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North Macedonia

Awareness-Raising About Access to Information Rights (MK0121)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Macedonia Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information – CPRFAPI

Support Institution(s): The Commission for protection of the right to free access to public information Center for Civil Communications, German Filkov, gfilkov@ccc.org.mk Association for Women Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality (ESE) Darko Antikj, dantik@esem.org.mk and Open Society Foundation – Macedonia Danche Danilovska, dance.danilovska@fosm.mk

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Capacity Building, E-Government, Gender, Marginalized Communities, Right to Information, Sustainable Development Goals

IRM Review

IRM Report: North Macedonia Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: No IRM Data

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Proactive publication, promotion of electronic access and increased awareness of citizens on their rights to free access to public information
Start and end date of the commitment: August 2018 – August 2020
Lead implementing agency
The Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information – CPRFAPI
Description of commitment
Status quo or problem addressed by the commitment
The Law on Free Access to Public Information has been applied as of 2006, but its implementation has been made difficult despite the efforts for its consistent application. The access to information provided through the LFAPI is primarily and dominantly used by non-governmental organizations and journalists. Citizens' awareness of the existence of the right to free access to public information is still very low. The administration's silence remains a serious problem that limits the exercise of this universal human right. The very fact that the basic information that the holders are obligated to publish publicly and are listed in the LFAPI should be requested through a procedure for their obtaining, points to the inaccessibility of this information in an easy and simple way, and speaks of the old manners of operation of the institutions. Also, it is very rare practice to regularly publish the information already provided (in response to requests). In addition, the institutions do not use the benefits for themselves by proactively publishing public information (the opportunity to be more responsible in the work, to implement and promote the principles of good governance and integrity, and to better manage the information they hold), which will lead to trust among citizens in the institutions for their responsibility and transparency. Pursuant to Article 15 of the Law on Free Access to Public Information, the applicant has the right to submit the request for access to public information in electronic form. This manner of submitting requests in practice is rarely applied.
Main objective
Easy, fast and simple access to information that is important for the life and work of citizens via: Proactive publication of information by the holders of information on their websites - Establishment of a functional platform for enabling electronic access to public information and - Improving the level of awareness among citizens regarding the right to free access to public information, as well as increasing the number of citizens who will exercise this right
Brief description of the commitment
Public information holders should publish proactively and regularly on their websites all the information that is indicated in the LFAPI as well as the information they have already provided after a request for an access, while those holders who do not have their own websites should perform this procedure on the websites of the institution under whose jurisdiction they work. The Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information in cooperation with the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (ESE) will develop and conduct on-site campaign in order to inform citizens regarding their rights for free access to public information. The process for submitting requests for free access to public information and response upon the requests will be facilitated by establishing a functional platform for enabling electronic access to public information. Through this online system (platform), will provide every interested citizen to submit to the holders of information a request for public information, that will easily be found on the platform. The advantage of the platform is that all the information given is publicly published and are accessible to anyone, which means that once the information is given by the holder, this platform will reduce the scope of operation in the institution in case when another applicant is interested for the same information.
OGP challenge addressed by the commitment
Public service improvement
Public integrity increasement
More efficient public resource management
Additional information
Connection to the Global Sustainable Development Goals - Objective 16 "Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions", Target 16.10: Ensure access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. The measures under this commitment contribute to the promotion of access to public information via more efficient implementation of laws and better information of citizens.
Milestones:
1.1.1 Pro-active publication of public information by information holders on their websites
Preparation of an indicative list of public information that the institutions should proactively make available on their websites (or on the websites of the institutions under whose jurisdiction they operate)
Compulsory publication of all public information by the information holders on their websites (or on the websites of the institutions under whose jurisdiction they operate)
Monitoring the fulfillment of the obligations by institutions through the so-called Index of Active Transparency prepared by the Center for Civil Communications
1.1.2 Improving the electornic access to public information
Development of a methodology for improving the existing electronic website (platform) for electronic access to public information
Established electronic system for access to information and taken over by information holders for its application
Development of a manual with trainings for information holders, as well as promotion of the platform for its application by the citizens, which will simplify the access to information
1.1.3 Increasing the citizens’ awareness about their rights for free access to public information and increased exercise of that right by the citizens
Developing a campaign implementation plan (identifying municipalities and settlements where the campaign will be implemented, developing content that will be presented to citizens and a format for public presentation, establishing cooperation with local civil society organizations in the identified municipalities; mechanisms for measuring the impact of the campaign)
Conducting a campaign and measuring the effects of the campaign
Contact information
Name of responsible person from implementing agency
Oliver Serafimovski, Coordinator Cveta Trajkovska, Deputy Coordinator Indzi Xhodja, Deputy Coordinator
Title, Department
Junior Associate, Unit for cooperation with information holders and public information Secretary General of the Secretatiat for Commission Junior Associate, Unit for appeal procedure, legal and general affairs
Phone and e-mail
oliverserafimovski@komspi.mk , 071/229-214 cveta@komspi.mk, 071/232-857 inxhihoxha@komspi.mk, 071/229-289
Other actors involved
The Commission for protection of the right to free access to public information
Center for Civil Communications, German Filkov, gfilkov@ccc.org.mk Association for Women Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality (ESE) Darko Antikj, dantik@esem.org.mk and Open Society Foundation – Macedonia Danche Danilovska, dance.danilovska@fosm.mk

IRM Midterm Status Summary

Theme I: Access to Information

1.1 Proactive publication, promotion of electronic access and increased awareness of citizens on their rights to free access to public information

Language of the commitment as it appears in the action plan: [1]

Public information holders should publish proactively and regularly on their websites all the information that is indicated in the LFAPI as well as the information they have already provided after a request for an access, while those holders who do not have their own websites should perform this procedure on the websites of the institution under whose jurisdiction they work. The Commission for Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information in cooperation with the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (ESE) will develop and conduct on-site campaign in order to inform citizens regarding their rights for free access to public information. The process for submitting requests for free access to public information and response upon the requests will be facilitated by establishing a functional platform for enabling electronic access to public information. Through this online system (platform), will provide every interested citizen to submit to the holders of information a request for public information, that will easily be found on the platform. The advantage of the platform is that all the information given is publicly published and are accessible to anyone, which means that once the information is given by the holder, this platform will reduce the scope of operation in the institution in case when another applicant is interested for the same information.

Milestones:

1.1.1 Pro-active publication of public information by information holders on their websites

  • Preparation of an indicative list of public information that the institutions should proactively make available on their websites (or on the websites of the institutions under whose jurisdiction they operate)
  • Compulsory publication of all public information by the information holders on their websites (or on the websites of the institutions under whose jurisdiction they operate)
  • Monitoring the fulfillment of the obligations by institutions through the so-called Index of Active Transparency prepared by the Center for Civil Communications

1.1.2 Improving the electronic access to public information

  • Development of a methodology for improving the existing electronic website (platform) for electronic access to public information
  • Established electronic system for access to information and taken over by information holders for its application
  • Development of a manual with trainings for information holders, as well as promotion of the platform for its application by the citizens, which will simplify the access to information

1.1.3 Increasing the citizens’ awareness about their rights for free access to public information and increased exercise of that right by the citizens

  • Developing a campaign implementation plan (identifying municipalities and settlements where the campaign will be implemented, developing content that will be presented to citizens and a format for public presentation, establishing cooperation with local civil society organizations in the identified municipalities; mechanisms for measuring the impact of the campaign)
  • Conducting a campaign and measuring the effects of the campaign

Start Date: August 2018
End Date: August 2020

Context and Objectives

This commitment aims to continue the implementation of North Macedonia’s Law on Free Access to Public Information (2006). [2] North Macedonia ranks 22nd out of 128 countries in the Centre for Law and Democracy’s Global Right to Information Rating. [3] Although Article 15 of the 2006 FoI Law affords requesters the right to request information electronically, according to the action plan, this manner of submitting requests is rarely used in practice.

This commitment has three main objectives: supporting the proactive publication of information among government agencies, improving electronic access to public information, and increasing public awareness of their rights to free access to information. These three objectives build on the activities from Commitment 3.1 from the previous action plan (2016-2018). Under the previous commitment, CRFAPI published instructions for institutions on how to proactively publish information, including already requested and disclosed information. [4] Also, the Center for Civil Communication (CCC) created indices to monitor how information holders have proactively published information to their websites. Similarly, the commitment in the current action plan seeks to prepare a list of public information that institutions should proactively make available on their websites. The publication of this information will be compulsory, and adherence to this obligation will be monitored using the CCC’s transparency indices developed during the previous action plan.

CRFAPI also plans to improve the existing electronic system for online submission of access to information requests, along with developing a manual with trainings for information holders. Commitment 3.1 from the previous action plan called for the preparation of a new electronic submission system for access to public information, but the new system was still in a preliminary phase by the time of the IRM End-of-Term Report. [5] Finally, CRFAPI plans to carry out a public awareness-raising campaign with the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women (ESE) on the right to access public information, which continues a media campaign carried out by CRFAPI and ESE during the previous action plan period. [6]

This commitment is clearly relevant to the OGP value of access to information due to the proactive publication of information and the online platform for submitting information requests. The milestones are all verifiable, although milestone 1.1.3 is open-ended on how the public awareness-raising campaign will be carried out.

If fully implemented, the activities under this commitment could provide moderate improvements to access to information in North Macedonia. The proactive publication of public information in accordance with the 2006 FoI Law on public institutions’ websites could simplify the process for obtaining government-held information, since interested parties would no longer need to submit formal requests for such information. However, it is not clear from the commitment how CRFAPI will determine the list of public information that institutions must proactively disclose on their websites. The European Commission noted in 2018 that the CRFAPI has insufficient capacity to monitor compliance with the requirement for proactive disclosure of information. [7] Therefore, the utilization of the CCC’s transparency indices could help CRFAPI better monitor compliance with proactive publication requirements among information holders. The 2018 transparency index found that 42.5% of researched institutions adequately fulfilled their obligations to proactively disclose their information, which represents a slight decrease from 2016 (45%). [8] According to CRFAPI, about 800 of 1,256 institutions currently have their own pages where they publish public information. [9] The European Commission and CCC findings indicate a clear need for better compliance among public institutions regarding proactive disclosure, but it is unclear how CRFAPI will use the transparency indices to monitor compliance.

Overall, this commitment could lead to moderate improvement to access to government-held information in North Macedonia. The establishment of a functional platform to enable electronic access to information could simplify the process for requesting information. The platform for electronic request of information was due to be created as part of the previous action plan but was not completed and the existing system has not been functional since 2016. [10] When available, this platform would enable electronic submission of information requests, as opposed to filing hard copy requests, as has been the practice until now, which could simplify and speed up the submission process. The awareness-raising campaign could also contribute to better informing citizens on their right to information and how to obtain it. However, this represents a continuation of efforts from the previous plan.

Next steps

During implementation, CRFAPI could clarify how many institutions are currently proactively disclosing public information and what the intended target is by the end of this action plan.

To facilitate easy access to public information, it will be important to make the electronic platform functional as soon as possible. In discussing the improvements, CRFAPI could explore and review experiences of other countries (for example, Albania) that have set up similar platforms as part of OGP action plans.

Given the importance of effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Law, the IRM recommends continuing efforts in this direction in the next action plan.

[1] The texts for all the commitments are an abridged version of the commitment texts. For the full commitment texts, see the Republic of North Macedonia 2018-2020 National Action Plan, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Macedonia_Action-Plan_2018-2020_EN.pdf

[2] Republic of North Macedonia, Agency for the protection of the right to free access to public information, http://komspi.mk/en/297-2/

[3] Global Right to Information Rating, By Country, https://www.rti-rating.org/country-data/

[4] Commission for the Protection of the Right to Free Access to Public Information, Guide to Proactive Publishing, http://komspi.mk/otvoreno-vladino-partnerstvo

[5] IRM, Republic of Macedonia, End-of-Term Report 2016-2018, p 23, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/Macedonia_End-of-Term_Report_2016-2018_EN.pdf

[6] Ibid.

[7] European Commission, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_the_former_yugoslav_republic_of_macedonia.pdf

[8] Center for Civil Communications, http://www.ccc.org.mk/images/stories/ia2017m.pdf

[9] Cveta Trajkovska, CRFAPI, email correspondence with IRM, 21 November 2019.

[10] “Free access – Submit and browse free access information requests”, http://www.slobodenpristap.mk (no longer functional).


Commitments

Open Government Partnership