Last month, at the beginning of April 2015, Open Government Institute Moldova in close partnership with E-Governance Academy Estonia and E-Government Center Moldova organized a working workshop for public servants and civil society representatives in Chişinău focusing on “Citizen engagement in decision making processes”. The event is one of the commitments which Moldovan Government together with Civil Society “co-committed” to implement as part of Moldova’s Second Action Plan on Open Government, under Moldova’s membership in the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
Both days were attended by more than 90 representatives of the public sector, civil society organizations and independent experts, and provided a platform for learning and sharing practical mechanisms and tools for citizen engagement, including from Estonian experience, and ways inclusion of civic groups and individual citizens in governance can be achieved.
The event also presented the first draft of the “Citizen Engagement in Decision Making processes” guide – an online interactive guide, that comes to support the Government of Moldova in increasing the transparency in the decision-making, in general and provides a set of tools and templates for the civil servants in implementing the Law on transparency in decision-making, in particular.
Context/the need for such a guide:
The Moldovan Law on transparency of the decision-making contains principles and procedures to be followed in the daily work of public authorities and contributes to improving the quality of the decisions drafted and approved, accountability of authorities to citizens, and to increasing the support of citizens for the policies approved and actions undertaken. The Government Decision for the implementation of the Law provides more detailed and practical information for citizen engagement. However, the Decision is not exhaustive and it does not contain sufficient specific guidance for civil servants during consultation process. Thus, the Citizen Engagement website covers existing methodological gaps, by providing all necessary instruments for conducting public information and consultation throughout all stages of decision-making set in existing legislation. It lists the most important Government and civil society institutions, specifies responsibilities for concerned civil servants, reviews legislation and develops tools and templates, as well as provides guidelines used by other governments and organisations.
In line with the above, the given platform is an active, live platform/document, aimed at providing support to Central Public Authorities representatives in Moldova on ways to implement citizen-engagement practices in Moldova, through following the legal provisions adopted by the Government of Moldova during the past years, in regards to Transparency in decision making, Access to information, Open data, Open government, etc.
The main idea behind this platform is to serve as a regular information point for coordinators, heads of author subdivisions, responsible officers, etc. on ways, practices, mechanisms to implement the provisions related to citizen-engagement. The platform makes references to the legal provisions, as well as provides, where available, different templates, samples of documents, which might save a lot of time (especially when staff responsible for these processes are either new to the processes or very junior).
It is a google sites platform, easy to use and can be updated at any time by any central or local public authority in the future (once the guide is complete).
Key take away based on the discussions and reflections during the event:
– Capacity building around issues related to open government, citizen engagement, social accountability are a must for an OGP member country that lacks the ‘history’ and background of participatory democracy, citizen engagement. It is also important that such capacity building clarify the key differences between emerging concepts and notions such as open government and e-government, etc.;
– Engaging central public authorities, such as State Chancellery is a crucial factor in ensuring sustainability of the capacity building efforts as well as of ensuring that practical toolkits and guides are going to be further implemented by Central Public Authorities;
– Events around the issues of open government have to bring together government representatives, CSOs, both at national and local levels, in order to create platforms for dialogue, reciprocal learning and sharing and exchange of possible solutions;
– Such events have to also bring representatives of different sectors, thus, anchoring the discussions around sector specific solutions related to citizen engagement in decision making processes;
– Any emerging sector/area of development requires human resources capable to address it constructively, innovatively, comprehensively, holistically;
– Following up with everyone attending the event, and continuing the discussions via a mailing list (thus, we have created an online community of open government/citizen engagement practitioners).
Note: The workshop on April 7-8, 2015 is part of the ‘Introduction of the principles of open governance in the inclusion of citizens in the decision-making process in Moldova’ project, which is being implemented by e-Governance Academy Estonia, supported by the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs within the framework of development cooperation.