Featured Commitment – Georgia
OGP values the spirit of “co-creation,” where civil society and government work together to create commitments that make government more open, transparent, and accountable. How did Georgia turn its OGP process into a successful platform for co-creation? A permanent dialogue mechanism (PDM) has helped in the creation of action plans and the monitoring of implementation of OGP commitments.
Established under the Ministry of Justice, the Open Government Georgia Forum held its first meeting in January 2014 -and became the main platform for co-creating Georgia’s second National Action Plan. “The Georgian way of co-creation,” as Georgian government official Kety Tsanava put it during one of the OGP Co-Creation Webinars, had two goals: enhancing civil society participation, while raising the ambition and implementation of OGP commitments. The rules of the forum were co-written by civil society and government, ensuring both sides had adequate input. Over the course of consultation, a commitment was included to continue the development of the forum as a dialogue mechanism between government and civil society. During the development of the second NAP the forum met on a monthly basis, and during the implementation period, held meetings on a bimonthly basis. Additionally, the co-chairs of the forum, the government point of contact and the civil society lead, led outreach to the regions to diversify the voices heard in the consultations – reaching 15 cities throughout the country. The existence of these co-chairs – one from government, one from civil society – is considered to be an “advanced step” in OGP’s co-creation standards.
At the time of the mid-term assessment, stakeholders viewed the Forum as a successful coordination mechanism, and praised the inclusion of co-rapporteurs – individuals from both government and civil society who reported back on implementation of the action plan to the Forum. However, shortcomings were found – some government agencies only reported on technical matters of implementation, and not did not contribute to meaningful discussion on commitments and the action plan, thus limiting their involvement and participation. CSO participation was also considered limited to the capital, and thus not fully representative of the CSO sector in Georgia.
As the IRM end-of-term report notes, the Forum had introduced a monitoring matrix, which tracks progress on the implementation of commitments. However, those who attend the meetings on the government side are usually working-level civil servants, and not key decision-makers within the relevant ministries. Thus, the report notes that the forum has “limited influence,” despite its major achievement in terms of creating a space for civil society to directly engage in formulating and monitoring open government commitments. The end of term report reiterates the call for more inclusion: deeper participation by government agencies, and broader participation by CSOs.
What conclusions can we come to about PDMs, both in Georgia and around the world? This commitment has fostered involvement from both government and civil society. As a platform within the OGP process, it has facilitated communication between actors in the open government community to ease consultations, drafting, and implementation, and work continues on strengthening the forum and the co-creation process in Georgia. As similar mechanisms move forward in a diverse array of OGP countries around the world (including Estonia, Sierra Leone, and Uruguay), we must continue to examine the strengths and weaknesses of these forums, and work to improve co-creation within them.