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Parliament Paving the Way: Co-Creation in Cabo Verde

Parlamentos Preparando el Camino: El Proceso de Cocreación de Cabo Verde

Lotte GeunisandTheo Chiviru|

Every so often, simple ideas simply work.  When Cabo Verde’s National Assembly set out to break down barriers to citizen engagement, they got out the sledgehammer.  The concrete wall that separated the representatives from the represented was brought down, and the space in front of the stately building was transformed into a ‘citizen plaza’, complete with free wifi.  

There’s much to be said for such symbolism.  In the words of Jorge Santos, Speaker of the National Assembly: “A parliament that puts up walls simply cannot keep up with society. Being open is the only way to serve your citizens.”

In February 2020, Parliament cemented this commitment by joining forces with the Prime Minister’s Office and UNDP’s Pro PALOP-TL SAI program to kick start the co-creation of Cabo Verde’s second action plan. The first plan (2018-2020) had focused on ease of doing business, open data, and urban renewal and rehabilitation. Building on that, this workshop brought together parliament, government and civil society to explore a vision for Cabo Verde 2030 and to identify priorities for the next set of commitments.  

Expectations are high, and for good reason. In recent years, Cabo Verde has delivered results that inspire ambition: the public financial management framework has been strengthened and landmark legislation has been enacted on gender-based violence, among others. But many challenges persist. Inequality continues to undermine sustainable development, and public services still struggle to meet demand.  

Photo Credit: Pro PALOP-TL ISC

Cabo Verde is committed to face these challenges head on and engage the support of civil society and citizens in delivering on the most pressing priorities.  In doing so, it can count on significant support: the workshop took place at the National Assembly, where the Speaker of Parliament Jorge Santos, UNDP Country Representative Opia Kumah and European Ambassador to Cabo Verde Sofia Moreira de Sousa welcomed delegates. 

Bringing OGP – quite literally – into  parliament has created new momentum for this year’s co-creation cycle.  Importantly, it has demonstrated that parliament is a place where public policy decisions are made with citizens, not just for them.  Where questions can be asked, commitments can be made, and actions can be taken.   

In his closing remarks, the Minister of State in the Presidency Fernando Elísio Freire highlighted government’s commitment to leverage the OGP process to engage civil society and citizens in designing solutions to address the challenges affecting the country.  Alongside this, in Cabo Verde and globally, OGP has enjoyed growing engagement and support of parliaments to that same end. Ultimately, that is what OGP is about: creating a space for political leaders to come together and improve the lives of citizens.  

It takes a village, as they say. OGP has long recognised the vital role that parliaments play in enacting legislation and budgets, in building cross-party support and in keeping a close eye on implementation.  In kicking off this year’s co-creation, Cabo Verde shows that parliaments can not just act as partners, but as drivers of open government.  We look forward to them paving the way.  

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