Restarting Open Government Partnership in Bosnia and Herzegovina: mission (im)possible?

Address:

Vladislava Skarića 5, 71000 Sarajevo

Bosnia and Herzegovina is faced with numerous problems in the area of transparency and accountability of public institutions and therefore is necessary to fulfill the obligations provided for under the global initiative Open Government Partnership, which represents a platform for the implementation of reforms in the area of open government. This is one of the conclusions of the conference titled "Open Government Partnership in Bosnia and Herzegovina: mission (im)possible?" held on  November 23, 2016 in Sarajevo, organized by the Center for Social Research Analitika.

Open Government Partnership is a multilateral, international initiative launched in 2011 which offers a framework for the member countries to implement measures aimed at increasing transparency of the government, anti-corruption efforts, citizen participation in decision-making and use of new technologies for more effective public administration.

At this conference, Open Government Partnership representative Peter Varga presented some of the major achievements of this initiative in the five years since launching, including over 2,500 open government measures and activities undertaken as part of this initiative, as well as the permanent forums for dialogue between government and civil society  established in many countries thanks to OGP. However, the ambition of the Partnership for the next five years is to increase the number of so called star commitments which have a transformative effect on the whole community. Dina Bajramspahić from the Institut Alternativa talked about the experience of Montenegro in the OGP initiative, strong political support, and then deadlock in the implementation of this initiative, the way the civil society was involved in creating of an action plan. 

From an initial eight member states of the OGP, the initiative has now expanded to 70 member states, including Bosnia and Herzegovina, which formally became a member in September 2014. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina, due to the failure to appoint a leading institution responsible for the implementation of this initiative in BiH in the last two years, has missed two deadlines for developing an action plan with concrete measures to implement OGP in BiH, and is currently under review by the Criteria and Standards Committee within the OGP. However, in October 2016, the Council of Ministers adopted a decision to establish an OGP Advisory Council, which will include representatives of government and civil society, and which will have the task of coordinating the public consultation process and develop an action plan.

Representatives of the Ministry of Justice of Bosnia and Herzegovina Nedžad Salman and Vildan Hadžihasanović presented the main principle on which this body operates, the procedure for appointing members and responsibilities of the Advisory Council, as well as the next steps and activities in the implementation of this initiative in BiH. The representative of Transparency International Lejla Ibranović reflected the main activities conducted by a coalition of non-governmental organizations (Transparency International, the Centre for Social Research Analitika, Center for Investigative Reporting, Public Interest Advocacy  Center, Association Why not), which resulted in Bosnia and Herzegovina becoming OGP member state. Non-governmental organizations, among others, organized a series of public events, working meetings, public consultations with various stakeholders in order to promote the fundamental values of OGP initiative, as well as numerous benefits that BiH by joining the initiative.

During the conference, the discussion was initiated on the main challenges in the area of open government, highlighting the progress made in the area of transparency, such as launching of the portal of public procurement and the development of standards of proactive transparency which are apllied voluntarily by four institutions at the state level. At the same time, a number of problems have been pointed put, such as outdated legal framework on freedom of information, low level of proactive transparency of public institutions, insufficient involvement of citizens in the budgeting process, as well as still insufficient transparency of information on public procurement, such as for example the plans public procurement, reports on the implementation of the contract, the decision of the appeals of the Procurement Review Body.

Conference was attended by more than 50 participants from government and civil society who are actively engaged in promoting the transparency of public authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This conference is organized as part of EU-funded project "Advocacy for Open Government: Supporting the Right to Know in South East Europe", which is implemented in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Kosovo. 

Themes: Transparentnost i otvorena vlast
Projects: Javna uprava