The international initiative of Open Government Partnership (OGP) celebrated its 10th anniversary on September 20, 2021. The OGP aims to promote government openness, support the transparency of public finance management and improve the delivery of public services. The Open Government Partnership format covers the involvement of cooperating state and civil society organizations in the implementation of the OGP principles. As a rule, dialogue formats - so-called Open Government Partnership Forums, Working Groups and Councils, involving the participation of the civil society and state institutions operate in almost each member state of the OGP. Civil society organizations are actively involved in such formats and have the right to submit initiatives and recommendations in the process of developing action plans. The citizens represent the ultimate beneficiaries of the commitments covered by the Action Plans. Having positive impact of the implemented and fulfilled commitments on the rights and interests of the citizens the key objective of the OGP.
Georgia was one of the first countries to join the Open Government Partnership in 2011 and has been particularly active since the first stages of implementing the initiative. Initially, only the Georgian government was represented in the Partnership, though the Georgian Parliament, Tbilisi City Hall and the municipalities gradually joined the initiative. The Supreme Council of Ajara started implementation of OGP commitments in 2020.
Although generally the executive branches of the Partnership member states are particularly active towards OGP implementation, Georgian government's participation has backslidden over the past few years and at present has almost stalled.
It should be mentioned, that due to the previous achievements, Georgia has twice been elected as a member of the OGP Steering Committee - firstly, from 2014 to 2016, and for the second time - through 2019-2022. In addition, Georgia, in 2017 took over the chairmanship of the OGP from France. In July 2018, Georgia hosted the 5th Global Summit of the Open Government Partnership.
Upon the completion of the summit, the cooperation between the leadership of the Ministry of Justice of Georgia (the secretariat and the focal point for OGP Georgia) and the OGP Forum member NGOs became complicated. Due to the disagreement, the forum member NGOs addressed the OGP secretariat with the request to activate the rapid response mechanism and transfer the Secretariat of the Open Government Partnership from the Ministry of Justice of Georgia to Georgian Government Administration. The Secretariat of the OGP transferred to the administration of the Government of Georgia in 2019 and following the Decree of the Government of Georgia of February 13th, Open Governance Inter-Agency Coordination Council has been established, where civil society organizations are represented with a voting right. Although a relatively effective tool should have been created in the form of the Council, no new OGP Action Plan has been developed since 2019 following the transfer of the OGP Secretariat to the Government Administration.
The Member State of the OGP Steering Committee should be distinguished and exemplary in the development and implementation of action plans. However, the Government of Georgia, by its own inactivity, sets a negative example towards elaboration and execution of action plans, both for its own citizens and for other member states of the Partnership.
The Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), representing a transitional report on the results of implementation of Georgia's 2018-2019 Action Plan, “states that Half of the 28 commitments in Georgia’s fourth action plan saw either substantial or full implementation at the end of the action plan period. This completion rate was a slight reduction compared to the previous action plan (2016-2018), where 16 out of 24 commitments (67 percent) had at least substantial implementation. Major factors contributing to lower levels of implementation included limited financial and human resources as well as technical difficulties (particularly for those involving updating websites). For some commitments, legislative amendments were not passed on time, while others encountered challenges due to poor planning or coordination.”
In early 2020, the Secretariat of the Open Government Partnership began collecting initiatives from the civil sector for developing of commitments for the new action plan, although the process did not continue after submitting initiatives and receiving feedback from government agencies on these initiatives.
In 2021, the Secretariat of the Open Government Partnership launched a similar process in terms of accepting initiatives from the civil sector, although the situation has not changed so far and no effective steps have been taken by the Secretariat and government agencies to develop the Open Government Partnership Action Plan. As a result of this continued indolence for several years:
(1) Although Georgia remains amember of the OGP Steering Committee, Georgia's reputation, as one of the leaders of the Open Government Partnership in terms of developing an action plan and implementing commitments, has suffered irreparable harm;
(2) In fact, no progress has been made in terms of the work of the OGP Forum within the traditional format of cooperation between state organizations and civil society organizations and the Forum in fact carries mere formal nature;
(3) Synergy with other international organizations and collaborative platforms has been lost.
To address the challenges, it is important to restore the working platform of the Georgian OGP Forum and, by the end of 2021, with the involvement of civil society, adopt an ambitious and problem-solving action plan for an Open Government Partnership.
This material has been financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Sida. Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the creator. Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations.
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