Webinar on the topic of "Reviewing 2015, Looking to 2016: Legislative Openness and OGP" was held on November 17th. The event was sponsored by the OGP Support Unit and World Bank Group. The goal of the webinar was to provide an opportunity to discuss the Working Group's work plan for 2016 and hear ideas on what activities should be prioritized.
Jaime Mercado from World Bank served as a moderator while speakers were: Giorgi Kldiashvili - Director of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) and co-Chairman of the OGP Georgia's Forum, Scott Hubli - Director of Governance Programs at NDI (National Democratic Institute together with the Congress of Chile is a co-chair of the OGP's Legislative Openness Working Group) and Nino Beradze - Head of Public Relations and Information Department at the Parliament of Georgia.
During the discussion, speakers presented presentations on legislative openness and work their organizations have accomplished in this area. Participants of the webinar could send in their questions on which speakers responded to.
Scott Hubli, Director of Governance Programs at NDI showcased 5 priorities in which NDI supported the Working Group. These were: Peer Exchange and Capacity Building which includes engaging community multilaterally to share their experience on different conferences that took place in Georgia, Canada Mexico, etc.; Comparative Data on Legislative Openness; Ethical Standards for MPs; Parliamentary Tech Collaborative; and engagement of Subnational and Regional Parliaments.
Mr. Hubli also touched upon the topic of Global Legislative Openness Week that was launched last year in Georgia and continued this year, within the scopes of which, GLOW Conference was held in Tbilisi, Georgia on September 14-15th. GLOW Week is a good opportunity for civil society organizations to organize different activities and use it for advocacy in order to improve parliamentary transparency in their respective countries. For instance, Scott Hubli set an example of a civil society initiative Project Appendectomy - removing useless body products from the organ of politics, more clearly the initiators of the project identified individuals who had very poor attendance and didn't participate much in parliamentary life, thus they initiated recall campaign for those individuals.
Scott Hubli also asked the participants to provide NDI with feedback about how can the Working Group continue to support the development of legislative openness action plan or what resources can the Working Group create or compile to support work of countries working on parliamentary openness.
Nino Beradze, Head of Public Relations and Information Department at the Parliament of Georgia overviewed development of the Open Parliament Action Plan Georgia 2015-2016. Beradze highlighted the role of the Speaker of the Parliament of Georgia - David Usupashvili, noting that the personal engagement of the Speaker ensured successful development of the Action Plan. She said, the Parliament of Georgia acknowledges the importance of openness to public and public scrutiny, as well as gives duly consideration to "not only keep constituencies informed, but involve them in governance to the best of our abilities" (cited: David Usupashvili, Speaker of Parliament of Georgia).
Moreover, Nino Beradze noted that from 18 commitments of the Action Plan, the Parliament had initiated 2 of them. Currently, the Parliament of Georgia has started to work on 4 major areas in order to respond these 18 commitments. These areas are following: establishment of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance, as a sustainability mechanism included in the AP to secure its coordinated and effective implementation; Development of a new website concept to respond to the OGP principles, and ensure maximum citizen engagement and equal opportunities for all; Raising public education and awareness on activities, role and mission of the Parliament, as well as strengthening an institutional image and role of the Georgian supreme legislature; and Increasing the level of youth engagement as well as involvement of other stakeholders in parliamentary work. Nino Beradze said that one of the most important millstones will be development of code of ethics .
In the end, Nino Beradze underlined that there was a great support stemming from the civil society and international organizations to create an effective plan, as 15 organizations were part of the process. Beradze underlined the support from UNDP and EU provided to the Georgian Parliament through the Parliamentary Openness project implementing by the IDFI, one of the leading NGOs in OGP.
The last speaker of the Webinar was Giorgi Kldiashvili, Director of Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI). Kldiashvili focused on structure of cooperation between the civil society organizations and the Parliament of Georgia in developing the Action Plan. Director of IDFI also highlighted that if not the goodwill and a political will of the Parliament it would be hard to develop the parliamentary openness commitments and standards in Georgia. He also said that major decision makers were participating in the meetings of the Inter-Factional Group of the Parliament of Georgia and Open Parliament Working Group. Giorgi talked about the process of cooperation between the SCOs, Int'l Organizations and the Parliament. Considerably, out of 18 commitments, 16 were picked from the recommendations of CSOs and international organizations. However, it must be noted that the process of elaboration the commitments were very active. There were around 20 commitments initially, from which the Parliament chose 16 and added their own 2 commitments to it.
Furthermore, Giorgi drew attention to the OGP Global Legislative Openness Week Conference held in Tbilisi, Georgia that gathered various MPs, Speakers of Parliament and hundreds of representatives of CSOs and international organizations. Giorgi claimed, the conference was a very successful event for discussing legislative openness and mechanisms of it. In addition to this, Giorgi talked about the OGP Government Champions Award with which Georgia was awarded at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit Mexico 2015.
The Award is intended to showcase the ideal co-creation dynamic between the government and civil society while elaborating the National Action Plan; to provide a high-level political visibility to the key actors who have played an immense role in upholding the OGP commitments and award the team that shared responsibility, authority and co-created the Action Plan, successfully managed safeguarding the voice of civil society actors in the National Action Plan development process and embraced the recommendations from civil society regardless political sensitivity of initiatives and difficulty for the government. Giorgi noted in the Webinar that attaining the award was a big additional motivation for Georgia for further developing legislative openness in Georgia.
Director of IDFI said that, Institute for Development of Freedom of Information participated in various events related to legislative openness and Giorgi Kldiashvili is even one of the co-authors of the book - Open Parliaments, Results and Expectations, presented by Transparency International - Mexico at the OGP Global Mexico Summit.
Giorgi noted that the IDFI held meetings with the international community and respectively, with the President of the Legislative Assembly of Costa Rica. He also drew attention to one of the Action Plan mechanisms that IDFI has initiated and is pivotal to successful implementation of the Acton Plan. Establishment of Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance will replace the Inter-Factional Group in the Parliament of Georgia and it will not only be tasked with the elaboration of the action plan but with the implementation of the plan and monitoring of the process. The Council will include MPs as well as representatives of the CSOs.
Except of the speakers, participants were active through the Webinar, asking many questions, such as how OGP work plans have resulted in improved public trust in parliaments as a result of more opportunities for access to data and engagement in the parliamentary activities, or what are the critical success factors for effective implementation of OGP workplans, etc.
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