Open Municipal Government (LV0043)
Action Plan: Latvia Action Plan 2019-2021
Action Plan Cycle: 2019
Lead Institution: inistry of Environmental Protection and Regional Developmentin cooperation with the Latvian Association of Local and Regional Governments
Support Institution(s): State and municipal institutions VK, Latvian Association of Big Cities, other municipalitiesinstitutions, VSIA "Latvijas Vēstnesis" Representatives of the society Foundation for Public Participation Fund (PortalManaBalss.lv), Lilita Seimuškāne, University of LatviaOpen Society PartnershipIn Latvia ", Sabile Care Society" Kalme", KurzemeNGO Center, PROVIDUS Center for Public Policy,b Society “Latvian Civic Alliance”
Policy AreasE-Government, Land Rights & Spatial Planning, Local Commitments, Public Participation, Public Service Delivery, Sustainable Development Goals
What are the major national and societal challenges that this commitment will address?
Municipalities are closer to the population than central state institutions, so many of them are accumulatedvaluable experience in involving the public in municipal development processes, budget planning,by organizing advisory councils, public project competitions or public documentingdiscussion. However, good practices are not sufficiently compiled to be shared. Recently it waspublished a compendium of good practices, including a number of high quality organized consultationsprocess examples. There is an urgent problem that should be addressed within the framework of this commitment over the next two yearsstrengthen citizens' participation in municipalities by educating and strengthening their participationability to participate. A number of important activities related to participation in municipalities will be implemented under Regional PolicyGuidelines 2021-2027 It is intended that:
• educate representatives of municipal institutions on the promotion of participation, mutualbenefits and types,
• Provide methodological support for capacity building for different groups in societyevents,
• Promote the implementation of participatory budgeting in municipalities by making necessary changeslaws and regulations.
The implementation of the Participatory Budget in municipalities is one of the issues discussed in this planduring development. Currently the participation budget in Latvia is implemented only in Riga City Municipality.The introduction of a participatory budget in other municipalities would also enable the involvement of citizens in the decisionadoption of the necessary changes in the municipality and the distribution of municipal fundingpriorities by submitting and voting on project ideas.
In developing this commitment, other directions to promote participation in municipalities were also identified.For example, local government referendums are an important tool for public participation. They allowfor a certain number of residents of the municipality to submit a question for decision of the City Council, but from the City Councilit depends on whether it complies with this request (analogous regulation to that contained in the Saeima Rules of Procedure, butmunicipal level). Municipal level collective submissions and petitions can be developed.Within this commitment, it is intended to launch an open local government movement. It aims to increase opennessand transparency in municipal work. Municipalities are involved in this movement on their own initiative,committing to certain actions. The responsible institutions, in cooperation with the State Chancellery, compile andpromotes results. The municipality can subscribe to the Open Governance Declaration to take actionchanges that encourage openness, such as improving access to information about participating in one's ownwebsite (for example, improve the accessibility of municipal binding regulations, make the employee public)list of working groups; highlight information on public consultations; NGO fundingopportunities, involvement of citizens in municipal work, etc. , etc.), to apply these Undertakingsto introduce a participatory budgetu. etc.
Similarly, since 2014, a number of municipalities have undertaken to implement analogous Estonian Action Plansinitiative to make their work more transparent and accessible to citizens. During the preparation of this Action Plan, the need to make the municipality more binding was identifiedaccessibility for the local population and the country as a whole,merchants. It would be useful to make available consolidated versions of binding rulesmunicipal websites and publish the official regulations of all municipalities"Latvijas Vēstnesis" and systematize legislation in the portal http://www.likumi.lv. It would empower anyoneinterested person to compare regulations issued by different municipalities. For example, for businesses it couldbe a useful tool for choosing the municipality in which to develop your business.
What is the commitment?
The commitment is to create a supportive environment in municipalities that focuses on practicing civic participationand more openness. The commitments include the following measures:
1. Reduce formalism in public involvement:
• pooling of good practice in public engagement and networking in practice,
• development of openness standards and recommendations for municipalities,
making recommendations on how to prepare the citizen for a discussion with members / council,
• Involving NGOs in problem solving• promotion of digital forms of participation (eg surveys),
• Provide a contact point on the municipal websites for information onopportunities for public participation in this municipality.
2. Improving the framework for participation and access to relevant information for citizensmunicipalities:
• municipalities are considering the possibility of including the process and issue of public participation; andthe proportion of proposals in their binding rules,
• municipalities are considering the inclusion of a "free microphone" in municipal council meetingsto include ideas in the regulations for citizens to express their ideas, as well as in committee meetings before city council meetingspublic participation section,
• Post a consolidated version of municipal regulations on municipal websites, not onlyindividual amendments,
• ensure that binding rules for all municipalities are published in the Official Gazette"Latvijas Vestnesis" and systematized in the legislative portal http://www.likumi.lv,
• make the format of municipal spatial development planning documents available to the populationfriendlier (such as an easy-to-read summary or a full format review).To organize trips to and reporting to members of the publicon the work done and planned.
3. Promoting educational initiatives on participation:
• implement initiatives in local governments to educate citizens on opportunities for participation.(Action 3 implements commitment 5)
4. Open Local Government Movement:
• Each municipality is invited to take action within its own Action Planmunicipalities, which promote openness, transparency of activities, accessibility for citizens andcitizen involvement,
• Municipalities for their involvement in the activities envisaged in this Action Plan and forcalls on the responsible authorities to be informed of the actions taken. State Chancellerythe information received shall be included in reports on the implementation of the Action Plan and may be passed on to otherscountries as good practice in Latvia.Upon entry into force of the plan, the responsible institutions with the support of the State Chancellery and in cooperation with alla commitment plan shall be drawn up between the parties involved, specifying the responsibilitieson the measures referred to in this section.
How will the commitment help to address the issues identified?
Commitment will increase openness in municipalities - openness and public participation.Recommendations will be made to ensure openness to municipalities, as well as to improve municipalitiesinternal regulation, including requirements for participation.On their own initiative, municipalities will be able to get involved in this plan and implement up-to-date opennessevents.The commitment is to provide high quality and comprehensible information to citizens.
Why is this commitment consistent with OGP values?
The commitment shall comply with the following OGP values:
• openness , as it involves wider disclosure to the public and helps to improvethe quality and comprehensibility of the information provided;
participation , as it is aimed at broader and more effective involvement of citizens in the work of local governments.
Available commitment ornecessary financing
The commitment will be implemented from the parties involvedavailable from the state budget, municipal budget orthe budget of the organization.If ministries and other central authoritiesactivities related to the development of new digital tools,educational work or open municipal movements; orcoordination of the practical cooperation network will beneed additional state budget funding thenthe issue is on the 2021 draft state budgetand a medium-term budgetary framework projectpreparation process.
Relationship with other documents
Regionalpoliticiansguidelines2021-For the year 2027Conceptual Report "On Participatory Budgetingimplementation in Latvia " (under development)National Development Plan 2021-2027 year(in development)
Compliance with UN sustainable developmentgoals
Complies with UN Sustainable Development 16.7. for the sub-objective -“Ensure a flexible, inclusive, inclusive andrepresentative decision-making at all levels ”
IRM Midterm Status Summary
4. Open government in local governments
The commitment constitutes the creation of supportive environment in local governments which is oriented towards practising participation and greater transparency. The commitment includes the following activities:
- Minimising formality in public participation:
- Improvement of the framework for participation and availability of information which concerns residents in local governments:
- Promotion of educational initiatives for participation:
(Activity 3 shall be implemented in conjunction with the Commitment 5
- Open local government movement:
- Development of openness standards and recommendations for local governments
- At least three local governments get involved in the open local government movement
Editorial Note: For the complete text of this commitment, please see Latvia’s action plan at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Latvia_Action-Plan_2019-2021_EN.pdf
IRM Design Report Assessment
Access to Information, Civic participation
The main aim of the commitment is to increase residents’ participation in local decision making by educating them on participation possibilities and strengthening their participation capacity. It also aims to enable and empower municipalities to use participation tools more actively.
Civil society in Latvia has expressed concern  to the government regarding the relatively low levels of government engagement with the public and lack of proposals to address this. A law on the Local Government Referendum has been on the agenda for several years in Latvia but has not yet been approved. Citizen engagement at the municipal level can be described as low, and engagement events put forward by local governments are usually met with limited responsiveness.  Local civil society organisations rarely take part in the municipal council or committee meetings. The main reasons are the lack of mutual trust between the general public and local governments, lack of civic skills and lack of available information about decision-making on the local level.
Currently there are no systematic capacity-building incentives or promotion of participatory democracy at the local level in Latvia. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development (MoERD)  however has proposed provisions for adopting mechanisms of participatory budgeting at the municipal level in the new Law on Local Governments. Some municipalities, such as Sigulda, Valmiera and Talsi,  have shown initiative and tried to develop their own solutions, particularly in the use of digital technologies and social media channels.
The first step that the commitment foresees is to compile a study of examples of good practices and to use this to draft proposals, openness standards and recommendations for all municipalities. Even though citizens are currently able to participate in local meetings, the commitment foresees improving the status quo by designing a specific template in which every meeting also entails what is labelled here as a ‘catch-the-eye’ procedure, meaning that a portion of the meeting is reserved for citizens to freely express their concerns and ideas. This could potentially give citizens more control over agenda setting than they currently have.
The commitment is also seeking to improve the accessibility of local-level information for the general public, specifically when it concerns legislative amendments. Currently, there is no consistent system for municipalities to follow when publishing amendments to local regulations, which means it is often hard for the general public to trace what exactly has changed and what is contained in new amendments .  The commitment would ensure that binding regulations of all local governments are published in the Latvian official gazette Latvijas Vēstnesis and codified in the portal of laws and regulations.
Overall, this commitment could have a moderate potential impact for improving citizen participation in local governments. Despite the aims of the commitment and positive proposals for developing good practice recommendations for municipalities and improvement of accessibility of decisions on the local level, there are no specific measures foreseen to ensure support for increasing the capacity of specific groups to participate, such as women, LGBTQ+, disabled people, and so forth. To make this have a transformative impact, the commitment could incorporate civic education and engagement of such specific groups in specific policy areas so that the current opportunities and channels of participations are used more actively.
In its current format, the commitment is a compilation of useful actions, but it is not clear what specific steps are to be taken to bring them to life. It is particularly important that concrete, specific and well-designed solutions are put forward for improving citizen engagement at the municipal level, as upcoming regional reform will reduce the number of municipalities from 119 to 39.  Although this commitment puts forward general topics of interest, it lacks the concrete steps that will be taken in the implementation phase of the Action Plan. For example, more activities relating to the MoERD plan to introduce participatory budgeting locally would be particularly useful to foster engagement and a culture of open government at the local level.