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North Macedonia Transitional Results Report 2018-2020

The Open Government Partnership is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. Action plan commitments may build on existing efforts, identify new steps to complete ongoing reforms, or initiate an entirely new area. OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. Civil society and government leaders use the evaluations to reflect on their progress and determine if efforts have impacted people’s lives.

The IRM has partnered with Liljana Cvetanoska to carry out this evaluation. The IRM aims to inform ongoing dialogue around the development and implementation of future commitments. For a full description of the IRM’s methodology, please visit https://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/independent-reporting-mechanism.

This report covers the implementation of North Macedonia’s fourth action plan for 2018-2020. In 2021, the IRM will implement a new approach to its research process and the scope of its reporting on action plans, approved by the IRM Refresh.[1] The IRM adjusted its Implementation Reports for 2018-2020 action plans to fit the transition process to the new IRM products and enable the IRM to adjust its workflow in light of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effects on OGP country processes.

Action Plan Implementation

The IRM Transitional Results Report assesses the status of the action plan’s commitments and the results from their implementation at the end of the action plan cycle. This report does not re-visit the assessments for “Verifiability,” “Relevance” or “Potential Impact.” The IRM assesses those three indicators in IRM Design Reports. For more details on each indicator, please see Annex I in this report.

General Highlights and Results

North Macedonia’s fourth action plan contained 23 commitments, including five Open Parliament commitments, allowing for the Assembly of North Macedonia to be included in the process for the first time. Out of the 23 commitments, 12 had “substantial” implementation, whereas four were noted as “complete”. In comparison, in the third action plan (2016-2018), of a total of 33 commitments, five were fully completed and 13 were substantially completed.[ii] However, it is difficult to provide an objective comparison between the two action plans due to the impact of COVID-19 on the fourth plan. The IRM Design Report noted that the action plan contained four noteworthy commitments, focusing on asset declarations of public officials, open treasury and access to justice, with an emphasis on access to justice for marginalized groups. Out of these, Commitment 3 on open treasury was completed, and the access to justice commitments (Commitments 6.1 and 6.2) were substantially implemented. Overall, the commitments focusing on access to information and open data yielded positive, if marginal, results.

An important factor that contributed to the positive progress in the implementation of the commitments was the cooperation of relevant institutions with CSOs, allowing for sharing knowledge and experience in the realization of milestones. Factors that limited progress in implementation included lack of institutional infrastructure, overly ambitious timelines, as well as delays in the adoption of legal solutions on which some commitments depended. Some activities were postponed due to the preventive measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commitment 3 resulted in substantial change in government practice in the area of fiscal transparency. This commitment allowed for increased transparency and access to information on budgetary revenues and expenditures, for which data is now publicly and freely available via the Open Finance portal from 2010 onwards. Commitment 6.1 on access to justice is also noteworthy. A new Law of Free Legal Aid  entered into force in 2019. The previous law lacked practical applicability and contained ambiguities, whereas the new law broadens the scope of the areas for which free legal aid is provided and reduces the criteria for accessing free legal aid.[iii] To improve citizens’ access to information regarding their legal rights, a user-friendly webpage has been created. While activities regarding the implementation of the new law are to be continued and improved, especially regarding legal aid for marginalized groups, this legal solution is a foundation for building better access to justice for those that need free legal support.

In May 2020, during the implementation period, the Ministry of Information Society and Administration formed North Macedonia’s first formal multi-stakeholder forum to oversee OGP matters. In addition, the ministry created a new OGP webpage on the implementation of the commitments, which is a step towards better access to information regarding the activities undertaken, providing the page is regularly updated.

COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Implementation

The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the general implementation of North Macedonia’s fourth action plan. It prevented the adoption of a separate OGP budget and several public procurements relevant for the completion of certain commitments were postponed.[iv] While the OGP priorities remained, engagement between stakeholders was affected. For example, between March and June 2020 it was not possible to organize stakeholder meetings for improving and coordinating efforts towards social mapping of poor and marginalized groups.[v] Preparatory activities for organizing a hackathon related to the cataloging and opening of datasets in institutions were initiated, but the event was postponed due to COVID-19. Moreover, the implementation of some commitments was linked to parliamentary rulings, but the Assembly was dissolved for seven months as a result of the pandemic[vi] and political decisions were postponed.[vii] The work of the Assembly has resumed, but the plenary hall could not be used because of pandemic-related restrictions and the new space is not equipped with an electronic voting system.[viii] The Rules of Procedure of the Assembly do not contain provisions on remote work, meaning that MPs need to be physically present in order to achieve a quorum, which has been a challenge during the pandemic. The limited movement of people and clusters of infections also impacted the work of the Assembly Staff office but technical conditions for remote work were introduced to continue with the activities.[ix]

Notwithstanding these challenges, some positive achievements have been noted. The OGP forum was introduced despite the preventive measures, and online meetings between stakeholders have been taking place. The activation of the national OGP webpage allows for meetings to take place directly via the page, easing access for participants.[x] Finally, a step towards access to information has been made with the introduction of a webpage[xi] on fiscal transparency related to COVID-19, which deals with open finances and public procurement.

[1] For more information, see: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/process/accountability/about-the-irm/irm-refresh/

[ii] Open Government Partnership, IRM: Republic of Macedonia End-of-Term Report 2016-2018,  https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Macedonia_End-of-Term_Report_2016-2018_EN.pdf

[iii] Pravdiko, Новиот Закон за бесплатна правна помош со подобрени решенија за пристап до правда, 22 May, https://www.pravdiko.mk/noviot-zakon-za-besplatna-pravna-pomosh-so-podobreni-reshenija-za-pristap-do-pravda/

[iv] Interview with Gordana Dimitrovska, MISA, 15 December 2020.

[v] Ministry of Information Society and Administration, Information on the results of the Working Group for Implementation of the OGP Action Plan 2018-2020 Including a Final Self-Assessment Report (Draft Version), December, https://ovp.gov.mk/en/council_sessions/7-%d0%bc%d0%b0-%d1%81%d0%b5%d0%b4%d0%bd%d0%b8%d1%86%d0%b0-%d0%bd%d0%b0-%d1%81%d0%be%d0%b2%d0%b5%d1%82%d0%be%d1%82-%d0%b7%d0%b0-%d0%be%d0%b2%d0%bf/, p 17.

[vi] Interview with Vlora Rechica, Institute for Democracy ‘Societas Civilis’, 16 December 2020; Interview with Zlatko Atanasov, Parliamentary Institute, 29 December 2020.

[vii] Interview with Damir Neziri, WFD, 10 December 2020; Interview with Petar Trajkov, WFD, 10 December 2020.

[viii] Interview with Zlatko Atanasov, Parliamentary Institute, 29 December 2020.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Interview with Gordana Dimitrova, MISA, 15 December 2020.

[xi] See https://finansiskatransparentnost.koronavirus.gov.mk/#/home

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