"Open Government Partnership" initiative for 2014-2015

16 Jun 2014

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16 June 2014, Kyiv – Kyiv hosted summary consultations for the “Open Government Partnership” Initiative to discuss the National Action Plan (NAP) for 2014 – 2015. The round table at the Club of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine saw over 100 representatives of central and regional governments and civil activists form five oblasts.

Governance transparency, accessibility of information and data, clear procedures, accountability of government bodies, and systemic prevention of corruption are some of the priorities encompassed by the international “Open Government Partnership” (OGP) initiative, which is called to advance government openness, combat corruption and enable citizens to take part in decisions that affect their lives. OGP kicked off in autumn of 2011 by several countries that became its advocates from day one. The founders included Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South African Republic, United Kingdom and USA.

This work began with the development of an Open Government Declaration (http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/open-government-declaration), which foresaw increase of information and data accessibility, inclusion of people in decision-making, introduction of codes of ethical behaviour and integrity for civil servants and access of people to the information and communications technologies (ICTs). These days the international club of participant countries comprises 64 countries, Ukraine being one of them having implemented its first NAP in 2012-2013. As part of periodic international obligations a participating government elaborates and submits, after due and extensive consultations with the country’s citizens, a biennial Action Plan for advancing the core principles of the Initiative.

Today’s event in Kyiv became the fourth in line of consultative round tables which are called to gather feedback on the proposed draft NAP for 2014-2015. The consultations in Kyiv have pursued a number of goals. Firstly, results of preceding regional consultations, which had taken place in Lviv, Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk, were reviewed. These had gathered civil society representatives from neighbouring oblasts and resulted in 142 participants being registered (three fourth of them being civic voices). The round table also considered the results of online consultations, which lasted from end-May until 13 June, gathering visions of all willing participants through an electronic questionnaire located at the website of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, National Centre for Electronic Governance and some other resources. The third core goal was, without doubt, to present once more the draft NAP, its priorities and collection of citizen feedback from representatives of the regions, which had not previously participated in the discussions.

 Some highlights of the regional consultations

The national consultations proved that the proposed draft NAP had a rather large level of support (85% respondents assessed its priorities in a positive manner, while only 5% have expressed dissatisfaction with the roadmap for the subsequent two years.) Yet, support to the NAP thematic priorities was far from uniform: while the anticorruption block was positively assessed by 90% respondents, only 82% of them noted their support to the electronic governance sphere.

The Kyiv event reconfirmed the overall positive attitude towards the issue of open budgeting (UNDP’s activities in this realm are outlined here http://europeandcis.undp.org/blog/2014/05/21/open-budget-scratching-itch-ukraine/.)  Emphasis was put on introduction of the necessary effective anticorruption instruments and provision of more opportunities for the citizens to take part in decision-making and oversight over executive bodies of varied levels through civic expert assessment.

At the same time, some heated discussions took place as well, including questions as to the reasons for inclusion or discard of proposals that came in during the consultative process. One of the highlights was the opposed merger of “access to public information” thematic priority with other issues. Civic experts launched a proactive opposition to this, and demanded that access to public information be considered as a separate thematic block under the Initiative.

Another discussion was sparked regarding the issue of ownership and responsibility for NAP implementation. Distribution of responsibility for the NAP priorities caused questions as to who has to be accountable for successful completion of activities envisaged. “We supported the civil society and the government when the first National Action Plan was under development…” – noted in this regard UNDP Deputy Resident Representative, Ms. Inita Pauloviča. “It was a privilege and a challenge to work with both pillars (government and the third sector) arriving at a unified version of a national roadmap. We all remember how tough the process was and how many meetings, consultations, talks and negotiations were held in order finalize, in this very room, the vision for Ukraine. It is without doubt that a well-considered and shared vision is important for success today as it was back then. At the same time, only through joint, mutually-reinforcing efforts of the government, the CSO sector and the international community can we arrive at the desired result.”

Having analyzed all incoming proposals and acknowledged the very short time-span for its additional discussion (as Ukraine has to present its agreed NAP to the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee), decision was made to try and appeal to the Committee with a request to postpone the deadline for submission of the Plan and allow for more analysis of the proposed priorities and actions of the National Action Plan to arrive to a truly coherent vision of the roadmap.