Parliamentary Openness Under Georgian Media Spotlight

Over 22 journalists from leading Georgian media organizations met with members of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance and its Consultative Group on March 16, 2019 to learn more about the openness related achievements of the Parliament of Georgia.

The meeting was organized by the Parliament of Georgia with support from the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

At the meeting, which was the first of its kind to bring together journalists and members of the Council and Working Group, Irina PRUIDZE, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance broadly informed the journalists about the role and the functions of the Council as an effective mechanism for ensuring parliamentary openness, elaborating the Open Parliament Action Planswithin the scope of Open Government Partnership Initiative (OGP) and monitoring their implementation process.

“Years ago, Georgia made an ambitious statement when itbecame one of the first countries in the world adopting the open governance on the Parliamentary level. As the result of implementing Open Parliament Action Plans, the respective legislative basis has been created and technological mechanisms introduced to foster greater transparency and citizen engagement in legislative processes as well as to make parliament more accountable to public. All these reforms would be impossible without excellent cooperation between the Parliament and Civil Society.”- noted Irina PRUIDZE, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance.

“Media is an invaluable tool for governments to examine their work and discover key areas for improvement. Media, together with civil society organizations, facilitate the dissemination and exchange of information between the government and the public, which ultimately is a necessary prerequisite for establishing informed societies and fully functional democracies.” – said Giorgi KLDIASHVILI, Executive Director of IDFI.

Open Parliament is part of Georgia’s efforts under the Open Government Partnership (OGP), international platform that unites more than 70 countries to help their governments become more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since 2015,the Parliament of Georgia has approved three Action Plans: 2015-2016, 2017 and 2018-2019.

The first two Action Plans consisted of 34 commitments in total, of which 15 were fully implemented and 14 were partially implemented. The current plan is composed of five ambitious commitments, including those related to strengthening effectiveness and transparency of the Parliament by introducing innovative technologies, and raising public awareness about parliamentary democracy in Georgia.

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The Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance and its Consultative Group are Discussing 2018-2019 Open Parliament Action Plan & Parliament’s Strategy on SDGs

Open Parliament and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were the focus of a three-day discussion on 14-15 March 2019 organised by the Georgia’s Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance and its Consultative Group with the assistance from the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

Chairs of the parliamentary committees, representatives of civil society and international organizations have reviewed the implementation of the 2018-2019 Open Parliament Action Plan and discussed the development of the Georgian Parliament’s Strategy on SDGs.

“The Parliament of Georgia has achieved significant progress in 2018 making its operation more open, transparent, inclusive and accountable,” – said Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance. “The third Open Parliament Action Plan, which covers 2018 and 2019, is the result of the wide public consultations and is shaping our further commitments – to design the new tools for citizen engagement and increase the Parliament’s role in achieving Georgia’s national Sustainable Development Goals.”

The overview of the Parliament’s progress in implementing its Open Parliament Action Plan 2018-2019 was followed by the discussion on the Parliament’s SDG strategy and action plan developed with the support from the Government of Sweden and UNDP. The group discussions, facilitated by Rusudan Tushuri, SDG Consultant at the UN Resident Coordinator’s Office, focused on the key priorities and actions of the Parliament of Georgia aiming to foster the effective implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda in the areas of law-making, oversight, budgetary processes and public outreach.

Meri Makharashvili, Communications Manager at IDFI, presented the Communication Strategy & Action Plan of the Parliamentary Council on Open Governance and the Social Media Communication Concept of the Parliament of Georgia, prepared with the support from the European Union and UNDP as part of the Open Parliament Action Plan.

The three-day discussion concluded on March 16th, with a workshop for the journalists which brought together representatives of twenty-two print, broadcasting and online media outlets from all over Georgia. The Council members informed the journalists about the country’s progress on the path to open governance and answered their questions about the achievements and remaining challenges.

Meeting with Private Sector Representatives

Members of the Working Group on Strengthening Efficiency and Transparency and Promoting Innovative Technologies under the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance met with private sector representatives. The purpose of the meeting was to receive feedback from and deepen cooperation with the private sector. The meeting was organized with support from the EUvand UNDP Georgia, in cooperation with IDFI.

The meeting was opened by Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance. Pruidze spoke about Georgia’s achievements in terms of legislative openness and the future plans of the Parliament of Georgia in this regard. She also highlighted the commitments under the Open Parliament Action Plan for 2018-2019, which aim to institutionalize the involvement of the private sector in parliamentary processes.

“The goal of our working group is to support the openness of the Parliament through dialogue with the private sector and to create formats for better communication with the private sector and its involvement in parliamentary processes and decision-making”, – Irina Pruidze.

“Much of the legislation adopted by the Parliament effects the private sector; because of this, based on the initiative of the American Chamber of Commerce, private sector related commitments were included in the open parliamentary action plan”, – Tamar Chugoshvili, First Deputy Chairperson of Parliament and Head of the Working Group on Strengthening Efficiency and Transparency and Promoting Innovative Technologies.

“The 3rd Open Parliament Action Plan includes a commitment to create a registry of stakeholders to be published on the Parliament website in order to ensure their involvement in legislative processes. This meeting is a good opportunity to build cooperation that will enable you to have more information and us to take your opinions into consideration”, – Tamar Chugoshvili. Another commitment in the action plan envisions creating a registry of lobbyist organizations that will be published on the Parliament website.

Meeting participants had a chance to offered their feedback. Members of the Permanent Council on Open Governance and private sector representatives agreed that cooperation would continue and that similar meetings will be held in the future as well.

Council and its Consultative Group Members Discussed Implementation of the Commitments under the 3rd OPAP

Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance and its Advisory Group discussed the implementation of the commitments under the third Open Parliament Action Plan. The meeting was held with support from the European Union (EU) and UNDP Georgia in cooperation with IDFI.

Participants were welcomed by Irina Pruidze – Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance, Sophie Huet-Guerriche – Governance Sector Coordinator at the EU Delegation to Georgia, Gigi Bregadze – UNDP Democratic Governance Team Leader, and Giorgi Kldiashvili – IDFI’s Executive Director.

“We actively started implementation of the new action plan. We have set up 4 working groups, which have already undertaken their activities. Today, we discussed two strategic documents that IDFI developed: draft Communication Strategy & Action Plan of the Council as well as the draft Social Media Communication Concept of the Parliament of Georgia”, – Irina Pruidze noted.

Chair of the Legal Issues Committee Eka Beselia spoke about the activities of the Working Group on creation of the Civic Engagement Center in the Parliament of Georgia.

“Creation of the Civic Engagement Center is an important reform and a new conceptual vision that can make the Parliament more attractive for citizens”, – Eka Beselia stated. According to Beselia, the Center tasked with an complex task and it needs to meet new challenges and satisfy new standards. Eka Beselia also spoke about the problems that were identified through the analysis of existing practice, and presented planned solutions.

Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance & its Consultative Group members also discussed the draft Communication Strategy & Action Plan of the Council as well as the draft Social Media Communication Concept of the Parliament of Georgia presented by IDFI’s Communications Manager Meri Makharashvili.

Implementation of the strategy documents prepared by IDFI with the support from European Union in Georgia & UNDP Georgia should increase civic participation in legislative activities, promote new technologies & innovative approaches of the Parliament to ensure parliamentary openness, as well as increase public awareness about utilizing these technologies.

The elaboration of both documents was part of the 2018-2019 Open Parliament Action Plan [5.1. & 5.4] to be implemented in 2019-2020.

See photos of the event here.

OGP Global Summit in Georgia

On July 17-19, the fifth Summit of Open Government Partnership (OGP) took place in Tbilisi. The Summit was opened with the Parliamentary Day that was hosted by the Parliament of Georgia.

On July 17, parallel to the Parliamentary Day, within the scope of the OGP Summit, Civil Society Day was held, where civil society representatives working on open governance gathered. The meeting was opened by Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) and Keti Khutsishvili, Executive Director of Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF).

Giorgi Kldiashvili discussed achievements as well as existing challenges of Georgia within the framework of Open Government Partnership (OGP). He mentioned that since the first day of Georgia joining OGP, civil society, in cooperation with the Government of Georgia, was actively involved in implementing the fundamental principles of OGP. However, according to Kldiashvili, civil society faced a number of problems and challenges from the Government, which is a problem and a challenge not only for Georgia, but for many countries around the world. Giorgi Kldiashvili also stated that the co-creation process between the Government of Georgia and civil society representatives continues and it is crucial to follow up these efforts with real and ambitious results. He stressed the necessity of legislative reforms in relation to freedom of information and declared it as the main challenge.

The meeting continued with the speech of Paul Maassen, Director for Civil Society Engagementat OGP. He presented the results of the civil society poll conducted in 2016-2018. Experiences of the OGP member states in the last 6 years were also discussed and future priorities of the Partnership were defined.

On July 18, at the Tbilisi Concert Hall, the opening ceremony of Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit was held. The ceremony was opened by Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia, Sanjay Pradhan, Executive Director of Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Mukelani Dimba, Co-Chair of the Civil Society of Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of IDFI together with the President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister of Kyrgyz Republic Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev,  Prime Minister of Serbia Ana Brnabić and Open Government Partnership Ambassador/Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark participated in the Session – Open Government Partnership’s Promise of Governments Better Serving Citizens.

“Since the very first day of establishment of OGP, we see this initiative as a mechanism that gives us an opportunity to implement initiatives in relation to accountability, transparency, citizen involvement and their provision with better services. By means of OGP, necessary platform for dialogue between the civil society representatives and the Government of Georgia was created. Dialogue and cooperation with the Government may be considered as the biggest achievement of our country and it is logical that as a result of it Georgia was elected as a Chair of OGP. In terms of providing services to citizens, I would like to draw attention to the introduction of Public Service Halls, which was a commitment within the National Action Plan of Georgia. Reforms implemented in terms of corruption elimination are also noteworthy, more specifically – elaboration of a monitoring system of assets disclosed by public officials. I believe that the aforementioned commitments and reforms were directly oriented towards citizens’ interests. When talking about challenges, it is noteworthy that in most cases the Government is not able to define the needs and wishes of citizens and the vivid example of this are the reforms that I have discussed – the ones that in most cases were elaborated by civil society and then submitted to the Government. In contrast, commitments that were elaborated directly by state institutions are often less relevant and do not correspond to the needs and expectations of citizens,” – Giorgi Kldiashvili. (video of his speech) 

In the final part of the opening ceremony of the OGP Summit new members of the Partnership were presented. Governments of Ecuador, Kyrgyzstan, and Morocco, Portugal and Senegal and local governments of Spain, Romania, Nigeria, Columbia and Philippines joined the initiative.

On July 18, the OGP Global Summit continued with sessions focusing on various topics. Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of IDFI, participated in the session named – Impact, Opportunities, and Challenges for Open Government and OGP in the Eastern Partnership. The aim of this session was to explore ways in which open government approaches can help in achieving the ambition for stronger governance, economies, societies and connectivity in the Eastern Partnership member states.

“The anticorruption system that currently exists in Georgia, does not work well in practice – it does not stop high-level corruption. The Open Government Action Plan elaborated by the Government of Georgia does not include ambitious commitments, especially in the anti-corruption direction. IDFI and its partner organizations demanded creation of an independent anti-corruption agency, however, unfortunately, this demand was not included in the Action Plan,” – Giorgi Kldiashvili.

On July 19, during the closing day of the OGP Summit, Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance, Maria Baron, Global Executive Director of Fundación Directorio Legislativo, Blanca Ovelar, Senator of the Senates Chamber of Paraguay, Alyona Ivanivna Shkrum, Member of Parliament of Ukraine, and Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of IDFI, participated in the session – How 4 Open Government Partnership Commitments Have Transformed the Relationship between Parliaments & Citizens.

The aim of this session was to share experiences of Argentina, Georgia, Paraguay and Ukraine in relation to ensuring citizen involvement. Irina Pruidze and Giorgi Kldiashvili discussed Action Plans elaborated by the Parliament of Georgia, as well as the commitments that aimed to ensure citizen involvement.  On July 19, attention was paid to topics, such as Georgia becoming a Chair of OGP.

At the session titled – What has led Georgia to OGP chairmanship – Natia Natsvlishvili, Assistant Resident Representative at United Nations Development Programme Georgia, Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of IDFI, Brock Bierman, Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia at United States Agency for International Development and Tea Tsulukiani, Minister of Justice of Georgia, discussed the reforms carried out by Georgia within the framework of OGP, future plans, and shared the experience of Georgia in implementing the fundamental principles of OGP.

“First of all, I would like to mention that implementation of OGP principles in Georgia is carried out as a result of cooperation between the Government and non-governmental sector. This is the main feature that distinguishes Georgia from other states participating in the initiative. Georgia deserved chairmanship of OGP and holding the summit in Tbilisi is an unambiguous result of our country’s success,” – Giorgi Kldiashvili.

The IDFI held its own session at the Summit. During the session, Giorgi Lomtadze, Head of Research Direction, discussed how public procurement can be transformed into an effective instrument for making governments more accountable, transparent, fair and efficient and how CSOs and governments can collaborate on enhancing public procurement practices.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were also in focus at the Summit. Saba Buadze, Head of Analytical Direction at IDFI, participated in the session – Innovative Partnerships for SDG 16 Data for Strengthened Monitoring & Implementation. During the session, he discussed achievements and challenges of Georgia in implementation of SDGs.

“With the support of UNDP, together with El Salvador, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Tunisia and Uruguay, Georgia had an opportunity to participate in a global pilot project to monitor the implementation of SDG 16 – peaceful, just and inclusive societies. It was also a unique opportunity for the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), the organization that I am representing here today, to be actively involved in this process as a partner NGO to the Administration of Government of Georgia. The Government of Georgia had expressed its readiness to move forward with the Agenda 2030 even before joining the initiative, with SDG 16 declared a priority. However, since this process started in 2016, very little has been done in terms of translating the Goals into the national system,” – Saba Buadze.