Create Public Consultation Mechanism (LT0020)
Action Plan: Lithuania National Action Plan 2016-2018
Action Plan Cycle: 2016
Lead Institution: Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania
Support Institution(s): Ministry of the Interior
Policy AreasCapacity Building, Democratizing Decision-Making, E-Government, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance
Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment Currently, civic participation in public administration processes is considerably weak. For more active engagement of the public in administration processes, institutions need shared public consultation mechanism regulation and practice of its application. At present, there is no shared methodology for public consultation, no key consultation principles, terms, nor standards have been set, consultation methods have not been described, and institutions lack methodological aid and targeted competences to carry out proper public consultation. It is necessary not only to encourage civic participation, but also to monitor the participation efficiency. Main objective To encourage more active civic participation in public administration processes. Brief description of commitment The commitment to create a public consultation mechanism is linked to the objective to regulate the public consultation procedure, and, having drafted methodological documents, to set a shared consultation practice among institutions
IRM Midterm Status Summary
The commitment to create a public consultation mechanism is linked to the objective to regulate the public consultation procedure, and, having drafted methodological documents, to set a shared consultation practice among institutions.
6.1. In compliance with the methodology provisions, joint public consultation practice will be shaped, and more active civic engagement will be encouraged.
6.2. The guidelines will help institutions achieve optimal way of consultation and will help, through concrete examples, shape joint practice of public consultation
6.3. An electronic publication and an awareness-raising video clip will be presented (made public) to institutions and the society through various channels of communication, hence encouraging institutions to make use of the methodological documents, and the society to take part in consultations
6.4. To assess the effect of various means of civic participation on public administration processes, a methodology for monitoring civic participation in public administration processes will be drafted and practically tested. The methodology will provide recommendations for carrying out monitoring, assessment, and publication of results on application of measures for public consultation and other methods of civic participation in public administration processes.
6.5. In compliance with the methodology provisions, regular monitoring and assessment of efficiency of civic participation in public administration processes will be carried out.
Responsible institution: Office of the Government of the Republic of Lithuania
Supporting institution: Ministry of the Interior
Start date: 31 December 2016
End date: 30 June 2018
Context and Objectives
As mentioned in Commitment 3, the current level of public participation in decision-making processes in Lithuania is low. The commitment aims to encourage Lithuanian citizens to encourage greater civic participation in Lithuania by (1) developing a new public consultation methodology, (2) drafting guidelines on the application of the new methodology, (3) publishing an awareness-raising video for the new methodology, (4) drafting a new methodology for monitoring civic participation in public administration processes, and (5) regular monitoring and assessing the efficiency of civic participation in public administration processes based on the new methodology.
Interviewed government and CSO representatives have recognized that civic participation in the decision-making process is weak, and that institutions lack methodological aid and targeted competences to carry out effective public consultations. According to Gitana Jurjoniene, the advisor at the Office of the Government, Lithuania’s accession to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) played a major role in drafting this commitment because the OECD identified a need to better engage Lithuanian citizens in decision making.[Note: Gitana Jurjoniene, the Office of the Government, interview by IRM researcher, 3 August 2017.] Mantas Zakarka, the CEO of the Lithuanian Youth Council noted that the commitment to introduce a concrete methodology and guidelines on how to carry out public consultations is important because there is currently no common understanding for what a public consultation means.[Note: Mantas Zakarka, Lithuanian Youth Council, interview by IRM researcher, 4 August 2017.] Similarly, Ieva Petronyte, the CEO of the Civil Society Institute, agreed that the public sector lacks guidelines on how to implement public consultations, but that methodology alone will not solve the problem.[Note: Ieva Petronyte, Civil Society Institute, interview by IRM researcher, 4 August 2017.]
Although the commitment’s overall objective of increasing civic participation through a new consultation methodology is clear, the individual milestones are vague. For example, the commitment does not specify which public institutions will apply the new methodology, only 'municipal institutions and agencies,' and it is unclear how the monitoring and assessment of the efficiency of the methodology will be carried out. However, the guidelines and awareness-raising video are concrete deliverables, so the commitment’s specificity is medium. While creating guiding documents for implementing and monitoring public consultations is a positive step towards greater civic participation, the commitment’s objective (to 'encourage more active civic participation in public administration processes') is broader then what it can achieve if fully implemented. Given the current low levels of civic participation in Lithuania, the creation, implementation, and monitoring of a public consultation methodology would have a minor potential impact. Having such a broad commitment makes it difficult to measure its success. If the scope was narrower, or if the target audience was limited to a few identified institutions rather than the whole public sector, one could expect a greater potential impact.
However, it is important to note that the Office of the Government plans to achieve more than indicated in the action plan, which might result in a greater opening of government. Gitana Jurjoniene at the Office of the Government said they also plan to hold consultations for officials working at the ministries to test methodologies.[Note: Gitana Jurjoniene, the Office of the Government, interview by IRM researcher, 3 August 2017. ]
On 21 November 2016, the Office of the Government contracted the company Civitta to create a public consultation mechanism, prepare the documents needed, test methodology in practice, and train public officials in using the new mechanism.[Note: Central Public procurement portal, contract with UAB 'Civitta', https://goo.gl/Hj1X1J. ]
At the time of writing this report (September 2017), the Office of the Government is in the process of drafting the methodology for public consultations and preparing the guidelines for public sector institutions on how to apply this methodology. The Office of the Government sent the IRM researcher an email with a list of seven ministries that were assigned to test the experimental public consultations: The Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Economy, the Research and Higher Education Monitoring, and the Analysis Centre (MOSTA) under the Government of the Republic of Lithuania. The Office of Government plans to update the draft version of the methodologies once it is tested by the above-mentioned ministries.[Note: Gitana Jurjoniene, the Office of the Government, interview by IRM researcher, 3 August 2017. A copy of draft documents received by IRM researcher. ]
Each of the seven ministries were prescribed a different consultation methodology to test. For example, the Ministry of Health would carry out its consultation via survey and using online tools, while the Ministry of Interior had a focus group. Although closed circle meetings or interviews with identified stakeholders are not in line with OGP standards for open and participatory partnership with CSOs and other interested parties, the Office of the Government sees the above-mentioned methods as possible methodologies for public consultations.
According to action plan, the commitment must be fulfilled by 30 June 2018. As there is no timeline for interim activities, the IRM researcher cannot track the implementation in more detail.
The commitment is important to address the problem of low public participation. However, the IRM researcher recommends that Office of the Government narrow the commitment’s scope because the foreseen deliverables alone could hardly increase civic participation in decision-making processes.
Also, as the aim of this commitment is to increase the quality of public consultations and encourage Lithuanian citizens to take part in the decision-making process, the IRM researcher recommends following the OGP values and principles when defining public consultation and making sure that consultations offer a combination of both open meetings and online engagement, involve groups throughout the country, and are open for an adequate duration.[Note: OGP Participation & Co-creation Standards, OGP, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/ogp-participation-co-creation-standards. ] While the Office of the Government currently applies OECD standards of public consultation, this definition is too narrow and would not let all interested parties participate.