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Advocacy day: Openness should be the policy of all regional governments

Emir Zulejhić

Point 6.0 started with the first public presentation of results and recommendations from a survey conducted within the Regional Index of Government Openness in the South East Europe region. The Open Source is a tool for measuring the openness of public institutions, created to cover a wide range of areas, but always taking into account how they affect the quality of life of citizens.

The project is implemented by the ACTION SEE network (Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in the South East Europe region), comprised of civil society organizations from the region, consisting of CA “Why Not” from BiH, the Center for Respondent Transparency Responsibility from Serbia, the Foundation Metamorphosis from Macedonia and the Center for Democratic Transition from Montenegro, Westminster Foundation for Democracy, Open Data Kosovo and Mjaft from Albania.

The regional openness index measures the degree of openness of parliaments following four criteria. Transparency is a principle that is respected, inter alia, when public institutional information, budgetary procedures and public procurement procedures are published and publicly available; Accessibility is a principle related to respect for the freedom to access information and the strengthening of interaction with citizens; Integrity includes mechanisms for the prevention of corruption, respect for ethical codes and regulation of lobbying; And effectiveness, which involves monitoring and (self) evaluating the policies of an institution.

The index was created to give citizens an insight into the openness of public administration and public bodies, but also to be of use to public officials and politicians, who can evaluate their work and determine where there is a need to improve existing ones Practice.

ACTION SEE has begun with active work in 2016 and has been continuously developing new and advanced mechanisms for analyzing, evaluating and improving the openness and responsibility of authorities in the region.

Through this research, the work of 8 parliaments in 6 countries in the region was examined. In general, all parliaments together account for around 63% of the openness indicators, a result which can not be called satisfactory. It was also concluded that parliaments are generally non-transparent when it comes to publishing information from sessions of their working bodies and that they do not meet the minimum of budget transparency standards. It is therefore recommended that parliaments in the region should sign the Declaration on openness of parliaments and actively work on its implementation.

In a survey conducted in 6 countries in the region, more than 25,000 indicators were observed. Measurement covers all branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) from local to state level.

Milica Kovačević from CDT reminded that the network was established after many years of cooperation between these organizations on various projects. “We use various indicators, but the goal is always the same: to precisely measure and evaluate the work of the authorities.”

Representatives of ACTION SEE networks have concluded that we can not be satisfied with the results of the research. Milica, for example, pointed out that in the executive, “institutions meet less than half of the set indicators”. But the main conclusion about the openness of the executive is the lack of a strategy for openness of power in all countries in the region. This leads to an uneven approach to openness and to great differences between individual institutions in each of these countries. The research has shown that many things are done ad hoc, and that in practice the openness of the government depends on the positions of the governing structures of individual institutions. This means that, even when there is a marked progress towards greater openness of institutions, there are no systemic guarantees that it will be sustainable.

Another common problem in the region is the lack of coordination, policy planning and evaluation of their impact on people’s lives. “Most of our institutions can not tell you what their annual goals are,” said Darko Brkan from “Why not.” “There is no mechanism by which we could present what they did to achieve the set goals”

In line with all these conclusions, recommendations are given that openness policies should be adopted in all countries in the region.

The research was conducted through analysis of official web sites of public institutions, but also through a questionnaire submitted to institutions. Some researchers spoke of cases where institutions refused to give answers to the questions asked, which also affected the results of the research.

During the discussion, ideas for new research and exchanged experiences of many participants were considered. A participant from Macedonia said that societies in the region needed a profound change not only in institutions, but also in terms of a general understanding of the importance of transparency and accountability of the authorities. A participant from Iraqi Kurdistan compared the experiences of her organization, who conducted a similar research two years ago. However, as she stated, after they published the results, there was no change. Based on this experience, she suggested that the implementation of the recommendations derived from the research should be followed.

In the following period, the network will publish “road maps” for all analyzed countries and institutions, with concrete recommendations for improving results. Network members plan to contribute to change and improve openness in different ways. “This tool serves to encourage change, but this is the first time anyone does this in the region. We will see how it will show up in the future, “it was said in the conclusions.

During the second panel, a detailed analysis of the openness of parliaments was presented.

The situation is the best in Montenegro, which still does not mean that it is good, said the panel. Based on the results of the research, Montenegrin Parliament is the most open body of the legislative power in the region, with 85% of the indicators of openness fulfilled. Parliament in Montenegro publishes all its work plans, work reports, texts of legal proposals and adopted laws, amendments, public procurement information, and most other relevant information over the past three years covered by the survey. However, there is still room for improvement.

In Serbia, the legislature fulfills 59% of the openness indicators, which points to the need for a significant improvement in the openness of parliament in this country.

The research in Bosnia and Herzegovina, due to the complex administrative structure, encompassed the state and entity levels of government, unlike other countries in which only the state parliament was examined. The survey showed that these three parliamentarians only meet only 51% of the openness indicators, putting Bosnia in the last place in the region. Five parliamentary bodies (both houses of the PS BiH and the Parliament of the FBiH, and the National Assembly of RS) were monitored within the research in BiH. All bodies together meet 48% of the indicators for accessibility criteria, and only 37% of the indicators for interaction with citizens.

In Albania, Parliament meets 60% of openness indicators, which is not as bad a result, but certainly points to the need for improvement.

The same result was recorded in Kosovo, whose Parliament also meets 60% of the indicators, and shares the second place in the region with the Albanian parliament. As in other countries, the Kosovo parliament has poor results in evaluating the effectiveness and impact of regulations, both adopted and those in parliamentary procedure.