What are the aspects of relevance for the OGP when it comes to the Eastern Partnership countries
There has been a lot of talk during the past years about the value of OGP for its countries, including those in the Eastern Partnership (EaP)[i]. One of the biggest challenges faced by many of us working on the open government agenda on the ground was the need to reiterate the importance of open government action plans, ambitious commitments, co-creation principles, permanent dialogue mechanisms, and the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), among others. Additionally, during the transitions in our governments, we had to go back over and over again and restart the dialogue and the processes, from briefing high-level decision makers on what ‘open government is all about,’ to the value of OGP membership and facilitating co-creation events.
But let us first take a step back and look at the aims of the EaP and how they interrelate with OGP values and principles. The European Union (EU) originally launched the partnership to support its partners’ democratic and market-oriented reforms. From the very beginning, the EaP has been a specific dimension of the European Neighborhood Policy. Second of all, as per its mandate, ‘the Partnership aims to improve governance in public administration, the civil service, the judiciary, management of state borders, combating corruption, elections, asylum and migration, cooperation on the Common Security and Defense Policy, civil protection, police cooperation and cybercrime.’
At the same time, there are two important approaches at the core of this partnership, something that OGP could explore more.
- One being the intention of the EU to move away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach, and developing partnerships that are tailor made with each of the partners. OGP could look more in depth into the baseline data available on particular OGP commitments, and assess the progress made against those baseline data and country-specific targets.
- The second approach is the ‘more for more’ approach, which is the incentive-based approach for EaP that implies that those partners that deliver on reforms promoting deep democracy and respect of human rights will get more support from the European Union, including additional financial assistance. OGP could learn about ways the same approach can be applied as an incentive to create genuine and ambitious commitments as part of Action Plans on open government. Those in the EaP who co-create more ambitious commitments could get more promotion and visibility among the OGP countries, i.e. OGP could support the capitalization of best practices, exchange visits, and study tours to the countries with good progress as part of OGP APs.
Given that many of our countries are to co-create and approve OGP Action Plans by early fall this year, there is a value in streamlining some of the commitments with the Eastern Partnership “20 Deliverables for 2020” that address three cross-cutting issues: engagement with civil society, women’s empowerment and the gender balance, and strategic communication.
When it comes to having a more constructive engagement with civil society around the open government agenda, here is where the 2020 structured engagement with a wider range of civil society organizations is relevant. OGP may contribute with know-how to the development of a monitoring tool for civic space in the Eastern Neighborhood, given its wealth of data, IRM reports, analysis and studies carried out, along with specific monitoring and evaluation tools that exist in some OGP countries already. At the same time, it is worth understanding how the institutionalization of government – civil society multi-stakeholder policy dialogue is advancing through EaP Civil Society Forum and its National Platforms, given the challenges faced by many OGP countries to institutionalize permanent dialogue mechanisms on open government. Learning from those experiences might help improve the cooperation with civil society overall in EaP countries, and create more venues for engagement with CSOs.
Another 2020 deliverable is on gender equality and non-discrimination – which is at the heart of actions undertaken under the EaP to ensure the full outreach to societies within Partner Countries. It is fully in line with the EU Gender Action Plan 2016-2020, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and anti-discrimination principles. Given the recent OGP initiative on Feminist Open Government that aims to promote the voices of women as decision makers in their respective communities, there is a great potential in exploring gender equality through the open government lens. OGP can be valuable in sharing practices from across its member countries on how women’s voices and leadership could lead to more gender-responsive laws and policies and provision of public services, and better socio-economic outcomes for women and girls.
These are just few illustrations of how OGP could leverage its know- how, practices, approaches, and core principles in order to contribute to a more effective, open, inclusive, and participatory Eastern Partnership framework. It can extend its approaches to any issue, from the media environment, to DCFTA[ii], digital markets, ICTs, local governments, and public service delivery.
Stronger cooperation between the EU and OGP could lead to more effective reforms on the ground in EaP countries.
When there are signals coming from the EU on a particular EaP country, such as it is the case of Moldova -with a resolution being voted by the EU Parliament to freeze the first tranche of a 100 million euro macro-financial aid package for Moldova[iii] due to the recent voiding of the Chisinau election – OGP should take a closer look at the situation in the country, and understand the implications for the open government agenda in the years to come. Designing problem-driven iterative adaptation processes behind the AP[iv] process, working with middle-level managers in the public sector, and strengthening the capacity of CSOs to cooperate with public institutions are just a few examples of ways OGP could keep the open government agenda active on the ground, regardless of the political sensitivities.
And last, but not least, there is a lot of potential for the EU itself to adopt more open government practices and get inspired from the early impact of OGP reforms, be they at the institutional or community level.
Openness is something that brings more trust and cooperation, effectiveness and efficiency, quality and innovation! Isn’t it something we all strive for?!
[i] The Eastern Partnership aims to reinforce the political association and economic integration of six Eastern European and South Caucasus partner countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine.
[ii] Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Areas
[iv] NAPs – National Action Plans