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Trinidad and Tobago

To Create a Civil Society Board (TT0010)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Not Attached

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ministry of Diversity and Social Integration

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Planning and Sustainable Development (Economic Development Board), Ministry of Public Administration;

Policy Areas

Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Trinidad and Tobago End-of-Term Report 2014-2016

Starred: No

Early Results: Did Not Change

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

To establish a mechanism that allows adequate representation of Civil Society organisations in order to provide feedback to public policy decision making on a regular basis.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

3.1 To Create a Civil Society Board

Commitment Text: To establish a mechanism that allows adequate representation of Civil Society organisations in order to provide feedback to public policy decision making on a regular basis.

Responsible Institution: Ministry of National Diversity and Social Integration

Supporting Institutions: Ministry of Planning and Development (Economic Development Board) Ministry of Public Administration and Communications (MPAC)

Start Date: September 2014                                                                    End Date: October 2014

Commitment Aim

This commitment focuses on civic participation of civil society in government policy-making processes. In Trinidad and Tobago, there are no formal consultative mechanisms for civil society to participate in policy decisions. This commitment seeks to establish a mechanism called the Civil Society Board (CSB), which will be used as the main communication channel between civil society and government on policy issues.

Status

Midterm: Limited

This commitment pre-dated the development of the national action plan. The process to establish a CSB started in 2011. The national action plan restated the CSB’s intent to establish a mechanism that enabled regular, adequate civil society representation in public policy decision making. During the period under review, both the government and civil society stakeholders experienced challenges in implementing this commitment. In the governmental arena, the turnout at the election of the board was 12 percent, which led some to question the legitimacy and representativeness of the elected board. On the civil society end, groups felt that the government’s engagement was not genuine, since there was no communication post-election from the ministry. Consequently, at the time of the writing of this report, the CSB has yet to be established.

While elections took place, the rest of the process was not completed after the process lost legitimacy. The lack of communication between government and civil society stakeholders stalled the implementation. For further information, please see the midterm IRM evaluation report.[Note 40: Open Government Partnership, Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM): Trinidad and Tobago progress report 2014–2015, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/TrinidadTobago_14-15_Final_0.pdf.]

End of term: Limited

Based on feedback received from civil society actors and public officials, there has been no action on this commitment since the midterm IRM report. The process lost legitimacy with the previous government administration, even though CSOs wanted it to continue. The civil society umbrella group formed out of the elected representatives has since become legally registered and incorporated. They have committed to becoming the mechanism through which government can consult civil society on policy matters. This group has also gained legitimacy among major CSOs in Trinidad and Tobago.

Did it open government?

Civic participation: Did not change

Civil society in Trinidad and Tobago has called on the government to engage in more sustained dialogues related to policy and national decisions. According to a civil society representative from the Association of Civil Society Organisations of Trinidad and Tobago (ACSOTT), engagement by the government has been described as symbolic or discretionary, rather than regular and meaningful. This commitment is the only commitment in the national action plan that specifically seeks to address civic participation of civil society in government processes, and that has the potential to transform the status quo. However, this process has stalled. Some civil society actors stated that it did not change the “arm’s length” relationship that the government has with civil society,[Note 41: Views expressed by representatives of the Association of Civil Society Organisations of Trinidad and Tobago.] while other civil society actors felt that the failure to implement this commitment worsened civil society’s relationship with the government.[Note 42: Views expressed by Hazel Brown, representative of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women.] Although limited progress was made in implementing this commitment, it did bring together more than 900 CSOs who created an alternative mechanism to influence government policy.

There was a change in government administration, but there has been no communication to the CSOs regarding this commitment’s progress. Improving government communication could extend a level of good will to the process.

Against this backdrop, this commitment did not change or improve opportunities for civil society to be involved and engaged in policy making. If the status quo is sustained, it may worsen the government’s relationship with CSOs. On a positive note, ACSOTT, submitted their comments on this commitment when the midterm report was out for public comment. Their submission is a positive sign that the group has been monitoring the implementation of this commitment.

Carried forward?

Since the change of government in 2015, no additional evidence has demonstrated the new government’s intent to continue the implementation of this commitment. Feedback from public officials also illustrates the lack of clarity on the part of government.

Given the level of importance placed on this commitment by all CSOs interviewed—and the non-implementation of the multistakeholder forum—the next action plan should develop a clearly defined commitment describing how government will engage CSOs in the future.


Commitments

  1. To Certify Public Agencies’ Service Quality

    TT0001, 2014, Capacity Building

  2. To Develop Human Resources Management Capacity in the Public Service

    TT0002, 2014, Capacity Building

  3. To Conduct a Pilot Project for the Development and Introduction of a “Easier Life for Citizens” Index

    TT0003, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  4. To Develop Interactive Media on Government Business Processes and Programs to Better Access Government Services

    TT0004, 2014, Public Service Delivery

  5. To Establish a Contact Centre to Address the Needs of National Scholars (Local and International) of Trinidad and Tobago

    TT0005, 2014, Education

  6. To Adopt a Policy on Data Standards and Classification Frameworks

    TT0006, 2014, Open Data

  7. To Increase the Number of Publicly Accessible Government Datasets in Open Formats

    TT0007, 2014, Open Data

  8. To Conduct a Diagnostic Review of Public Information Needs

    TT0008, 2014, Open Data

  9. To Create an Easily Accessible Open Government Portal , with a Platform/Repository for Open Data, as Well as an Interface to Allow for Feedback from the Public

    TT0009, 2014, Open Data

  10. To Create a Civil Society Board

    TT0010, 2014, Public Participation

  11. To Audit the Accounts of the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs to International Standards

    TT0011, 2014, Audits and Controls

  12. To Make Publicly Available the Cadastre of Licenses and Contracts for the Exploration and Production of Oil and Gas in Trinidad and Tobago

    TT0012, 2014, E-Government

  13. To Include the Mineral Sector (Starting with National Quarries Company Ltd) in the TTEITI Reporting Mechanism

    TT0013, 2014, E-Government