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North Macedonia

Greater Public Awareness and Use of Participatory Policy Making Through the Internet Portal e-Democracy by the Institutions, Companies, Chambers, Civil Society and Citizens (MK0043)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Macedonia, Second Action Plan, 2014-2016

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: General Secretariat of the Government

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Information Society and Administration and civil society organizations

Policy Areas

E-Government, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

IRM Report: Macedonia End-of-Term Report 2014-2016, Macedonia Progress Report 2014-2015

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: No

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Greater public awareness and use of participatory policy making through the internet portal e-democracy by the institutions, companies, chambers, civil society and citizens

IRM End of Term Status Summary

II. Participation: Participatory Policymaking

Commitment 1.4 Assessing Impact of Government Mirror

Commitment Text: 1.4. Monitoring of openness of government institutions in the processes of policy making [...].

Commitment 1.7 Use of e-democracy by Stakeholders

Commitment Text: 1.7. Greater public awareness and use of participatory policy making through the internet portal e-democracy [...].

Commitment 1.8 Civil Society Council () ()

Commitment Text: 1.8. Establishing of an advisory body to […] encourage the development of the civil society, composed of […] the Government, administrative bodies and civil society organisations.

Commitment 1.9 Code of Good Practice

Commitment Text: 1.9. Improved implementation of the Code of Good Practice for the participation of civil society in the policy making process   [...].

Commitment 1.10 Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society

Commitment Text: .. 1.10. Implementation of the measures from the Strategy for Cooperation of the Government with the Civil Society (2012-2017) and timely updates on the website of the Department for Cooperation with NGOs [http://www.nvosorabotka.gov.mk].

Commitment 7.2 Publication of Citizens’ Assessment of Public Services

Commitment Text: 7.2. Publication of the results of using ENER – “Mirror of the Government.”

Responsible institution(s): General Secretariat of the Government

Supporting institution(s):  Ministry of Information Society and Administration (MISA) and CSOs[Note 14: The full list of CSOs named as supporting institutions includes Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, Center for International Cooperation, Center for Research and Policy Making, Center for Change Management, Eco-conscious, Institute for Community Development, IRES, Biosphere- Bitola, Bujrum- Tetovo, Center for Rural Development-Kumanovo, Center for European Development and Integration-Bitola (CERI), Institute for Economic Strategies and International Relations Ohrid, and Polio Plus.]

Start Date: 1/1/2014 .........   ..............  End Date: ongoing

 
Editorial Note: Commitment 1.8 is a starred commitment, because it is measurable, clearly relevant to OGP values as written, of transformative potential impact, and was substantially or completely implemented.
Commitment aim

The commitments under this cluster sought to enhance the policy and institutional framework for increased public involvement in the policy making process. They also aimed to strengthen some of the measures from the Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society.[Note 15: The Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society (2012-2017) is the second national strategy that envisages commitments by the government to implement measures that will promote, improve, and ensure active civic participation in decision making. The full text of the strategy is accessible at: http://bit.ly/2jx8eBz.] Those measures focused on reporting mechanisms used to assess the implementation of the Code of Good Practice for Participation of Civil Society Sector in Policy Creation,[Note 16: The code was a non-buiding guiding document addopted by the Government in 2011. It prescribes best practices, forms, and ways of ensuring participation of civil society in the policy making of government bodies. The text can be accessed [in Macedonian] at: http://bit.ly/2jz7dZ9.] the Strategy itself, and government openness. One of the commitments pledged to establish the Civil Society Council, one of the most important measures promoted by civil society in 2012.

Status

Midterm

Commitment 1.4: Limited

Commitment 1.7: Limited

Commitment 1.8: Limited

Commitment 1.9: Limited

Commitment 1.10: Limited

Commitment 7.2: Not started

The second commitment (1.7) was designed to promote the e-democracy portal by encouraging and monitoring its use. Limited progress was made during the first year of implementation, and stakeholders continue to underutilize the portal. The latest blog or forum post dates from 2015 and, apart from MISA and OGP-related documents, only one additional document has been added by another public institution.

The third commitment (1.8) referred to the establishment of an advisory council to encourage the development of civil society. The government made little progress on this commitment in the first year by presenting a draft decision to regulate the process for the composition, election, and competence of the council.[Note 17: The first draft was presented in December 2014, and a second in February 2015. Civil society submitted substantial comments, and the process was stalled after February. The drafts, comparison between them, and summary comments can be found [in Macedonian] at: http://bit.ly/2k04HbB. ] CSOs raised serious concerns and comments during two public consultations, and submitted written comments. The main concerns were the majority of government representatives, the process of appointing civil society representatives, and the areas of competence. 

 

 

The fourth commitment (1.9) concerned the regular work of the Unit for Cooperation with Civil Society within the General Secretariat, the publication of the analysis of the Code of Good Practice,[Note 18: In Macedonian, available at: http://bit.ly/1KProUW. ] and a public call for contributions to the preparation of the Annual Work Program of the government.[Note 19: http://nvosorabotka.gov.mk/, published in September 2014.] The IRM researcher found limited progress on this commitment. Only seven proposals were received from civil society in 2015. These included recommendations for the government’s Annual Work Program. The General Secretariat published an abbreviated assessment of the implementation of the Code of Good Practice, based on the responses from 15 state institutions. The survey received a 20% response rate.[Note 20: In the introduction, the report states that it is published as a result of a conclusion the government adopted in its session held on 23 June 2016. This conclusion requested regular reports on the progress of cooperation with civil society every six months. Since the report falls outside the period covered by this report, it will be analyzed in the next IRM assessment.]

For more information, please see the 2014-2016 IRM midterm report on Macedonia.

End of term

Commitment 1.4: Completed

Commitment 1.7: Limited

Commitment 1.8: Completed

Commitment 1.9: Limited

Commitment 1.10: Limited

Commitment 7.2: Not started

The government’s end of term self-assessment report and the IRM researcher’s desk and media review and interviews showed no further progress on the implementation of commitments 1.9, 1.10, and 7.2. Similarly, there was no progress on the second commitment (1.7), as the IRM review of the portal found no evidence of its use, except by MISA.[Note 21: The use of MISA is limited to OGP related activities only. ] The use of the portal was monitored under the previous national action plan; its use actually declined in 2013 and 2014. No additional promotional activities were conducted during the reported period,[Note 22: For comparison, when it was launched in 2011 and 2012, 18 promotional and educational events were organized by MISA. ] although a total of 32 civil servants attended one-day trainings in 2015 and 2016 on the introduction to e-government. The use of e-democracy by stakeholders will continue to be limited, due to the lack of awareness, the absence of documents on the platform, and the fact that no substantial discussions are taking place on the platform.

Commitment 1.4 was completed when the Macedonian Center for International Cooperation published and promoted the annual monitoring report in May 2016.[Note 23: Marija Sazdevski, Borjan Gjuzelov, and Natasa Ivanoska, “Mirror of the Government 2015: Participation of the Public in the Processes of Preparation of Laws” (Skopje: MCIC, 2016), available at: http://bit.ly/2jKTTil.] The report noted a deterioration in government openness, compared to 2014. The 2016 results were closer to the monitoring results of 2012, the year the country joined OGP. 

Regarding the establishment of the Civil Society Council (commitment 1.8), the government adopted the decision to establish the council in May 2016.[Note 24: Official Gazette, “Decision for Establishing a Council for Cooperation and Development of Civil Society” (No. 98/2016), 17 May 2016.] The IRM researcher has, thus, determined that this commitment was completed. This is a starred commitment by OGP standards, since it had a transformative impact, was specific enough, related to OGP values, and was completed in the second year of implementation. It is worth mentioning that the decision to establish the council came as a surprise for many civil society organisations, as they believed it departed from the current standards for cooperation. Their main concerns were the composition of the Council (not on equal footing), the criteria for appointing its members, and the procedure for selecting CSO representatives.[Note 25: Document submitted by MCIC and Balkan Civil Society Development Network, available at: http://bit.ly/2k04HbB [In Macedonian].] The EU Delegation facilitated consultations between the government and civil society on 26 May 2016. Eighty-nine of the most prominent CSOs urged the government to withdraw the decision, and effectively boycotted the process.[Note 26: Open letter to the Government, signed by 89 CSOs, available at: http://bit.ly/2cqrJVE [in Macedonian].] CSOs argued that the process for selecting their representatives was not clear, the time frame was very limited, and no mechanisms for oversight of the process were provided. Still, this had no impact and, on 7 July 2016, the government appointed representatives who submitted applications with many CSO endorsements. Regardless, the IRM researcher found no evidence[Note 27: http://www.nvosorabotka.gov.mk.] that government members had been appointed, or that the council was functional at the time of the writing of this report.

The IRM researcher also could not find evidence of progress on the implementation of commitments 1.9 and 1.10. The February 2016 annual report on the implementation of the Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society (the Code of Good Practice is one of the targets) noted limited progress.[Note 28: General Secretariat, “Report from the Implementation of the Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society Sector in 2015”, (Skopje: 2016), available at: http://bit.ly/2cIUxfy [In Macedonian].] An independent assessment of the cooperation, published in 2016, pointed to the lack of political will for substantial cooperation. The assessment concluded that the dialogue between government and civil society was underdeveloped, and the situation and involvement of civil society organisations in policy making and law drafting had worsened.[Note 29: Simona Ognenovska, “Report on the Enabling Environment for Civil Society in Macedonia in 2015,” (Skopje: MCIC, 2016).]

It further revealed that only 10% of the public funds disbursed to civil society had been allocated through a transparent public call.[Note 30: Macedonian Center for International Cooperation, Direct Budget Financing for Civil Society Organization: Basic Overview, November 2016.] Improving transparency of public funding is the main objective of the Code of Good Practice.

Did it open government?

Access to information: Did not change

Civic participation: Worsened

Public accountability: Did not change

The Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society (2012-2017) contained measures that potentially could have transformed the work of the government, with increased public participation. This commitment sought to enhance some of the key measures, such as the establishment of a Council for Cooperation, which was only an option under the strategy.

However, most of the commitments were limited in their implementation and, therefore, did not change government practice. The European Commission also noted unwillingness on the part of government to engage with CSOs.[Note 31: EC, Annual Progress Report for 2016, 9.] The assessment produced under commitment 1.4 concluded that policy making inside government institutions was more closed; less information was being made available, time frames for consultations were decreasing significantly, and fewer efforts were made to proactively engage and consult stakeholders.[Note 32: Ibid., endnote 8.] Additionally, the controversy surrounding the establishment of the Council jeopardised its credibility and effectiveness. In short, this cluster did not change government practice vis-a-vis civil society, while the process for establishing the Council (which could potentially provide an opportunity for public participation) marred its independence and worsened the situation.

The IRM researcher believes it is important to monitor the work of the Council in the future to address the implementation of the commitment and its effects regarding OGP values.

Carried forward?

The new national action plan seeks to bolster open government, with the addition of three new commitments:

       The establishment of the Council is scheduled for the first six months. The IRM researcher recommends an extensive revision of the Council’s function, with special consideration for the concerns raised by CSOs in Macedonia. This would bolster the Council’s public credibility;

       The improvement of the Code of Good Practice remains in the new action plan. The new wording emphasises civic participation in the design of the government’s annual work plan. However, this is only a general strategic priority plan that lacks operationalisation. Therefore, focusing on the key aspects of the Code of Good Practices (such as transparency in government funds to CSOs) would be crucial to opening the government further;

       A new Strategy for Cooperation with Civil Society (2018-2020) is envisioned. The quality of the strategy will depend on how it is adopted, although this alone will not be sufficient for its implementation. The current strategy was developed in a very collaborative manner, and is strongly supported by the government and CSOs. However, the implementation of the strategy is very limited. The IRM researcher believes an independent assessment of the strategy’s implementation, as well as a strong and independent monitoring mechanism would be beneficial. The role and composition of the new Council is key. Appropriate resources (financial and human) should be allocated for the implementation of the strategy. This would send a strong signal that the political will for dialogue and cooperation does exist indeed.

The e-democracy portal was not carried forward. During this IRM review, the portal was not functional at all times and underutilized. The idea was to have one central platform for participation (i.e., ENER), hence, the exclusion of the ineffective e-democracy portal is in line with IRM recommendations.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership