Conference "Proactive Transparency of Public Authorities in BiH: The Next Step in Exercising the Right to Access Information” Held


Hotel Europe, Conference Hall 1, Vladislava Skarića 5, Sarajevo

The legal framework on free access to information in Bosnia and Herzegovina stipulates that the information possessed by public authorities can only be accessed by submitting individual written requests. However, recent international standards in this area oblige public authorities not only to respond to individual requests, but to additionally publish certain categories of public information voluntarily. Center for Social Research Analitika tackles this problem within the project “Public Data Now - Civil Society Initiative for Open Government Policies and Practices”, implemented in partnership with Mediacentar Sarajevo and the European Journalism Centre (EJC), and financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bosnia and Herzegovina. As a part of this project, on October 21, 2014, Analitika organized an all-day international conference entitled "Proactive Transparency of Public Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Next Step in Exercising the Right to Access Information”, which gathered over 60 representatives of government, public institutions, NGOs and civil society organizations.

The conference consisted of presentations and panel discussions which addressed key elements of proactive disclosure of information, including conceptual and legal bases, existing international standards and trends in the world and the countries of the region, the challenges necessary to overcome on the road to proactive transparency as well as the institutional, social and economic benefits arising from the proactive disclosure of information of public importance.

After welcoming remarks by Dr. Tarik Jusić, Executive Director of Center for Social Research Analitika, and Fatima Krivošija, Project Policy Officer of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the discussion opened with the introductory presentation by Helen Darbishire, Executive Director of Access Info Europe. Her presentation gave an overview of new standards and practices in the domain of access to information, referring to examples from Kenya, Moldova, Italy, Spain and other countries. Ms. Darbishire emphasized the right of citizens in all democratic societies to know what governments do with their money, and how new international standards in this domain can help us recognize our rights.

The focus of the first panel was legal regulation of proactive transparency. Dr. Alen Rajko, judge and president of Administrative Court in Rijeka and expert in the field of information administrative law, introduced the audience with his study on proactive transparency in BiH, which is one of the outputs of this project. He presented an overview of the existing legislation in BiH in the field of proactive transparency, and concluded the presentation with a list of proposed measures on how to improve the existing regulative situation. Among other proposals, he particularly emphasized the need to prescribe the quality standards and minimal content of information that public bodies proactively disclose on their websites, as well as to determine suitable criminal sanction provisions with respect to proactive measures. Stanojla Mandić, Deputy Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection in Republic of Serbia, continued the panel on legal regulation, discussing the compromise between one’s right to information and right to privacy. Ms. Mandić drew special attention to the advantages of the concept of one document used in Serbia, where it is prescribed by law for public bodies to own Information Handbook on Public Bodies’ Work.

The second part of the conference was dedicated to experiences and lessons from good practices in other countries. Head of Transparency at Foreign and Commonwealth Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Great Britain Eleanor Stewart presented the system of proactive transparency used in Great Britain, using the example of UK government project Dubravka Bevandić, MSc, Head of Department for the Right to Access to Information - Information Commissioner Croatia, pointed out a great progress which was made in Croatia after the Law on the Right to Access Information was adopted, which, amongst the rest, strictly proscribes the minimal content which is published on websites of public bodies. 

The conference continued with a panel which gathered representatives of institutions and organizations from BiH, who discussed current practices of proactive transparency in BiH and various challenges the country needs to overcome on the road to proactive transparency. Adis Arapović (Centres for Civic Initiatives), Branislav Zimonjić (Ministry of Communications and Transport of BiH), and Srđan Rajčević, Director of Agency for Information Society of Republika Srpska, took part in the panel discussion. Mr. Arapović offered an analysis of administrative transparency of the executive and parliamentary authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Mr. Zimonjić gave an overview of activities leading towards regulation and standardization of official websites of institutions of BiH. In the final presentation, Srđan Rajčević described the process of creation and first effects of a central portal for more effective public administration - eSrpska, which enables users of government services to find accurate and reliable information using the Internet as a mean of communication.

The conference resulted in important and useful insights, conclusions and recommendations, which can be used as guidelines for governments, experts, and all others dealing with the freedom of access to information, while determining next steps BiH ought to make in order to join the community of countries advocating and implementing proactive transparency. It is emphasized how Bosnia and Herzegovina, although the first state in the region to enact the law which guarantees the right to access information, has only started developing standards and practices in this domain. An extremely important conclusion in this context is the necessity of participation of public institutions, the media and all citizens in active creation of public policies in this domain, as well as raising the awareness about the need to strengthen the transparency of work of public bodies in BiH.

This conference was organized within the project “Public Data Now - Civil Society Initiative for Open Government Policies and Practices”, financed by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Sarajevo (MATRA program).

Themes: Uprava i uslugeParticipatory Decision MakingTransparentnost i otvorena vlastInstitucionalno komuniciranje
Programmes: Javno pravoJavna uprava