Sulejmani Centre for Research and Policy Making (CRPM) from Macedonia presented the situation in Macedonia when it comes to OGP process. She also presented CRPM sound activities in this field, primarily in terms of mobilizing and coordinating the work of CSOs in this field, advocating for and monitoring the implementation of Open Data project in Macedonia, as well as supporting capacity-building processes around OGP. She accentuated the relations between OGP process and EU accession agenda in Macedonia, and stated the narrowness of the OGP process to electronic government only, with limited results in other segment of the OGP initiative.

Mr Dragan Stoiljkovic, Centre for Euro – Atlantic Studies (CEAS) from Serbia elaborated on the state of OGP in Serbia. He claimed a significant improvement over the previous process of OGP-action planning and decision-making, for 2014 and 2015. The process of preparing an action plan was officially launched in January 2016, with the establishment of a special inter-ministerial working group for drafting the second Action Plan 2016 – 2017 and the necessary participation of the Republic of Serbia in the OGP. The process of collecting comments carried out in the period 1 – 22 August 2016, when the form is being published on the website of the Office for Cooperation with civil society and the Ministry of State Administration and Local Government. Mr Stoiljkovic also said that the Draft Action Plan for 2016-201 envisages more comprehensive areas, such as public participation, access to information, open data, fights against corruption, fiscal transparency and public services. However, he stressed out that bearing in mind the delay in relation to the target deadlines, and that it is still an unmatched draft, the question is when and to what extent it will succeed to be implemented.1

Ms Vlera MATI, Riinvest Institute from Kosovo spoked about the commitments of Kosovo Government, when it comes to working on drafting the National Action Plan which comply with OGP Requirement in order to become a member of OGP. However, unfortunately Kosovo is one of the countries that is not a member of OGP; the accession request has been rejected from the OGP committee. Reasons vary from budgeting issue to political reasons. Although Kosovo has not been accepted to become a member of OGP, Kosovo is committed towards activities related to Open Governance.

First, with the Ministry of European Integration has set achieved the goal to draft the First National Action Plan 2014-2016 (Riinvest has monitored the implementation of the actions within the plan). Moreover, this year the Gov-ernment of Republic of Kosovo has initiated a process to adopt the Open Data Charter (Open data is digital data that is made available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime, anywhere), and has also opened up the central portal data.rks, which is now enriched with several datasets, however Riinvest perpetually criticizes that there are as enough data as there should be, and that the portal should be promoted to the general public in an intensive campaign – thus raise awareness of data utilization and their function in daily life.

Reccomendations for the close future

The process of drafting the second OGP action plan should continue to be carried out in a participatory way. Building upon the adopted draft version of this document, in the next steps OGP measures need to be prioritized and properly budgeted and a focus should be defined according to the recommendations and the criteria of the independent reporting mechanism. CSOs, especially those that are interested and participated in the conference, should be regularly informed about the progress made regarding the drafting of the action plan, as well as further implementation. CSOs’ involvement in the designing of the OGP action plan is a good practice which should be promoted among ministries and other state institutions more effectivelly and it can be used as a model in designing other strategies and policies.

In more concrete terms, the focus of this process should be on the essential problems, with transformative, but real measures; inclusive consultative process, with methods that will ensure prioritization; adequate resources and budget should be ensured and allocated; drawing on priority areas (budget, data, mechanisms for participation, freedom of expression, media and public gathering) and involvement of the Parliament. Key recommendations from the independent reporting mechanism (IRM) should be taken into consideration when designing the next action plan.

Information dissemination and media coverage

The conference triggered significant media interest and presence of several representatives of electronic and print media. Thus, there was a significant media coverage of the conference on the national broadcasting agency, private televisions, electronic and print media as well as some web portals. The information on the conference was also posted at CEDEM official website and face book page. Below please find the press clipping on the conference:

https://www.facebook.com/NGOCEDEM1/?ref=br_rs&hc_ref=SEARCH&fref=nf)

http://www.vijesti.me/vijesti/cedem-gradani-najvise-vjeruju-obrazovnom-i-zdravstvenom-sistemu-i-spc-912276

http://rtcg.me/vijesti/drustvo/147766/najvece-povjerenje-u-obrazovni-i-zdravstveni-sistem.html

http://m.cdm.me/#/article/453469

http://volimpodgoricu.me/2016/11/17/cedem-najveci-stepen-povjerenja-u-sistem-obrazovanja-najmanji-u-cpc/

http://www.portalanalitika.me/clanak/250732/cedem-najvece-povjerenje-u-obrazovni-i-zdravstveni-sistem

http://www.mitropolija.com/cedem-najvece-povjerenje-gradjana-crne-gore-u-obrazovni-i-zdravstveni-sistem-i-srpsku-pravoslavnu-crkvu/

http://www.dan.co.me/?nivo=3&rubrika=Drustvo&datum=2016-11-18&clanak=573659&naslov=Najvi%B9e%20vjeruju%20SPC

http://www.pinkm.me/glavne/cedem-cg-poboljsala-transparentnost/

http://pasos.org/advocating-for-open-government-lessons-learnt-and-future-prospects-2/

https://www.facebook.com/NGOCEDEM1/photos/pcb.1141575935956428/1141575775956444/?type=3

http://www.cedem.me/aktivnosti/921-cedem-organizovao-zavrsnu-konferenciju-posvecenu-partnerstvu-otvorenih-vlada

1 Given that in the preparation of this draft action plan a greater participation of civil society is noted, and that consultations are still ongoing, we can say that the work of relevant ministries is being done correctly (MDULS). Also, compared with the previous action plan, the current is more in line with the principles of the Partnership for Open Government Initiative, because it shows a greater participation of the public, and the proposed measures and solutions are a qualitative step forward. The main objection is that the adoption and implementation of the proposed action plan requires a longer period of time, and it was a draft version of which the final content will definitely be changed.

 

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