Croatia Katarina, Director Institute of Public Finance
1. Describe the process Since Croatia applied to join the OGP in 2011 when the then Government was more focused on parliamentary elections than on plans for the future, OGP related activities were run by enthusiasts from CSOs (e.g. GONG), academia (e.g. the Institute of Public Finance), the Office of the President and a few people from the administration (e.g. Ministry of Finance), the crucial role being taken by the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs. The process was almost by the book, with broad public consultations and timelines available to citizens prior to consultations. A forum was established, which after the elections became the Council for the Initiative of the OGP with 19 members from ministries, offices (of the President, the Prime Minister and for Cooperation with NGOs), Agency for Protection of Personal Data, associations (of counties, cities and municipalities), journalists, CSOs and academia.
2. Describe two things that were really good about the consultation, why it worked, and one thing that was not so good about it Consultations worked well first of all because there was a kind of political vacuum, i.e. the then Government was in disarray concentrated on parliamentary elections which were held at the end of 2011 (which they lost) and did not care much about what was happening related to OGP. Second, the President of the Republic - who was not facing elections - was very interested in OGP which is in line with his social-democratic political views and was surrounded with people involved in OGP preparations (high-level political backing). Third, the new Government which came in the office at the end of 2011 embraced the OGP – at least declaratively – as it is in line with social-democratic values. However, the Action Plan is much more modest than we expected, i.e. it cannot remedy all the Croatian deficiencies listed in the Open Budget Index. Reasons why we cannot be too satisfied with the Action Plan on budget/fiscal commitments: -
the economic crisis, necessitating concentration of the Ministry of Finance on – in their view - more pressing issues than fiscal transparency; the ban on employment in the public administration (= insufficient staff to work on OGP) lack of experts in administration and of funding for improvements in IT; the independence of the State Auditing Office (SAO) preventing the Government from being able to demand that it publishes reports on extra-budgetary funds and public companies; the independence of local governments units (LGUs) meaning that the Ministry of Finance cannot require of them to publish citizens budget guides or agendas of their sessions, so it ended up with the Government merely making recommendations to SAO and LGUs.
The Action Plan is less committed than we wished for, but bearing in mind the challenges, we would be very happy if in the end we obtained everything written in it related to fiscal transparency, access to information, using IT, citizen and CS participation.
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3. What would your advice be for a new OGP member country- both for the government and for the civil society actors Governments should seriously commit themselves to use the OGP for improvements within the country and avoid treating OGP as a kind of a foreign policy PR and carefully place the responsibility for the OGP within the most appropriate department as it could be essential for its capacity to influence the process. Non-government actors interested in open government should Inform themselves and try to get acquainted with people from the government who are involved in processes, less on higher than on lower levels of the government. With that knowledge they could be able to better target and communicate with people from the administration who can influence decisions. They should also actively monitor, analyze and publish their findings and distribute them as wide as possible to media. (Process can also start with the NGOs) NGOs should try to work – if possible together with governments and if not then on their own - and with constant endeavors and contributions, step by step try to move forwards to a more transparent, accountable and participative society. This collaborative kind of approach of non-government actors from the beginning of the OGP in Croatia was visible in the preparations for the European OGP regional meeting this October in Dubrovnik. Croatian CSOs and Government convened it jointly and representatives of CSOs and academia moderated all sessions. Maybe both governments and non-government actors should start thinking both ways: “how government could assist civil society” and “how civil society could assist government”.
Mexico Emilene Morales Martinez, independent Regional Civil Society Coordinator for OGP
1. Describe the process The OGP consultation process in Mexico was led by three actors: the Federal Access to Information Institute (IFAI); the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP - Secretaría de la Función Pública); and a coalition of 8 civil society organizations specialized in access to information. Civil society organizations proposed 36 actions addressed to specific agencies that were included in Mexico’s “Reinforced Action Plan” (Plan de Acción Ampliado). This new plan built on the one presented by the Mexican government in September 2011. A Technical Secretariat was created in December 2011 where IFAI, SFP and a representative of civil society worked together on OGP related activities including: follow-up on commitments, creating an OGP Webpage tailored to a Mexican audience; and strategizing on how to engage the new administration in this initiative.
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2. Describe two things that were really good about the consultation, why it worked, and one thing that was not so good about it In Mexico the consultation process was a result of a coordinated effort between government and civil society in which CSOs were treated as equals. In Mexico the action plan was driven by civil society demands with support from both IFAI and SFP and not the other way around. Through the Technical Secretariat, a formal process was created to conduct follow-up work on each commitment. For example, representatives from the three parties were required to be present in each meeting with the agencies addressed in the commitments. Both these and Technical Secretariat meetings were documented and minutes are available online. The three actors involved agree that the weakness of this consultation process was that only specialized civil society organizations in the fields of transparency, access to information and open data participated. Consultation was not open to a broader array of CSOs.
3. What would your advice be for a new OGP member country- both for the government and for the civil society actors. My advice for new countries is to start by working closely with CSOs to develop a consultation process that works within the local context and that includes mechanisms to follow-up on the commitments included in the national action plan. Additionally, the process should ideally include clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each of the actors participating in both the consultation process and the follow-up work.
Moldova Veronica Cretu, President “CMB” Training Center, Coordinator of the Working Group on EGovernance/Open Government within the National Council for Participation
1. Describe the process Moldova Action Plan on Open Government was elaborated in-house by E-Government Center during December 2011 – January 2012 and consulted with civil society representatives during January – March 2012. E-Government Center coordinated the consultation process with the World Bank’s Open Innovation Fund initiative for Moldova. As part of this initiative, World Bank supported 4 consultation meetings that took place at its premises in Chisinau, and which facilitated the participation of about 100 civil society representatives. The Good Governance project of Moldova Soros Foundation had also joined efforts in consulting the Action Plan, thus, inviting key civil society leaders to a round table meeting at Soros Foundation. Involvement of regional civil society organizations was ensured through “Moldova civil society strengthening program” of FHI 360. Around 130 representatives of the civil society organizations took part in the consultation meetings on the Open Government Action Plan. These were representatives of National Council for Participation, National NGO Council, think-tanks, and other national and local NGOs, that expressed their position visà-vis the actions proposed for implementation. Thus, the team of E-Government Center received above 80 comments/recommendations to the initial draft of the Action Plan. Additionally, the AP received around 25 comments and recommendations from international community via LinkedIn and e-mail. Prepared for the Peer Exchange Meeting – London, December 2012 3
The dynamics of the involvement of the civil society representatives in the consultation process was very good, however most of the meetings were attended by the same participants all the time (around 40% of the total number of civil society representatives who took part in consultations). Overall, the consultation process on Moldova Open Government Action Plan was based on a number of important principles and values, which contributed in turn, to an effective consultation process and resulted in a comprehensive Action Plan.
2. Describe two things that were really good about the consultation, why it worked, and one thing that was not so good about it Good: The consultation process came in synergy with other initiatives (=ecosystem) implemented at that moment in Moldova with support from World Bank (Open Innovation Fund for Moldova); Good: Feedback from civil society came in track changes before a new consultation meeting, so this allowed everyone see what comments, suggestions and recommendations were already made, and helped in identifying new aspects, dimensions to be included/considered; To be improved: Summary of all feedback received, what feedback was considered, what was not and why, was never provided to those participants in the consultation process; To be improved: The civil society “representativity” and reach out to CSO’s outside capital city; To be improved: More active involvement of the business sector, especially IT industry as well as of public sector representatives, at least one representative from each Ministry;
3. What would your advice be for a new OGP member country- both for the government and for the civil society actors Governments : CONSULTATION METHODOLOGY: Apply research approach to consultation by having very clear planning of the a) objectives (define the level and focus of consultation), b) target groups (define all groups that might have a stake in OGP), c) appropriate consultation methodology and tools (include at least 2 tools to reach the same target group), d) plan needed resources and partners support, e) plan a proper communication/feedback strategy after the end of consultation process. (Provide a table of recommendations/feedback from all consulted stakeholders both during the consultation process, and after the approval of the Action Plan. It is important to indicate what recommendations were considered for final version of the Action Plan and which ones were not, and what were the main reasons for excluding them); Apply multichannel consultation methodology: in most of the cases a proper consultation methodology requires use of direct, mobile and internet strategies in order to reach/involve all target groups. Civil Society: MEDIA TOOLS: Use different media and communication tools to reach out to civil society representatives from across the country during the consultation process on OGP. Reach out both rural and urban CSOs representatives; CSOs can collaborate with local TV stations and organize live TV talk-shows during which representatives responsible for OGP are invited to talk and share about the benefits and estimated impact of the OGP for the country at central and local level. Prepared for the Peer Exchange Meeting – London, December 2012 4
WHERE DID MY RECOMMENDATIONS GO: Ask for the comments, feedback, recommendations provided to the Action Plan prior to having a consultation meeting/new round, so that CSOs are able to analyze what has been recommended up to this moment and are able to generate new ideas, bring in new input without being repetitive over and over again; Both AWARENESS OF OGP AGENDA: Meet with your country’s partners in development (agencies for development, etc.) to raise awareness of the importance of OGP Agenda for the country, as well as about the need to integrate in future country strategies support for OG related initiatives (monitoring, evaluation of public services, governance processes, etc.).
Ukraine (Oleksii Khmara) Oleksii Khmara, Cretu, President TORO Creative Union - Transparency International Ukraine
1. Describe the process TORO Creative Union – Transparency International Ukraine organized a coalition of more than 60 active NGOs to support the OGP initiative. When Ukraine joined the initiative, it received active support from both civil society and the government. In the process of developing the national plan the government used more than 80 percent of the Coalition’s suggestions. We created a network of regional consultants on the OGP initiative, which helped to hold consultations with more than 500 active organizations. The Coalition also taught municipalities how to hold consultations with citizens. Moreover, when the government was running out of time to create an action plan, it used the model developed by the Coalition as a basis. The OGP issue in Ukraine has been facing the misbalance of active and strong NGOs interested in the initiative and considerably weak interest of donor organizations. However, some of the donors started to pay more interest in the issue, for instance, the British Embassy supported the project “Towards Open Government Partnership in the Eastern Partnership Countries and Russia” that played a great role for the OGP initiative implementation in Ukraine, and made its contribution for the progress in the aforementioned countries.
2. Describe two things that were really good about the consultation, why it worked, and one thing that was not so good about it A challenge faced from the beginning of the National Plan development was, for instance, when the Ukrainian government decided to hold national consultations on the OGP plan by means of the civic councils. All of the 400 suggestions they proposed to the draft government plan were of a very general character. Based on these wordings, they would be able to develop a plan that would be both too general and at the same time favourable for the government. This action was successfully opposed by our Coalition. The Ukrainian civic community could not support a draft national plan that did not reflect the real needs of the Ukrainian state, while the authorities did not want to take the civic community seriously, opining that it is always unsatisfied with something. However, our Coalition together with its Prepared for the Peer Exchange Meeting – London, December 2012 5
experts started to develop an alternative national plan, which fully corresponds with the OGP requirements and began working to promote it. It resulted in the current document signed by the Prime Minister of Ukraine, 80 percent of which is comprised of the suggestions of our Civic Coalition. Finally, we achieved a partnership with the government, which appeared beneficial to both sides. The government benefits substantively and financially from the work of civic experts, which is usually free, and boosts its international image and domestic reputation by collaborating with civil society. Civil society is able to make itself heard at the national level, and have direct input on policy. As already mentioned before, there are some threads that should be worked on for proper implementation of the OGP initiative. Besides, the Government has two major weak points in the OGP implementation process: building efficient dialog with stakeholders and the lack of the funding. Donors might consider the opportunity to fund initiatives, related to the introduction of e-government, preferably the software development for the steps, indicated in the OGP Country plan. In this case, efficient use of funding could be easily monitored and evaluated.
3. What would your advice be for a new OGP member country- both for the government and for the civil society actors. To overcome challenges, government and CSOs have to create a working communication mechanism, and furthermore, the government should properly supervise and manage the OGP implementation process. Currently, government suffers from inexperience in the development of an open and transparent public dialog. Thus, the Government needs additional assistance and guidance in the development of the communication mechanism. The other option to increase the efficiency of OGP implementation is some kind of technical assistance to the Government in development of IT tools for the e-government implementation.
USA Patrice McDermott, Executive Director OpenTheGovernment.org, Wayne Moses Burke, Executive Director Open Forum Foundation
1. Describe the process The OGP initiative requires the delivery a country action plan developed with public consultation. For the U.S., the OGP originated in the White House from the President himself. In July 2011, the US State Department hosted the first major outreach with dozens of countries at a meeting in Washington, D.C. At this meeting, it became apparent that most of the effort in the US government was going into the diplomatic side, that internal interaction within the government was not well-coordinated, and that there was no systematic way for the government to interact with civil society on the OGP, and that U.S. transparency advocacy organizations were not adequately represented in the efforts that were occurring. OpenTheGovernment.org stepped into the role of coordinator of the openness and transparency community in the U.S., engaging the broader U.S. civil society transparency community, and some international organizations that work on U.S. government transparency issues, to help influence the creation of the U.S. National Action Plan. OTG, as a coalition and its staff, was particularly Prepared for the Peer Exchange Meeting â€“ London, December 2012 6
well-placed to lead for the openness/accountability community, as this community was well-organized and had for a number of years been working together to build consensus on our policy priorities – including a detailed set of transition (from President Bush to President Obama) recommendations (21st Century Right-to-Know), meetings with the transition teams, an “openness floor” for government information, and a list of 7 specific asks to the Obama Administration. Indeed, we were much better organized than the government, as they were largely operating in stove-piped offices with little coordination. Some collaboration was occurring related to work on President Obama’s Open Government Directive and we had been meeting with an interagency working group around the implementation of that directive. But, generally, it took some effort to get the White House offices working smoothly together. Over the course of July through September 20, 2011, OpenTheGovernment.org established a Google group for groups both inside and outside D.C, coordinated 6 face-to-face meetings with a wide range of groups, set up regular conference calls, and facilitated communications with the Obama Administration. While encouraging the Administration to act on our coalition’s priorities, we also helped make sure that the wider transparency community—including organizations that had not previously engaged in domestic policy but have an interest in U.S. actions—met with the Administration’s domestic policy team that wrote the U.S. National Action Plan. In our ongoing face-to-face and other meetings with the Administration, we were told they were hamstrung by their internal processes and legal restrictions from sharing the draft Plan with us as it developed, but we were assured that “you are going to be happy.” The outcome of this work was the commitments in the U.S. Government’s Action Plan that address the concerns of a broad array of the stakeholders. The US NAP addresses three broad challenges, and includes 26 commitments to help achieve 17 goals. Although those commitments were a significant step, OpenTheGovernment.org has learned from experience that if the process is not pushed from the outside, very little happens. While the Administration is committed to these issues, without sustained advocacy from the NGO community, new issues and crises come along that distract attention away from transparency priorities. We did more than pay attention: within 6 weeks of the release of the Plan, we set a high bar for what would count as successes and presented the Administration with a detailed roadmap of what needed to be done to meet their openness goals. We also established civil society (CSO) teams around each of the government’s commitments and the White House worked with us to set up meetings with each of these teams and the responsible official(s) inside the government. Where the agency teams inside government directly proposed commitments for the Plan and were committed to them internally, these meetings have been highly productive and have led to ongoing relationships between CSOs and government officials. We also developed metrics to assess both whether the Administration met the letter of the commitment, if it took the recommendations made by civil society, and if the Administration stretched itself beyond the commitment to meet its expressed goals and make the effort more successful. In January OpenTheGovernment.org will release that full assessment. Prepared for the Peer Exchange Meeting – London, December 2012 7
In advance of that full evaluation, we released a Progress Report on September 20, 2012, the first anniversary of the USG Plan. At that point, 8 of the USG’s commitments were fully met and the rest were in progress toward meeting that goal by the end of 2012. We are now in the process of developing the next set of recommendations for the US NAP 2.0 with a broader set of CSOs. We will build from the set of robust working group-to-government recommendations for next steps on current projects and new ideas for advancing government openness and accountability.
2. Describe two things that were really good about the consultation, why it worked, and one thing that was not so good about it Good things: The Administration actively utilized the OpenTheGovernment.org coalition and our outreach to engage with civil society. They were open to meeting repeatedly and in various settings and to hearing civil society groups ideas. The Plan itself directly reflected many of the asks from civil society, and the development of the Plan created an action-forcing deadline for policies that were foundering in the bureaucracy. Bad things: The government’s outreach to a more general public was very limited and not at all transparent or interactive, in contrast to our Google groups and well-attended open meetings (with those outside DC participating by phone). The USG set up a blog for broader input, but it was really only a drop-box for comments, which the Administration summarized. We pushed back that this was not sufficient, but this was an example of the rushed organization of the USG in approaching the Plan.
3. What would your advice be for a new OGP member country- both for the government and for the civil society actors The primary piece of advice is that civil society actors need to get themselves organized, figure out what it is that they want from the Plan, and build consensus on those “asks.” Start with outreach, meetings, and events that form common understandings around open government principles with discussions about the types of projects that should be in the plan. And then the civil society actors have to stay organized and push government to a) include those commitments, and b) implement them. For both government and civil society, building relationships is essential – at both the planning and the implementation stages. The working relationships that form from this process will not only enable a better and more realistic action plan, they will also create broader support for the plan, and enable the implementation to be appropriately shared, and any shortfalls more understood by non-governmental actors.
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