The Fifth Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Georgia Opened with a Discussion on Legislative Openness

World parliaments are seeking new ways in achieving openness, transparency and accountability. A day ahead of the Global Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in Georgia, the Parliament of Georgia hosted a high level international discussion on legislative openness.

Bringing together over 200 participants from 12 parliaments and 24 countries, the Open Parliament Day focused on the reforms needed to achieve legislative openness and the role of technology and innovation.

The Chairperson of the Georgian Parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze, kicked off a debate stressing the critical importance of legislative openness in democracy and highlighting Georgia’s achievements on the way to Open Parliament.

This was followed by a video message of Heidi Hautala, Vice-President of the European Parliament, and welcome remarks from Senator Blanca Ovelar, President of the ParlAmericas Open Parliament Network, and Sanjay Pradhan, Chief Executive Officer of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Helen Clark, formerly the Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999 – 2008) and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (2009 – 2017), joined the event in her capacity of the OGP Ambassador.

The panel discussions were moderated by Niels Scott, UNDP Head in Georgia; Mukelani Dimba, OGP Steering Committee Co-Chair from Civil Society; and Laura Thornton, Senior Resident Director/Global Associate of the National Democratic Institute (NDI) Georgia. Katarina Mathernova, Deputy Director General at the European Commission, joined the last part of the event.

The Open Parliament Day tackled a range of issues related to the legislative transparency and accountability. The participants considered different ways of engaging citizens in parliamentary work, including participatory law-making (crowdlaw) and innovative technological solutions. Levan Avalishvili, Programs Director of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) spoke about the e-services the Parliament of Georgia has introduced with the support from the international and local civil society partners.

Parliament representatives from different countries informed about their national experiences and practices in the areas of legislative openness. They also discussed the legislative engagement policy adopted by the OGP Steering Committee in September 2016.

The day closed with a summary session facilitated by Scott Hubli, NDI Director of Governance Programs, and Devin O’Shaughnessy, Director of Programmes at the Westminster Foundation for Democracy.  The participants discussed the Open Parliament eNetwork (OPeN) and future steps to achieving legislative openness.

The Open Parliament Day was initiated and organised by the Parliament of Georgia, in cooperation with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Support Unit, with the assistance from partners and donors – the European Union (EU), UNDP, USAID/Good Governance Initiative (GGI), GIZ, NDI and Institute for Development of Freedom o0f Information (IDFI). 

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OGP – Global Summits and Georgia’s Achievements

Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched on September 20, 2011, at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. As of today, it is composed of 76 member countries. OGP is a multilateral international initiative that aims to secure specific commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizen participation in the decision-making processes, fight corruption, secure effectiveness and accountability of governments and harness new technologies to strengthen open governance.

OGP is overseen by Steering Committee, which is composed of government and civil society representatives in equal numbers. With the help from subcommittees and thematic working groups, the Committee provides guidance and main directions of OGP. Furthermore, it supervises fulfillment of the commitments undertaken by the member states and generally controls proper functioning of OGP. The Committee is governed by the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and two representatives of civil society.

OGP is administered by the Support Unit that plays the role of the permanent secretariat and works closely with the Steering Committee to advance the goals of the OGP. The major function of the Support Unit is to manage OGP’s external communications, ensure the continuity of organizational relationships with OGP’s partners and support the broader membership.

Participation of Government and Parliament of Georgia in Open Government Partnership

 On July 30, 2014, for the first time after 2011, OGP steering committee was elected by the member states. Eleven states had been competing for eight seats, including Georgia. As a result of the elections, USA, Brazil, UK, Philippines and Tanzania were re-elected, while Georgia, Croatia and France joined the committee for the first time.

On May 4, 2016, Georgia became a Co-Chair of Open Government Partnership. Within the aforementioned competence, our country, along with France, was guiding Steering Committee.

In June 2017, Giorgi Kldiashvili, the Executive Director of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), was selected as a new member representing civil society in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Steering Committee (SC). Kldiashvili was nominated as the SC member by Niels Scott, Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Georgia.

Moreover, on September 19, 2017, at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, the official meeting of the Open Government Partnership’s (OGP) Steering Committee took place. At the meeting, the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili officially took over the OGP chair from the French President Emmanuel Macron.

As a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Georgia has adopted and implemented three Action Plans and lately has elaborated and approved its Fourth Action Plan for the years of 2018-2019. It should also be noted that in the years of 2012-2018 the Government of Georgia carried out many important commitments through the action plans that our country adopted in previous years.

Moreover, on April 30, 2015, Parliament of Georgia and Non-Governmental and International Organizations participating in the Open Parliament Georgia Working Group, signed the Memorandum on Parliamentary Openness. As a result, Georgia became the first country in the region that started implementing the Principles of Open Parliament. It is noteworthy that in the year of 2015, Parliament of Georgia was awarded with the OGP Government Champions Award at the Open Government Partnership’s Global Summit. More precisely, the award was given to the Inter-Factional Group for an ideal cooperation with the civil society and for successful input of the civil society initiatives and recommendations into the national Action Plan.

It is noteworthy, that the Parliament of Georgia, with support from Civil Society and International Organizations, is actively involved in elaboration and implementation of Parliamentary Openness Action Plans. As of today, the Parliament has adapted three Action Plans (2015-2016, 2017, 2018-2019) and is constantly working on implementation of the Commitments defined therein.

It is noteworthy that through the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2017, the Parliament of Georgia committed to supervise and monitor OGP-related activities of the Government of Georgia. As a result, throughout the implementation and elaboration process of the national Action Plan, the Government of Georgia presented information on its ongoing activities and achievements within the framework of Open Government Partnership (OGP) to the Parliament of Georgia. This is a step forward in increasing democracy and accountability of the Government institutions.

Based on the aforementioned, we can conclude that the fact that Georgia was chosen as a Chairman of OGP is a great success for our country and can be considered as a step forward in regards of development of freedom of information and building of democratic society.

 Participation of Tbilisi Municipality in Open Government Partnership (OGP)

On November 16, 2017, within the framework of “Open Government Partnership” (OGP), Tbilisi Municipality adopted Tbilisi OGP Action Plan 2017. In May 2016, the working group for development, promotion and monitoring of implementation of the Action Plan within the framework of “Open Government Partnership” was created. The working group is composed of representatives from various non-governmental actors. It is noteworthy that Tbilisi Municipality elaborated the Action Plan in the framework of the “Open Government Partnership’s” Pilot Program and as a result, it actively gets involved in implementation of OGP Principles.

First Global Summit of Open Government Partnership in Brazil (April 2012)

First Global Summit of Open Government Partnership was held on April 17-18, in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. The Summit was attended by the governments and civil society representatives of 53 countries. Georgia was represented by the Prime Minister of Georgia, as well as by the civil society representatives.

The main goal of the Brazilian Meeting was to determine the progress of implementation of the commitments undertaken by the member countries and to define the course of OGP. Furthermore, in order to implement the OGP Principles, government and civil society representatives presented their action plans.

Other important topics discussed at the Brazilian Meeting were information accessibility, provision of public services, establishment of open data portals, management of public finances, transparency of budget management process, opinions of civil society and private sector on information accessibility and other.

Second Global Summit of Open Government Partnership in London (October 2013)

On October 31 – November 1, 2013, second Global Summit of Open Government Partnership was held in London, Great Britain. It was attended by more than 1,000 representatives of the member countries. As for the Georgian delegation, it consisted of the Minister of Justice and the representatives of “Institute for Development of Freedom of Information” (IDFI). Participating countries discussed progress of implementation of the OGP Principles and outlined new goals and challenges. The following priorities were determined at the London Summit 2013: Ensure of government openness, support of financial transparency in order to develop democracy and eliminate corruption, elaboration of global accounting standards in order to ensure transparency of utilization of natural resources, increase of dialogue and cooperation between governments and citizens and other.

Each participating country named new commitments to be included in their newly adopted action plans. Georgia committed to establish an integrated database of the public information (data.gov.ge) and to adopt a new Law on Freedom of Information. Moreover, Georgian delegation participated in the meeting of the Freedom of Information working group. The aim of the latter was to support implementation of the obligations related to freedom of information.

Third Global Summit of Open Government Partnership in Mexico (October 2015)

Third Global Summit of Open Government Partnership was held on October 28-29 in Mexico City, Mexico. Approximately 1,500 representatives of civil society, business sector and governments were presented at the Summit. The OGP Civil Society Day was traditionally held the day before the Summit. The aim of the aforementioned day was to deepen partnership between the OGP countries, increase the number of member states, exchange experiences and expend commitments of OGP.The Mexico Summit focused on number of important issues, such as interdependency of legislative process and technology. More precisely, it was agreed that technological support is one of the most important factors that contributes to the legislative process transparency. More precisely, technological support makes it easier for interested persons to access information and, thereafter, it ensures active participation of individuals in legislative processes.

Mechanisms for implementation of parliament openness were also discussed at the Mexico Summit. Furthermore, the OGP Summit emphasized the importance to include judicial branches of governments in implementation of the OGP Principles. Within the Summit, the Legislative Openness Working Group carried out training on legislative openness. Within the aforementioned training, various important issues were discussed, such as the role of technology in development and support of the legislative transparency, experience of the member countries in adopting access to information related legislation, implementation of international standards for parliamentary ethics and other.

With the help from the Legislative Openness Working Group, a large number of participating countries committed to include legislative branches of governments in implementation of the OGP goals. The participating countries also discussed the role of the Open Government Partnership in implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

 Fourth Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Paris (December 2016)

Open Government Partnership’s fourth Global Summit was held in Paris, France on December 7-9, 2016. It was attended by approximately 3,000 representatives of civil society, business sector and government. Representatives of the Government, as well as of the non-governmental organizations, including “Institute for Development of Freedom of Information” (IDFI), were also presented at the aforementioned Summit. One of the main events held at the OGP Summit was presentation and adaptation of Paris Declaration, which aims to support exchange of experiences and mechanisms of various governments and non-governmental organizations with other members of OGP.

Fifth Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Tbilisi (July 2018)

On July 17-19, 2018, Tbilisi will host fifth Open Government Partnership Summit that will gather up to 2000 participants from over the Globe. Heads of Governments, Members of Parliaments, representatives of civil society, academia, international and donor organizations will discuss open and good governance related topics. The Summit will start with a Civil Society Day, which is the principal gathering of the global civil society community working on advancing open government. Simultaneously, in the Tbilisi building of the Parliament of Georgia, Georgian Parliament will host the Open Parliament Day – a high-level international discussion on legislative openness. Several panel discussions will focus on a range of issues related to the legislative openness, including the new ways of engaging citizens and civil societies in parliamentary work, institutional reforms needed to achieve parliamentary transparency and accountability, and the role of technology and innovation in strengthening parliamentary openness. The discussion will be opened by the Chairperson of the Georgian Parliament, Irakli Kobakhidze. The event will consist of two panels (Panel 1 – Legislative engagement policy: good practices, challenges and ways forward and Panel 2 – Transparent and accountable parliaments).

Between the panels, Lightening Talks I and II will take place. They will focus on Technologies and innovations for Parliamentary Democracy and will include discussions, as well as presentations of various country experiences.

The Open Parliament Day is initiated and organised by the Parliament of Georgia, in cooperation with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Support Unit, with the assistance from partners and donors – the European Union (EU), UNDP, USAID/Good Governance Initiative (GGI), GIZ, NDI and Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI).

On July 18, the Opening Plenary and number of high-level sessions of the Summit will take place. Within the framework of the Plenary, open parliament related issues will be discussed, such as Global Anti-Corruption, the Role of Multilateral Institutions in Supporting Open Governance Reforms, Open Data, Public Services Innovations, initiating and elaborating Participatory Budgeting and other. Topics will be discussed by various speakers from government, parliaments, CSOs and international organizations. Furthermore, Giorgi Margvelashvili, President of Georgia, Mamuka Bakhtadze, Prime Minister of Georgia, Irakli Kobakhidze, Chairperson of the Parliament of Georgia, as well as prime ministers and presidents of other participating states will attend the high-level sessions.

Giorgi Kldiashvili, Executive Director of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), will discuss impact, opportunities and challenges for open government and OGP in the Eastern Partnership.

On July 19, the Summit will continue with the following topics: Advancing budget transparency for development, publishing and re-using open data, open government innovations, feminist open government, citizen participation and other. Special attention will be paid to the parliamentary OGP issues and Giorgi Kldiashvili, along with Irina Pruidze, Chairperson of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance, will present their vision on how four OGP Commitments have transformed the relationship between Parliaments and Citizens.

The Summit will take place in various locations, such as the Parliament of Georgia, Tbilisi Concert Hall, Rooms Hotel Tbilisi and Funicular.

IDFI’s Assessment of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plan for 2018-2019

Georgia joined the Open Government Partnership in 2011 and since then developed three National Action Plans that included important commitments related to the fight against corruption and increasing of transparency, quality of public Service delivery and citizen engagement. As a result of successful reforms implemented within OGP, in 2016 Georgia became the Co-Chair of the partnership and in 2017 the Chair country of the initiative. Former chairs of OGP include France, United Kingdom, United States and Mexico. Chairmanship of OGP is a unique opportunity for Georgia to showcase itself as a leader of democratic reform and serve as an example to other countries in implementing governance reform.

On July 17-19, 2018, Tbilisi will host the OGP Global Summit, an annual event with more than 2000 participants from all over the world. The OGP Global Summit is the most important gathering of the Partnership, where along with various workshop and sessions Georgia will present its fourth OGP National Action plan.

On June 28, 2018, the Secretariat of Open Government Georgia (Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia) shared the initial draft of the Open Government Georgia’s (OGG) fourth National Action Plan (NAP) with the OGG Forum members. The document below provides assessments of the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) on the process of elaboration and substance of commitments of the OGP NAP for 2018-2019.

Consultation Process

Commitments of the NAP was discussed by the responsible agencies on the Forum meeting held on 29 June 2018. Commitments were shared with the civil society organizations one day prior to the meeting and NGO members of the Forum were not given an opportunity to prepare comprehensive analysis of the initiatives presented by the government and elaborate comments on the commitments of NAP.

Second draft of the NAP was discussed on the Forum meeting held on 6 July 2018. On the meeting, the Secretariat of OGG and other responsible agencies presented the modified commitments and mentioned those that were removed from the draft.

Despite the two meetings conducted during a week IDFI negatively assesses the procedural aspects of the elaboration of NAP, since the consultations on elaboration of commitments were held only between the Analytical Department of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia (MoJ) and responsible agencies while the participation of civil society was not guaranteed in the working process. Unfortunately, the draft NAP was presented to the OGG Forum member NGOs only after the agreement on the commitments of NAP was reached between the Analytical Department of the MoJ and responsible agencies. Moreover, it should also be mentioned that civil society was not given sufficient time to consult with the responsible agencies. It is important to point out that the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia presented its draft commitment at the end of the consultation process, several days before the Summit, which minimized the possibility to improve the commitment and present recommendations of CSOs.

One more shortcoming associated to the process of elaboration of NAP is related to the results of the public consultations conducted throughout Georgia. Despite the fact that in April and May of 2018 public consultations for elaboration of new NAP of OGG were held in various cities of Georgia it was not discussed on the Forum meetings which commitments of the NAP were the result of the recommendations and information received during the public consultations. In addition, Analytical Department of the MoJ has not presented the summary report of the public consultations analyzing suggestions and challenges outlined on the public consultations throughout Georgia.

Reflection of Suggested Commitments in the NAP

It should be noted that all active NGO members of the Forum, together with the other recommendations for OGG NAP for 2018-2019, presented one consolidated initiative related to the establishment of Independent Anti-Corruption Agency. It was first precedent of unified recommendation from the NGOs.

The recommendation for the Government on establishing Independent Anti-Corruption Agency, as the part of the commitment of NAP, together with the IDFI was suggested by the Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association and Open Society Georgia Foundation.

Unfortunately, the Government of Georgia did not consider the recommendation of active NGO members of the OGG Forum on establishing Independent Anti-Corruption Agency.

The Support Unit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) advised the Government of Georgia  as it does all chairs – that the chair role comes with opportunities and responsibilities: to lead by example at home and globally, and step up on process, on ambition and on delivery of commitments. Despite the above-mentioned recommendations, the main weakness of the NAP presented by the Government of Georgia is the lack of such commitments. Chairmanship of OGP was the unique opportunity for Georgia to assume the leading role on the international level in the sphere of open governance. However, achievement of this goal was only possible through implementing the exemplary reforms for the current and future member states of OGP. Unfortunately, IDFI considers that executive government of Georgia was not able to use this opportunity efficiently and presented the NAP for approval that does not meet with the expectations set for the OGP leader countries.

IDFI presented seven recommendatory commitments for 2018-2019 NAP to the OGG member agencies. These recommendations were based on the principles described above. Except for the establishment of Independent Anti-Corruption Agency those commitments included:

– Creation of the registry of the beneficial ownership of the companies registered abroad;

– Elaboration of legislative framework on public participation in the decision making process;

– Improvement of existing standards of proactive disclosure of public information;

– Creating an Office of the State Minister on Public Administration and Innovations;

– Transparency of the meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers;

– Integrating blockchain systems in public procurement and public auction processes;

– Ensure greater transparency of public procurement trough by providing information about subcontractors and by broadening the list of mandatorily published information.

Unfortunately, none of the commitments, suggested by the IDFI, were included in the draft NAP for 2018-2019.

It is noteworthy that the content of the chapter “Challenge: Increasing Public Integrity” in the NAP is particularly weak. This issue is specifically problematic given the fact that the document on Chair Vision of Georgia for OGP provides increasing transparency and fighting against corruption as one of the strategic goals. In addition, Georgia is the member of Anti-Corruption Working Group of OGP and the Chair Vision focuses on sharing experience on fighting against corruption and moving the particular components of this sphere to the leading positions. Overall, it can be concluded that the commitments suggested by the Government of Georgia do not meet with the expectations that existed towards the NAP presented by Georgia.

Commitments Suggested by the Responsible Agencies

The final draft of the NAP for 2018-2019 includes in total 21 commitments, out of which eight commitments were presented by Ozurgeti, Zugdidi, Batumi, Akhaltsikhe, Kutaisi and Dedoplistskaro municipalities; one commitment was presented by the Supreme Court of Georgia; one commitment by the State Audit Office; one by the State Procurement Agency; and other 10 commitments by the various ministries, subordinate agencies and legal entities of public law of the executive branch.

Even though the absolute majority of the commitments of NAP is not ambitious and does not aim to implement meaningful reforms, there are good examples in the document. For example, IDFI positively assesses the commitment presented by the Supreme Court of Georgia related to the creation/improvement of electronic system for publishing court decisions, since this commitment will substantially improve access to the court decisions in Georgia, which represents existing challenge. IDFI also positively assesses the commitment of LEPL – National Agency of State Property on elaboration of manual of corporate management for state supported enterprises, which was suggested by IDFI and GYLA jointly. However, as it was already mentioned above, the commitments in line with the OGP standards does not change the general picture on ambitiousness of the NAP and overall the initial draft of the document can be negatively assessed.

Major commitments of the presented NAP repeat the content of the commitments of the previous NAP and their only purpose is the improvement of existing system. For example, the commitment on adapting the existing services of the Public Service Hall to the people with disabilities can be considered as such commitment. Even though the initiative on increasing accessibility of public services for vulnerable groups is very important, this commitment does not represent the novelty that might be considered as ambitious reform. Another example of such commitment is implementation of unified authentication system for increasing accessibility of public services, that will allow citizens to use unified authentication system for online services and avoid registration on the webpages of all government agencies separately.

Overall, it can be mentioned that OGG NAP for 2018-2019 presented by the Government of Georgia lacks ambitious and innovative commitments that could be assessed as important step forward towards establishing open governance and could become an example for other state members of OGP.

Parliament of Georgia Finalizes its Third Open Parliament Action Plan

The Parliament of Georgia has finalized the elaboration of its commitments for the 2018-2019 Open Parliament Action Plan, which include: supporting the implementation and monitoring of 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, increasing accountability before the citizens, developing deeper awareness of the public on parliamentary democracy, and strengthening its oversight of the transparency of Government activities.  

On 7 June, seven commitments for the third Open Parliament Action Plan (2018-2019) were discussed by the members of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open Governance and its Consultative Group. The event was supported by the European Union (EU), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (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.

“Similar to the previous Action Plans, the third document is the result of a co-creation and participatory process involving Members of Parliament, local government, civil society, academia, and youth representatives. The new plan consists of seven ambitious commitments, each employing a large number of tasks that the Parliament has to accomplish in the course of the next two years. As usual, the key focus is laid on making the Georgian Parliament more open and accountability to its citizens,” – said Irina Pruidze.

Governance Sector coordinator  at the EU Delegation to Georgia Sophie Huet-Guerriche reiterated the support of the European Union to the Parliament of Georgia in its efforts to exercise its representative role and become more open to citizens.

“Engagement of citizens in policy and legislative making is crucial in democratic societies. Greater openness of the legislative process enables citizens to engage more effectively in policymaking by providing access to information about the laws under consideration, as well as opportunities to influence legislative agenda” – stated Sophie Huet-Guerriche.

Ideas and suggestions for the Open Parliament Action Plan 2018-2019 were collected during the public consultations in eight cities of Georgia – Telavi, Rustavi, Marneuli, Akhaltsikhe, Kutaisi, Batumi and Tbilisi – held throughout March-April 2018. The new Action Plan also includes commitments initiated by local municipalities, private sector and youth (through the contest – Your Idea for Open Parliament).

Public consultations as well as today’s workshop is organized by the Parliament with assistance from the EU, UNDP and IDFI.

IDFI’s Recommendations for Georgia’s 2018-2020 OGP National Action Plan

Considering Georgia’s chairmanship of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), commitments undertaken in the National Action Plan (NAP) are of utmost importance.

Unlike previous OGP National Action Plans, the new action plan should be different, ambitious and have a transformative effect.

On the one hand, it is important for the commitments of the new action plan to set an example to other countries of the OGP community and, on the other hand, it is vital for the new OGP NAP commitments to have a significant effect on open government locally.

Below, the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) presents recommendations for Georgia’s 2018-2020 Open Government Action Plan.

Follow the link for IDFI’s recommendations: https://bit.ly/2khHjsh