On September 14-15, Meeting of the Open Government Partnership’s Legislative Openness Working Group was held in the palace of the Parliament of Georgia in Tbilisi. The 2-day conference – “Committing to Openness: Parliamentary Action Plans, Standards, and Data” was a part of the OGP Global Legislative Openness Week (GLOW). In addition to the representatives of the legislative and executive bodies of Georgia, representatives of international organizations and NGOs located in Georgia, participants had come together from more than 32 countries of the OGP. The conference was organized by: the Parliament of Georgia, OGP Legislative Openness Working Group (NDI and the Congress of Chile), UNDP, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), USAID, EU representation to Georgia, GIZ and Transparency International – Georgia.
The delegates of the conference discussed the action plans approved to enhance the legislative openness in their respective countries, implemented mechanisms, their outcomes and challenges arisen in the implementation process. The delegates pointed out the local and foreign challenges that affect the work of Parliaments, they discussed what international norms and rules can be implemented to achieve more transparency and raise accountability of the MPs. Moreover, they noted the importance of citizen engagement in the Parliamentary work and outlined the potential means and ways to boost the trust of citizens to their MPs. In the concluding part of the conference, delegates also reviewed the upcoming OGP Global Summit scheduled to take place in Mexico City, Mexico on October 27-29.
The Chairman of the Parliament, David Usupashvili opened the conference with the welcome speech. Mr. Usupashvili once again expressed his support and belief in the values of the OGP and noted that sharing experience among the countries is important to ensure better outcomes. Mr. Usupashvili claimed – ,,we all, who are devoted to democratic values throughout the world, well realize that innovative approaches to the fundamental principles of democracy are necessary in the 21st century. It is crystal clear that in the 21st century – in the century of globalization, internet and other technological revolutions – the traditional norms of the representative democracy are no longer enough. It is no longer enough that we, once per 4-5 years meet the population and hold the elections, have the mandate from our population and govern the country. It is necessary to implement revolutionary transformations in the population and the legislative body, between the representatives thereof on their relations. The relations shall be routine, daily-bases and mutual. The relations shall be collaborative. It needs efforts.” The Speaker of the Parliament mentioned the legislative act – General Administrative Code adopted in 2000 with the Chapter – On Freedom of Information and noted, that he is proud that in Georgia we are at a stage of development that we are talking about further advancement of democratic institutions rather than establishing them.
The Minister of Justice, Thea Tsouloukiani also welcomed the participants of the conference. Ms. Tsouloukiani talked about the importance of the Open Government Georgia Forum which was created as a mechanism ensuring a constant dialogue between the government and the civil society. She also added, that the forum is considered to be the best model for cooperation between the public and private sectors.
The Speaker of the Albanian Parliament, Ilir Meta; Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Government of South Africa and Co-Chair of the OGP Steering Committee, Ayanda Dlodlo; Deputy of Bicameral Commission on Transparency in the Congress of Chile, Guillermo Ceroni Fuentes; Senior Director of NDI Georgia, Laura Thornton and the UNDP Georgia Resident Representative, Niels Scott addressed the delegates and guests of the conference with their welcome speeches.
During the 2-day Conference, the representatives of the state administrative bodies, international and non-governmental organizations conducted discussions on the following topics: Legislative Openness, Technology, and Democracy;Strengthening Openness: Endorsing Standards, Developing Plans, and collaborating with Civil Society; Building International Standards on Parliamentary Ethics; Building Legislative Openness Tools with Civil society; Developing Strong Legislative Openness Action Plans and Opportunities for Future Engagement and Preview of the Legislative Component of the OGP Global Summit. The delegates further discussed further possibilities of engagement in the OGP and the legislative component of the OGP Mexico Global Summit.
At the session of Lightning Talks: Country Updates, Georgian MP and the Chairperson of Open Parliament Inter-Factional Group – Guguli Maghradze talked about Georgian experience regarding the OGP Open Parliament initiative. She pointed out several outcomes obtained by implementation the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016. For instance, she claimed that commitments of the action plan taken by the Parliament of Georgia and modern technologies, will enable the Parliament to include include wider range of civil society groups in its activities. Moreover, communication methods between the parliament and the NGOs were formalized though the Action Plan, which ensures constant contact with the NGOs. Thus, the Parliament of Georgia will receive information incessantly from the NGOs about their proposals, ideas or feedback. Therefore, the legislators will reflect the necessities of Georgian society and the reality in the country better in their legislative work. Guguli Maghradze highlighted the importance of Openness projects for citizens as well as for the legislators, as it is a credible source for the MPs to learn whether a certain legislative norm is important for citizens to be implemented in practice.
The director of IDFI, Giorgi Kldiashvili was a session moderator for “Strengthening Openness: Endorsing Standards, Developing Plans, and collaborating with Civil Society”. During the discussions, the MP and the member of the Open Parliament Inter-Factional Group – Giorgi Kakhiani reviewd the progress Georgia has achieved in carrying out the OGP commitments. As Mr. Kakhiani stated, the fact that Georgia was elected as a member of the OGP Steering Committee in 2014 is a definite confirmation of country’s progress. Furthermore, he once again acknowledged the readiness of the Parliament of Georgia to carry out the commitments laid out in the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016 and to acquire more transparency in the parliamentary activities.
During the session of “Developing Strong Legislative Openness Action Plans” for which Grigol Bregadze, Democratic Governance Team Leader from the UNDP Georgia served as a moderator, Levan Avalishvili – Chairman of the Board of IDFI, presented the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016. The action plan was adopted on July 17th, 2015 by the Bureau of the Parliament. Mr. Avalishvili discussed the process, mechanisms and outcomes of the elaboration of the Action Plan. He pointed out the essential significance of establishing permanent Parliamentary council on open and transparent governance, which will ensure the sustainable development, permanent renewal and fulfillment of the commitments taken by the Parliament of Georgia regarding transparency, openness and citizen engagement. Within the session, action plans were also discussed by Luis Rojas Gallardo, Secretary General of the Chamber of Deputies in the Congress of Chile; David Gayou, Engineer of Regards Citoyens (France), Jonas Cekuolis, Deputy Chief of Party at the NDI Jordan and Former Member of Seimas of Lithuania; and Julia Keutgen, Program Specialist at UNDP Brussels.
Notably, civil society representatives presented the E-Governance mechanisms and web tools that they have developed to assist the society in obtaining the information about the legislative processes and/or legislators. Thus, during the talks of “Legislative Openness Tools” Mark Cridge, Chief Executive ofmySociety from the UK, presented the everypolitician.org web-page. The later source lets the users gain the information about around 58,966 politicians from 201 states. Oneverypolitician.org citizens can also calculate the percentage of gender ratio at any given state legislative organs. Michal Skop, from Czech Republic demonstrated KohoVolit.eu web-page of which he is also a director. KohoVolit.eu asks the users to take the test and based on the results, the web-page identifies the politician with the identical political ideology and stance. The web-page also has a very interesting chart that divides legislators as lazy and active ones according to their attendance data. Speakers also presented the web-pages of Democracy 2.1, JumpStart Georgia and ePanswo Foundation.
At the final part of the 2-day conference, concluding remarks were made by: Manana Kobakhidze, First Vice Speaker of Parliament of Georgia; Janos Herman, EU Ambassador to Georgia; Nicholas R. Berliner, Charge d’Affaires at the US Embassy to Georgia; Scott Hubli, Director of Governance Programs at NDI and Felipe Ward Edwards, deputy of the Bicameral Commission on Transparency at the Congress of Chile. Ms. Kobakhidze expressed her gratitude towards the Chairman of the Parliament of Georgia, David Usupashvili, due to his direct active role in the process of implementation of the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan commitments. The guests approved the efforts made and success achieved by Georgia in achieving Parliamentary openness as well as of the rest of the OGP member countries. In their concluding remarks, speakers highlighted the benefits of establishing and maintaining cooperative relationship among the parliaments and expressed their appreciation of the support of the donor organizations, which had played a big role in making the conference happen.