Why is it relevant to have national pre-OGP Summit discussions, what’s the value added … reflections from Moldova!

By Veronica Cretu, Open Government Institute Moldova and member of the Civil Society Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership  (OGP)

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On September 29th, a group of Moldovan civil society organizations, government representatives, and World Bank colleagues (including some remotely from Washington DC) joined in an event organized by the Open Government Institute, in partnership with World Bank and E-Government Center to discuss Moldova Government- Civil Society collaboration in the context of Open Government Agenda.

The need for such discussions were anchored in a number of reasons:

  • When it comes to the open government agenda the involvement of both Government and civil society had decreased as Moldova moved from its 1st to 2nd Action Plan on Open Government.
  • A National Participation Council, which is a civil society –government consultative body established by the Government back in 2010, ended its 2012-2014 mandate a year ago and its mandate has never been renewed. More than that, when a call for a “new” Participation Council was launched earlier this year, only 13 NGOs have applied, while for a full mandate the Council needs 30 members. In 2012, a working group on Open Government was established within the Council particularly with the mandate to participate in the elaboration, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of the Open Government Action Plans. Once the formal mandate of the Council expired, the activity of the working group on Open Government has formally stopped as well. Informally, work around Open Government Action Plan implementation has been done by the Open Government Institute. This raises the question of the continuity of both the efforts put in place and of the sustainability of the cooperation between the government and civil society around open government;
  • For some reason, the concept of “open government” is often interpreted as “e-government” by representatives of both CSOs and Government, thus, leaving the responsibility for open government to institutions dealing specifically with e-government agenda and not seeing the broader perspectives related to open government and its cross-sector relevancy.

The purpose of the discussions on Tuesday taking place exactly a month before the OGP Summit in Mexico was to provide space for both Government and CSOs representatives to reflect on the ways collaboration around the open government agenda between the two could be improved, based on the lessons learned and some documented practices among Open Government Partnership member countries.

WB2Among the speakers were Ion Gumene (Senior State Advisor to the Prime Minister), Gheorghe Caraseni (Independent Reporting Mechanism Researcher for Moldova Action Plan on Open Government for 2014), and Livia Turcanu (Product Platform Consultant with E-Government Center).

The event was joined remotely by World Bank experts in Washington DC: Kimberly D. Johns (Governance Specialist), Keith McLean (Lead Social Development Specialist), Marcos Mendiburu (Senior Social Development Specialist) and Abhinav Bahn with the Open Government Partnership Support Unit.

Given that Moldova had three Governments in place in less than a year, the dialogue with civil society got interrupted and reconnected again by a new Government.  Each Government made certain promises, and when a promise is not fulfilled this leads to even more frustration and lack of trust.  The event allowed participants to speak up and share their reflections on what they thought about government-civil society collaboration, both as part of Open Government Agenda and beyond it.

Given the importance of learning from each experience, particularly given that in OGP itself there is a very valuable peer-learning and support component, the following are the key take away from the discussions:

On the national processes related to Gov-CSOs collaboration:

  • It is extremely important to have permanent dialogue mechanisms, and regardless of changes in the government those mechanisms should be in place – this would allow civil society organizations to continue interacting with the Government without having to interrupt their activities or affect the quality of the initiatives they are implementing;
  • Engagement opportunities for civil society organizations should be open for all interested organizations. It is important to avoid leading to classifications and categorizations related to someone being a representative of “formal” civil society and “informal” civil society organizations. This leads to Government favoring ones over the others, and this is indeed affecting the quality of both feedback and engagement with the Government;
  • National Participation Council – a two year term civil society collaboration platform should go through an evaluation, preferably an external one, so that the results allow to understand how efficient this platform has been and how it can be further improved should it be re-launched again;
  • Culture for participation among CSOs and the broader citizenry is still at an Inception phase in Moldova. CSOs are more playing the role of social entrepreneurs (providing services, delivering capacity building, doing research and studies, evaluations, others) and have no time for engagement around other issues. However, where engagement was constructive, those practices have to be analyzed and replicated. For example, sector related working groups were mentioned as being very productive – in which CSOs work hand in hand with a specific Ministry around policy issues, initiatives, etc. If that model proves to be most sustainable and constructive why not replicate it and use it?!
  • Independent Reporting Mechanism and the reports generated by independent evaluators should serve as a basis for discussions around both nature of the commitments and the engagement mechanisms or the processes behind …   
  • Both CSOs and Government representatives should be encouraged to take advantage of the webinars and the OGP Working Groups, and thus, connect to the global discussions around open government related issues.

On the Government-civil society collaboration around the Open Government Agenda

  • It is important to find the right incentives for bringing more CSOs voices into the open government related agenda.  And this can be done through identifying the right set of problems which might be addressed with the help of open government related tools – experience shows that as long as the issues addressed are of low relevance for CSOs they are reluctant to engage.  So open government should be seen as a platform that can generate specific solutions to the problems be it nationally or locally;
  • The Government needs to have real champions who are the promoters of ambitious public sector reforms, who are not afraid to embrace open government related principles into their daily activities and who know how to build effective dialogue platforms with their civil society partners;
  • Engagement of CSOs in the open government related processes nationally should be opened to as many CSOs as possible. Using clear language, linking open government mechanisms and principles to the local development agenda is key;
  • Learning from the best practices related to Gov-CSOs collaboration platforms existent in the OGP member countries through exploring on the existent research and doing some analyses of what might work in the context of our country is really valuable;

On the role of international development partners:

CSOs representatives often mention lack of resources for being able to engage meaningfully in the monitoring processes related to National Action Plans implementation. And while there are quite a number of international development partners in the country, very few are having the open government agenda/initiatives among their key priorities (World Bank is an exception in this regards).  More than that, recently, International Organizations such as UNDP, or Soros, others have started to apply for the funding available for Moldovan Civil Society sector along with national CSOs which makes the competition for the last ones really tough.

Which is why, donors’ community should also re-think their position vis-à-vis the funding mechanisms for the national/local CSOs along with embedding open government, open data, citizen-engagement mechanisms, open contracting, fiscal transparency, others in their calls for proposals. Some capacity building sessions on open government, OGP, and other sub-issues might be relevant to be organized together with representatives of donors’ community.

To conclude, the pre-OGP Summit meeting was a great “motive” to:

  • Raise awareness of the upcoming OGP Global Summit – something most of the people in the room might have heard for the first time;
  • Remind both Governments and CSOs about their OGP membership and commitments made as part of this membership;
  • Look into the current status of the collaboration between the Government and CSOs around the Open Government related agenda and not only;
  • Analyze the institutionalized dialogue practices/mechanisms existent in the OGP member country and identify ways to improve your own platforms;
  • Create one more opportunity for Government and CSOs to meet and address the processes and contents of the national open government agendas;
  • Reflect on the results of the Independent Reporting Mechanism and plan for the future.

Hoping that Moldovan experience could indeed inspire other OGP member countries to organize local debates around open government related issues prior to the Summit, because if it is not now – then when?! And if it is not you – then who could organize something similar?!

For questions related to national pre-OGP Summit events, feel free to contact me at veronicacretu@gmail.com

Government – Civil Society collaboration in the frame of the Open Government Agenda

logo_facebook“Collaboration between Government and Civil Society in the context of the Open Government Agenda”

Open Government Institute in collaboration with the World Bank and e-Government Center organizes a working meeting dedicated to “Collaboration between Government and Civil Society in the context of the Open Government Agenda” on September 29th, from 16:30-18:30, within the premises of the World Bank Moldova office.  

This event comes a month ahead of the 3rd Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to take place in Mexico – http://ogpsummit.org/ – event which expects to gather thousands of Government and Civil Society representatives from the 65 member countries of the Partnership.

Republic of Moldova is a member of OGP since 2011 and as part of its commitment as an OGP member country it has elaborated and implemented two national action plans on open government.

Given that one of the key pillars in OGP is the collaboration between the Government and Civil Society, the event on the 29th looks at addressing the following 2 aspects:

  • Analyze ways Government and Civil Society could collaborate around the Open Government Agenda in the future – from co-creation of the Action Plans to implementation, monitoring and evaluation;
  • Discuss about collaboration platforms already put in place by other OGP member countries and look at aspects which could be replicated in Moldova.

The event will bring around the table representatives of the Government, Civil Society, international development partners. The event will also be attended by the World Bank PAR team which will be on a working mission in Moldova as part of the future project on “Strengthening Public Sector Management in the Republic of Moldova”.

The Preliminary Agenda includes:   

Time/duration Details
16:30-17:00 Introduction of participants and scope of the event. Brief intro on the OGP and ways other OGP member countries established collaboration mechanisms as part of Open Government Agenda – by Veronica Cretu, head of Open Government Institute, member of the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership.  
17:00 – 17:30 Collaboration between the Government and Civil Society around Moldova’s 1&2nd Action Plans on Open Government- reflections from Ion Gumene, Senior State Advisor to the Prime Minister of Moldova and Livia Turcanu, Product Platform Consultant with E-Government CenterQ&A
17:30 – 18:00 Independent Reporting Mechanism of the OGP and results of the collaboration between the Government and Civil Society in the context of the elaboration and implementation of the 2nd National Action Plan on Open Government through the lens of the independent evaluator  – by Gheorghe Caraseni, and contributions from Livia Turcanu, Product Platform Consultant with E-Government CenterQ&A
18:00 – 18:30 Group discussions and reflections around the main issues addressed and identification of ways to ensure an efficient collaboration between the Government and Civil Society around Open Government Agenda for the years 2015-2017 and beyond.

Given that these discussions are going to serve as a basis for setting a future collaboration platform, they will also be shared with moderators of relevant sessions during the Summit in Mexico and thus, Moldova will contribute to the exchange of knowledge and practices around deepening and broadening the engagement of civil society in the Open Government Agenda.  

As the meeting venue has a limited space for participants, we strongly encourage those interested to register by September 25th using the Registration Form below:   https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1_Rckcg7SXGeOdtx90k4VjvoZhHz-uA7beKzZulm-y20/viewform

For any questions, feel free to contact Veronica Crețu at veronicacretu@gmail.com

The event will take place within the premises of the World Bank Office Moldova, on Str. Pușkin 20/1.

Thank you for your interest!  

Capacity building is key when it comes to promoting open government particularly in countries with no participatory democracy experience …

event2Last 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).

participantsBoth 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.

guideThe 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.

Challenges of the transparency in the decision making processes in Moldova …

On November 15, 2014 Open Government Institute was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration to conduct a workshop on Open Government & Transparency in Decision-Making processes for more than 60 representatives of the public sector, many of whom are directly responsible for the implementation of transparency in decision making and citizen engagement as part of the Ministry they work at. Public servants had the opportunity to share details about the implementation of the transparency related processes in ministries or other  public authorities.

Veronica Cretu, President of the Open Government Institute, who moderated the workshop, challenged participants to think about a number of issues and encouraged them to share about ways public servants are currently implementing the provisions of the legal framework related to transparency in decision making and citizen engagement.

Veronica also shared with participants the main principles adopted by Moldova once joining the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and what is OGP all about.

When it comes to practices implemented by the Ministries/Central Public Authorities, the following have been shared:

  • Press conferences announcing launching of a decision making process;
  • Consultative Groups;
  • Thematic councils;
  • Debate forums;
  • Surveys;
  • Opinion polls;
  • Hot lines;
  • Working Groups

Participants added that more work could be done to promote the consultation platform of the State Chancellery www.particip.gov.md. There should be more efforts put in place to strengthen the inter-institutional cooperation between CPAs and CSOs, particularly with the National Participation Council. Participants also mentioned that it is important for CPAs to implement more video promotional materials which would encourage citizens to get more actively engaged in meaningful debate around different issues of their interest.

Among the key difficulties mentioned by participants in terms of practical implementation of the provisions of the existent legal framework on transparency in decision making process the following have been enumerated:

  • Resources are always an issue when it comes to organizing round table meetings, debates and other initiatives related to consultations and so realistic estimation of the costs is a challenge indeed;
  • Political or high level commitment for transparency and citizen engagement agenda;
  • Respecting/following strictly the deadlines for consultations, etc;
  • CPAs are not good at utilizing and referring to already existent reports, studies, analyses produced on the issues addressed, and waste time and resources producing new ones;
  • Ex-ante evaluation of the public policies is still weak;
  • Lack of citizens’ engagement in policy making, in providing feedback and comments;
  • Weak engagement of CSOs in decision making processes. Often, there are the same usual ‘suspects’ involved and this does not lead to generating new input into the processes;
  • There is a weak understanding of the broader concept of Open Government and lack of a common vision on this issue leads to low engagement of CPAs in the Open Government Agenda.

One of the challenges lies in the fact, as it has been articulated during the event, that the mandate of CPAs is not Communication per ce. Even if the role of the public institutions is policy elaboration and implementation, any public authority has to be able to clearly communicate with its target beneficiaries and get their input. So consultations and citizen engagement is a mandatory part of CPAs agenda, and it is important that this vision is shared across the public sector and all public servants.

First National OGP Forum in Skopje, Macedonia

November 26, 2014 is a day in which Macedonia organized its first ever National Open Government Partnership Forum. The event was organized by the Center for Research and Policy Making (CRPM) in cooperation with the Ministry of Information Society and Administration in the framework of the “Advocacy for Open Government Partnership” project funded by the European Union and the British Embassy in Skopje.

The Forum brought together international and domestic representatives from civil society, government and business and stir discussion along the following topics:

  1. National and local level initiatives on OGP – comparative perspectives;
  2. OGP – an avenue for linking government and the business community through open data;
  3. Inter-institutional communication and cooperation with CSOs – a value added.

The Forum featured three panels. Veronica Cretu, President of the Open Government Institute Moldova, was invited to present during the third panel focusing on the different frameworks for inter-institutional cooperation. Mrs. Cretu joined remotely and her video intervention can be accessed here:

A note on the project “Advocacy for open government: civil society agenda setting and monitoring of implementation of national action plans” is funded by the EU and coordinated through the PASOS network of policy institutes. It has so far provided baseline study and tracked change of citizens’ perception on OGP in the Western Balkan region; facilitated coalition building between civil society organizations in the seven priority areas of OGP and has fostered public dialogue with Government with an aim for civil society to have greater impact on the policy agenda set with the adoption of the new country action plans for Open Government.

Geneva Internet Conference’s first edition delivers powerful recommendations and questions for the future of Internet governance

Geneva Internet Platform 2014

During November 17-19, 2014 Geneva hosted an important two days event focusing on Internet Governance issues, probably most important event on Internet Governance of the year 2014. Following ICANN President Fadi Chehadé’s opening speech, more than 250 experts from all stakeholder groups, including some 50 leading figures/authorities and high-ranking officials in Internet governance, participated in this high-profile event, scanning significant pending Internet governance issues. This conference is an illustration of the Geneva Internet Platform’s (GIP) potential as a prominent facilitator and a natural hub for incoming digital negotiations, bringing together all actors, and increasing inclusion with outreach through remote meeting hubs around the world.  Geneva Internet Conference  agenda started with an introduction to internet governance. For the next day The Internet governance landscape was the main topic for debates. The  third day continued with open forum on The complexity of Internet governance: sustaining innovation while ensuring equality, discussing about Internet policy issues.

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Veronica Cretu, President of the Open Government Institute and member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Commitee, took part in the event and shared some thoughts and reflections during the session focusing on “Aim for full transparency – accept exceptional translucency”. The session aimed at bringing different perspectives on transparency issue, and Mrs. Cretu reflected on the issue from the Government stand point of view, particularly departing from the current practices and mechanisms implemented today as part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Mrs. Cretu shared that transparency was one of the principles to which 65 Governments committed as of today, along with fighting corruption, and engaging citizens in policy making. The question is, what levels of transparency should governments commit to in their OGP agenda? Cretu described four key dimensions:

  1. Data transparency: it is not enough to provide access to data if citizens are unable to interpret the data to influence policy-shaping – this is tantamount to translucency, and not transparency.
  2. Process transparency: once the data and information is in place, such as open data by default processes, there needs to be proper places for discussions.
  3. Strategic transparency: before policy decisions are made and formal documents are approved, there should be a mechanism for governments to feel the pulse of stakeholders. There should be a strategic approach to that.
  4. Transformational transparency: related to social accountability is the need to have a mechanism in place for all stakeholders to be able to monitor and evaluate the quality of the decisions.

If governments are ambitious enough and have these four key dimensions in place, the next step is radical transparency, which Cretu describes as ‘painful’. ‘If openness and transparency means pain, then we go for pain,’ she stressed.

Here is the video part of the session:

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Geneva Internet Platform 2014

Approximately 100 online participants, including 15 remote hubs who watched the meeting online and intervened through in situ remote moderators, attended the first Geneva Internet Conference, organised with the support of the Swiss Confederation. A number of high profile speakers shared their views here over the future of the Internet, highlighting the following facts and challenges:

  • Need to advance innovation in Internet governance triggered by NETmundial and advanced by other major events (WSIS +10 and Internet Governance Forum)
  •  More than 50% of global Internet policy is discussed and decided on in Geneva
  • Concerns about surveillance and lack of privacy protection are increasingly growing
  • Most of the content on the Internet is still easier to get from illegal rather than legal sources
  • The more the Internet impacts all spheres of our life, the more complex and broader Internet governance will become
  • There is a need to aggregate the information available on Internet governance to make it more accessible
  • Every Internet entity has its own needs
  • There is a communication problem between engineers, politicians, or diplomat

Lively discussions roved around the following key questions:

  • To map or not to map: the more mapping that we engage in, the more it seems that complication ensues
  • Business sector involvement in IG: are they profitable partners or will they hold IG hostage to their needs?
  • The double-edged sword of Human Rights: the platform Human Rights so desperately needs can and does create the need for surveillance
  • The NETmundial initiative: a new paradigm or more of the same?
  • ICANN: monopoly or model of diversity?
    Other items under discussion included:
  • Issues of conditionality and the relationship between policy positions, actions, and activities and the provision of funds
  • Sustainability of investment
  • How to use innovative ways of funding

Check more on Geneva Internet Platform

Reflecting back on May 2012 Open Government and Open Data initiatives in Moldova

KeyTakeAways_OpenInnovationWeek2012 – full report by Veronica Cretu

Note: This report is valuable from the perspective of reflecting on the dynamics and energy that was here, in Moldova, back in May 2012 around the issues of Open Government, Open Data, Apps for Moldova, Data Journalism, and other elements. Most of the recommendations are still valid today, and not only for Moldova …

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Moldova Open Innovation Week 2012 aimed at implementing / piloting a number of high profile events intended to build on the Government’s recent approval of the National Action Plan on Open Government and the launch of www.date.gov.md in 2011.

This commitment to the global Open Government Partnership has been led by the e-Government Center with the support of the World Bank and other development partners. The Action Plan is just the start of a process, and Moldova’s progress will be reviewed and compared to the more than 50 other countries already in the Partnership.

The World Bank, the e-Government Center and other partners contributed to the implementation of a programme of events to support key local stakeholders and contribute international expertise to help build the different aspects of an ecosystem around Open Government and Open Data innovations required to achieve the Government’s objectives of greater competitiveness, transparency and citizen engagement.

In line with the above, 4 important events took place during the period of May 14-20, 2012 and more specifically these were:
– Data-Driven Journalism Bootcamp for Moldovan Media (May 14-15, 2012);
– Multi-Stakeholder PFM Training and Data Analysis Workshop (May 16-18, 2012);
– The Open Government Day (May 16, 2012);
– The Open Innovation Weekend (May 18 -20, 2012).

Up to 300 participants representing different stakeholder groups participated in the events: mass media, civil society, Government, Developers’ community, etc.

However, the results of these events are not based only on the efforts put as part of these events, they came in synergy with initiatives launched in Moldova some time ago.
Is the context ready for active take off on Open Data?

Is the community in Moldova prepared to challenge the Government to become more opened and intelligent?

Is there enough capacity and talent in the developers’ community? Is the Government willing to embrace more commitment, involvement and dedication?

“Education, participation and innovation in open government are priorities whos time has come in OGP”

Veronica_DUblin_speechSpeech at closing of Day 1 @ European Open Government Partnership event in Dublin (May 8-9, 2014), by Veronica Cretu – member of the civil society steering committee to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), head of Open Government Institute, Moldova 

Your excellencies, Civil Society Leaders, colleagues and friends, participants!

It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon and share with you some of the reflections related to perspectives on the OGP Globally!

Before I do that, let me congratulate the Government of Ireland and colleagues from civil society in Ireland for the wonderful organization of this event as well as for the great civil society afternoon we had yesterday.  It is also important to share that those of us in the OGP who have participated in the Asia Open Government event couple of days ago have seen a lot of passion and energy around Open Government there as well.   

Open Government Partnership is gaining the momentum with these European and Asian events, as evidenced by the continuously growing engagement from civil society organizations both in OGP member countries and non-OGP member countries. Open Government Partnership is seen today by many civil society representatives in different parts around the globe as a great hope and a wonderful opportunity to bring more transparency, accountability, citizen participation in policy development in their respective countries as well as in creating more civic space for civil society to engage on equal footing with the government around the above mentioned issues.

To keep these dynamics growing, there are a number of aspects we have to continue working together on in OGP and I will start from the following:

1. Deepening and broadening the engagement of the civil society in the open government agenda and I will highlight a number of aspects here:

– OGP only works if civil society is an active part of it. Civil society is the icon, if you want, of the global trend of democratization and – if democracy – as it is known in the West, has a home, then, it is with the civil society.   

– In designing National Action plans on Open government, Governments have to accept to deepen and broaden that space, accept to co-create and co-design them together with civil society. And given that open government is a transformative idea, governments need to accept to ‘transform’ and re-think their relationship with civil society. Top-down consultations around National Action Plans is not about Open government at all, rather an illustration of the governments’ inability to get out of their comfort zone and embed new working principles in their relationship with the civil society;

–  the examples of the consultation models or methodologies around NAP in countries such as UK, Georgia, Moldova, Croatia and others are really inspiring and worth promoting.

– one of the strongest elements of the OGP action plans is that it introduces a regular cycle of policy planning, implementation and monitoring and each stage in the cycle and presents an opportunity and obligation for governments to engage with civil society to seek their input and feedback. This is still a very uncomfortable exercise for many public representatives. I remember, when conducting a capacity building orientation session with one of the Ministries in Moldova in August 2013 around the 2nd Action plan on Open government, there were several chiefs of the departments of who shared concerns related to the fact that “bottom up approaches and consultations with the civil society will take much of their time and they are not going to manage to do their own job properly” –  demonstrating that the overall resistance towards change is still influencing the quality of the policy development not only around Open Government Action Plans but across all sectors.

IS THIS TYPE OF ATTITUDE GOING TO HELP US ACHIEVE A MORE OPEN AND INCLUSIVE GOVERNMENT?!  

I doubt so …

It is only through participation, clear commitments, mutual trust and respect, collegiality and accountability and long term vision – both governments and civil society will manage to succeed.

In working together to develop OGP commitments, both governments and civil society must take risks and make some compromises. Civil servants should be ready to open up the doors of government and recognize that there are good ideas out there, and it is worth considering them. Civil society, in turn, should accept that shifting bureaucracies is not easy, and that collaborating with government requires much pragmatism, openness and flexibility.

2. Another aspect I wanted to tackle on relates to the civic space. While open government as a concept, as a philosophy promotes openness and inclusiveness and participation, we have been witnessing un-precedential closing of the civic space particularly in some of the OGP member countries in Europe.

IS INTIMIDATION OF CIVIL SOCIETY ACTIVISTS GOING TO MAKE THE GOVERNMENTS MORE OPENED AND CITIZEN-FRIENDLY? OR REDUCING ACCESS TO PUBLIC SECTOR INFORMATION, BANNING ACCESS TO THE ONLINE SOCIAL MEDIA GOING TO MAKE US, THE CITIZENS, WANT TO GET CLOSER TO OUR GOVERNMENTS?!

I doubt so …

The fostering of civil society is a crucial step towards realizing a freer Europe given today’s geo-political agenda and sever violations of basic human rights in the region driven by Russia’s politics.  The existence of the civil society implies a shared sense of identity and what is crucial for us in OGP is to uphold the values and principles of OGP, as articulated in the Open Government Declaration and OGP Articles of Governance. 

3. Another important aspect to look at in OGP is the potential of the Independent Reporting mechanism which I want to touch upon: OGP is not a free ride. The theory of change of the OGP states that

– the more governments learn from the findings of the Independent Reporting Mechanism, the more likely it is that each action plan will demonstrate noticeable improvements in both process and content. 

– As norms shift and governments become more comfortable with transparency, governments will begin introducing more opportunities for dialogue and become more receptive to civil society input and participation.

– And finally, the more citizens see the government tackling meaningful reforms through OGP, the more they will want to be engaged and will pressure their elected leaders to deliver.

We should all make better use of the IRM reports to raise awareness of both what has been improved and what still needs to be improved  

All the above are important elements of OGP and each and every one of us has a role to play in promoting further on this agenda. How can we do that?

There are at least 3 good ways from my perspective:

1. Education – Open Government principles and values have to be embedded in the educational system at all levels: it is through the educational system that we can educate open government promoters, build skills such as critical thinking, innovative thinking, open thinking that are essential to help future citizens become ready for an open government, be ready to co-create and co-design policies, initiatives, challenge and utilize data/evidence for a better informed decision making. If we start designing open and participatory schools, learner-centered, in which everyone has a word to say both on the process and content, we are much more likely to build an open government in our countries. Research also shows that the decisions made at the school level based on open education data, change completely the quality of the decisions made as well as the quality of the educational outcomes. So, open government also starts from open minded educational policy makers, open schools, open teachers, open students.

2. Participation – OGP needs to bring more countries and activists to join in – bringing more countries is essential to gain the momentum, to create more regional synergies particularly there where civic space has been limited through different means, to bridge the divide between those benefiting from open governments and those who don’t , support and encourage participation of open government reformers and continue encouraging participation for meaningful reforms leading to improvement of the quality of life of the citizens around the world. 

3. Innovation – continue innovating at all levels. There is no doubt that technology  has changed the way both citizens and governments interact with each other, and its potential is enormous, however, it is important that in OGP commitments are not being anchored only in the technological type of innovations. Innovating the relationships between Governments and citizens is crucial indeed. We have to be aware that several billions of the worlds’ population is still without access to Internet – does this mean they can’t enjoy the benefits of an open government?!  In OGP we should be also looking at ways to go beyond the technology and address those who don’t have access to it in order to be able to participate in the open government agenda.    

Another venue for innovation in OGP is through embedding OGP principles in sector specific action plans or strategic documents on education, health care, and other sectors that might generate more innovations in those areas and make sectors more competitive. 

And if Mr. Maude’s famous quote says that “transparency is an idea whos time has come”, it  inspires me to re-affirm that indeed “education, participation and innovation in open government are priorities whos time has come in OGP”

Thank you very much and wishing you all an interesting day tomorrow, and much success in the wonderful work you all do in your respective countries be it as civil society or as government representatives! 

 

 

Webinar on Open Government

This webinar on Open Government goes back to July 2013 and it was organized by colleagues at DiploFoundation (Malta). Veronica Cretu, head of Open Government Institute was the key speaker for this online event. 

Source: http://www.diplomacy.edu/blog/placing-citizens%E2%80%99-needs-centre

“During the webinar on open government and the core issues associated, our host Veronica Cretu, member of the Steering Committee of the Open Government Partnership, explained that the OGP’s aim was to secure concrete commitments from governments. Countries that consider joining the initiative must deliver an action plan developed through public consultation with the active engagement of citizens and civil society, and commit to independent reporting on the progress of the country’s action plan.

Ms Cretu explained the four main principles of open government that governments needed to embrace as part of their action plan: transparency, citizen participation, accountability, and technology and innovation. The action plan therefore goes beyond making data and information publicly available (transparency). Rather, governments also need to mobilise and engage with citizens (participation), justify actions, act upon criticisms and accept responsibility for failure to perform with respect to laws (accountability), provide open access to technology and increase the capacity of citizens to use it (technology and innovation).

The commitment required from governments does not stop there. There are also challenges that need to be tackled, such as improving public services including those related to health, education and telecommunications, managing public resources more effectively, and creating safer communities.

Why should we care?

Despite the impression that open government is an area which only governments should worry about, it is our needs as citizens that lie at the core of open government. Whether the aim is to improve the quality of services, increase accountability from the government’s end, harness the potential of technology or any other aim related to the core principles, open government is about placing the citizen’s needs at the centre.

In practice, an open channel of communication between citizens, stakeholders and governments means that citizens and key beneficiaries can be empowered to discuss issues that affect our everyday life. From discussions with the schools administration about our children’s education, to public consultation about issues related to health, government budget, and much more.

Open government therefore presents a new way of interaction between citizens and governments – an approach we are not yet used to, Ms Cretu explained. It is a new way of thinking that each one of us needs to be aware of.”