Following IDFI’s Recommendation Parliament of Georgia has Developed the Electronic Platform of Citizen Participation in Legislative Work

On October 15, Parliament of Georgia held the presentation on placing the e-signatures on legislative initiatives and petitions. 

The implementation of this novelty comes from the recommendation of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), initiated in the first action plan of the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016, commitment 1.2, which considered submission of legislative proposals and initiatives to the Parliament of Georgia electronically, implementing its support mechanism through the official website of the Parliament of Georgia.

Even though the implementation of the commitment was considered in 2015-2016 years, it was not fulfilled, only its modified version turned into the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017 – commitment 1.1. (Elaboration of E-petition System) and commitment 1.3. (Submission of Legislative Proposals and Legislative Initiativesto the Parliament of Georgia electronically; Implementation of a Citizen Feedback Mechanism through the Parliament website).

From April 2018, in accordance to the amendments initiated in the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Georgia, citizens of Georgia have the legal opportunity to collect e-signatures for supporting the draft law or address chairman of the Parliament of Georgia with the electronic petitions concerning a state or general problem. At the same time, citizens of Georgia have an opportunity to publish the draft constitutional law of Georgia on the Parliament website, to collect signatures of its supporters using the website. The process of collecting signatures electronically does not preclude collection of signatures in the written form, even though introducing modern technologies will help to increase the involvement of citizens in parliamentary activities.

 

“Not less than 200 000 voters” initiative

Supporters’ signatures can be collected by filling out specially designed written forms as well as electronically to submit a draft constitutional law of Georgia as part of the initiative “not less than 200 000 voters”.

Web-page of the Parliament of Georgia defines the submission of such procedures in details. Currently, there is one draft constitutional law registered on the Parliament website, as one can see the process of collecting signatures has already been completed.

 

 

“Not less than 25 000” initiative

Website of the Parliament of Georgia, provides the possibility of collecting supporters’ signatures electronically to submit a draft law. According to the International practice collecting e-signatures is a simplified and accessible form to support a draft law.

Submitted draft law of Georgia will be placed on the Parliament website,With the aim of collecting signatures electronically, where voters will be able to support the draft law of Georgia by putting a qualified electronic signature. Before signing, the voter indicates the phone number in the appropriate field electronically, afterwards, he / she puts the qualified electronic signature.

Qualified electronic signatures can only be executed if the deadline for collecting supporters’ signatures has not expired. Herewith, a voter can support a draft law only once.

 

Petition

Submitting a petition to the Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia electronically is worth of noting, as the simplicity of the process will facilitate to increase the number of submissions as well as improving civil involvement in the parliamentary activities.

The petition is an electronic or written document signed by at least 300 persons concerning a state or general problem.

Both electronic and written petitions will be placed on the website of the Parliament of Georgia, except for a written petition that has been supported by at least 300 persons at the time of submission.

Any citizen will be able to support a petition electronically, within one months after publishing on the Parliament website, petition can be only supported once, indicating name and surname of the individuals.

 

The e-signature is carried out through the qualified electronic signature, which can be executed using an electronic ID. Signature requires an electronic ID card reader, as well as Universal Electronic Certificate Programs, and PIN codes of electronic ID.

 

 

Despite the fact that civic involvement in the parliamentary activities remains low, including  submit and support of a petition, a new electronic possibility will promote increasing the number of citizens involved in the parliamentary activities, it will also have a positive impact on parliamentary openness. It is necessary to continue working on refining and simplifying the electronic format of publication and review of petitions in the subsequent years.

From 2015, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), with the support of EU and UNDP, is actively involved in the activities of parliamentary openness within the scopes of OGP. IDFI, as the member and Chair of the consultative group at the Open Governance Permanent Parliamentary Council actively participates in the elaboration and implementation process of the open parliament action plans (4 action plans).

Hearing on Civic Engagement Instruments & Practices in State Agencies as part of its Thematic Inquiry Group was Held

The Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance held a hearing on Civic Engagement Instruments and Practices in State Agencies as part of its thematic inquiry group. Five representatives from civil society (who presented their written substantiated opinions within the scope of the thematic inquiry) had the opportunity to personally address the members of the thematic inquiry group, to talk about their experience, as well as the challenges the policy-making process faces.

The speakers included: representatives of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Civil Society Institute (CSI), Transparency International Georgia (TI-Georgia), Green Alternative and Caucasus Environmental NGO Network (CENN).

The Chair of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance, Irina Pruidze stated: “Our goal is to explore all the instruments and practices that are at our disposal for citizen engagement in state institutions, what are the drawbacks in this regard, what are the main challenges, and then we will come up with ultimate recommendations in order to improve the institutionalization of citizen engagement. We strive not to make this a fragmented, formal process, so that citizens actually take interest in taking part in decision-making, in the process of drafting policies and draft laws.”

“IDFI has been working on strengthening citizen participation for years. A set of standards to regulate the mechanisms of citizen participation in the decision-making process still does not exist in Georgia. For this reason, engagement in practice is fragmented, rather than systemic , and is based on political will. The Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance considers this issue as vitally important. I am glad to have this opportunity to assist the Parliament of Georgia. I hope that the thematic inquiry will be a decisive step towards future adoption of a single document (law or bylaw), based on the best international practice, that will regulate citizen engagement at the early stage of policy-making process,“ – Executive Director of IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili.

The Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance established a thematic inquiry group on Civic Engagement Instruments and Practices in State Agencies in spring, 2019. The first stage involved gathering written substantiated opinions from civil society and experts, followed by a verbal hearing of their opinions. The next stage of the thematic inquiry will involve a verbal hearing with Ministry representatives.

Following the completion of hearings, the Council will develop its recommendations and reports, aimed at improving citizen participation and include them in the decision-making process.

The inquiry group is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in cooperation with the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

OGP – Answer to Tackling the Slow Progress of SDGs Implementation

Author: Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) and CSO Steering Committee Member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)

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The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development sets ambitious goals and reaching them constitutes a considerable challenge globally. The High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) held in July this year demonstrated that the progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is slow. The same is true for Georgia. The Sustainable Development Report 2019 emphasizes that more in-depth, fast, and robust steps are needed in order to achieve the social-economic transformation of states and enable the realization of the SDGs.

The SDGs cannot be reached by public institutions alone working in silos. It is necessary to include all relevant stakeholders in the process and share responsibilities.

Cooperation between civil society and government is the cornerstone of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). OGP members take the responsibility to be more open to citizen participation and include them in the decision-making process. OGP can be a vital partner to achieve the SDGs.

The above mentioned was also officially stated in the Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by the members of the OGP Steering Committee in New York, September 2015. Moreover, in February this year the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the OGP made a joint commitment to advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through open government initiatives and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). Based on the MoU both organizations will collaborate to leverage OGP action plans as a mechanism to advocate for domestic reforms that enhance efforts to achieve the SDGs.

The case of Georgia is a good example of how OGP supports the implementation of the SDGs. Georgia’s latest OGP action plan includes a commitment to develop an effective system of public monitoring of the SDGs implementation process. Namely, according to the commitment of the Government Administration of Georgia, a new website (SDG Tracker) will be developed and implemented in order to enable effective and transparent monitoring of the SDGs.

The purpose of the SDG Tracker is to centralize  comprehensive information on the SDGs nationalization  and localization processes. Using the front-end of the website, users will be able to receive information online on the progress achieved within each goal and the activities carried out by the public agencies for meeting the SDGs, while the back-end of the system will be designed for internal management of the SDGs nationalization and localization process.

Based on the cooperation between the government entities and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), the SDG Tracker was created with the  support of UNDP and the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). The website will be fully functional by the end of the year.

Today,  when the progress of SDGs implementation is slow on a global scale, it is crucial to fully realize the importance of already existing platforms such as OGP. Countries should take more initiatives to reflect specific challenges linked with SDGs in their OGP action plans. At the same time, national authorities should internalize the role of civil society organizations in the implementation process of the SDGs and ensure close cooperation with them based on multi-sectoral initiatives.

IDFI Hosted the Delegation from Sierra Leone

On 18 September 2019, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) hosted the delegation from Sierra Leone, consisting of: Hon. Paran Umar Tarawally – Clerk at the Parliament of Sierra Leone; Marcella E. Samba-Sesay – Executive Director at the Campaign for Good Governance; and Alusine Diamond-Suma – Programme Coordinator at the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of the local civil society organizations (CSOs) working on the issues of parliamentary openness in Georgia (Transparency International – Georgia and National Democratic Institute).

Georgian CSO representatives shared their experience with the co-creation process aimed at ensuring Parliamentary openness in Georgia. Discussion questions also included how non-governmental sector can keep the Parliament focused on and committed to the OGP process.

Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of IDFI and the CSO Steering Committee Member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP): “We shared our experience about the importance and functions of the Consultative Group (consisting of local and international organizations) of the Permanent Parliamentary Council of the Parliament of Georgia. How the Group/representatives of 16 organizations works with the Council/Parliament members; as a result of this process, four three Legislative Openness Action Plans and a number of innovative commitments were elaborated and are being implemented by the Parliament through support and cooperation with CSOs. “Members of the consultative group who attended the meeting spoke about those commitments from the legislative openness action plan of the Parliament of Georgia that were initiated by their respective organizations.

Speaking to the guests, Giorgi Kldiashvili also emphasized the role and importance of public participation in the parliamentary processes. A number of public outreach actions/discussions (throughout Georgia) were held by the Parliament of Georgia with the support of IDFI to gain ideas and ensure civic involvement in the openness action plan elaboration/parliamentary openness actions.

The Sierra Leone Parliamentary Delegation is serving the visit in Georgia within the framework of the Westminster Foundation project.

Communications Strategy & Action Plan of Open Governance Permanent Parliamentary Council: 2019-2020

pic_5Communications Strategy & Action Plan prepared by IDFI for the Open Governance Permanent Parliamentary Council covers a two-year period (2019-2020). The Strategy Document and its Action Plan is approved by the Council. 

Preparation of this strategy and the action plan is one of the commitments taken under the third Open Parliament Action Plan (2018-2019. It aims to define communication of the Council and other Members of the Parliament with the society in 2019-2020. The Council, with active participation from the Department of Public Relations and Information, is responsible for the implementation of the Strategy and the Action Plan.

A communication strategy is an important mechanism for institutionalization and development of systemic approaches to public relations processes. Therefore, this document defines the mission, vision, and main principles of the Council’s communications with the society. During the preparation process of this document the current conditions and challenges facing the Council in the field of public communications were analyzed and recommendations addressing those challenges were prepared.

The strategy includes goals, based on which the Council along with the Department will prepare and implement informational and other events.

The document also discusses messages of the Council, based on its vision. The strategy includes communication methods that will enable the Council to have an effective communication with target internal and external audiences and interest groups.

The strategy includes an annex of the two-year Action Plan (2019-2020), which details measures to be implemented by the Council in the next two years.

Implementation of the activities in this plan will ensure:

1) increase of public awareness of OGP, Council mission, its activities and results;

2) increase of public awareness of the Parliament and Parliamentarism;

3) promotion of public engagement and participation in the parliamentary activities;

4) increase of public awareness and usage of the new technologies and innovative approaches defined in the Action Plan to boost the communication between the Parliament and the public;

5) informing of the international community about ongoing activities and achievements in the field of legislative transparency of the Parliament of Georgia in the framework of OGP.

Open Governance Permanent Parliamentary Council Communications Strategy and Action Plan