On 24 September 2014, Bosnia and Herzegovina officially became a member of the multilateral global initiative Open Government Partnership. Open Government Partnership – OGP is a global multilateral initiative for transparency and openness of public authority bodies’ work, and its members are the states that mandate themselves by a membership in the Partnership to implement concrete measures and act in the fields of transparency, strengthening the citizen participation in the government, the combat against corruption and introduction of new technologies that make the public administration as efficient as possible. The idea of establishment of the Partnership was first presented by the USA president, Barack Obama, during his speech in the UN Assembly in September 2010, and next year the Declaration on Open Government was signed by 8 states, that became the members of the management board of the OGP initiative – Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, the Republic of South Africa, Mexico, Norway, the USA and Great Britain. Starting with 8 initial members, the OGP initiative now has 70 members and each year the number of countries that join the initiative increases. In the previous years of existence, the initiative achieved numerous achievements, which, inter alia, include over 2,500 measures and activities that were jointly developed and implemented by the civil society organisations and the governments, and in the great number of countries, thanks to the OGP, a permanent forum was established for the dialogue between the government and the civil society. All these measures have the objective of making the work of the governments more efficient, more transparent and more accountable and to achieve a transformative effect on the whole community.
The bases of the OGP initiative are the values from the Declaration on Open Government. By accepting to join the Partnership, the member states expressed: 1. the consciousness on the need for open government – awareness that the citizens want more open government, participation in public life and the government that would be transparent, accountable, efficient and sensitive to the needs of the citizens. 2. Individual approach in the Partnership – recognising that every state selects their own approach to participation in the Partnership, which is in accordance with the state priorities, circumstances and desires of the citizens. 3. Responsible fulfilment of obligations – accepting responsibilities of taking over obligations in promoting transparency, combat against corruption, strengthening citizens and use of new technologies with the objective of more efficient and accountable government. 4. Openness in cooperation with the citizens and promotion of transparency – advocating the principle of openness in common efforts of the government and the citizens to ensure a progress, innovation and safety of the community, and accepting the principle of transparency and open government, with the objective of achieving a higher level of welfare, wellbeing and human dignity.
There are numerous advantages of participation in the initiative from the aspect of the state, and some of them are a joint work of the institutions of government and organisations of the civil society, by the principle of cooperativeness and cooperation, innovation in the process of cooperation and policy making, joint creation and management, a positive effect in affirmation and increase of reputation of the country on the international plain, improvement in operations, in the fields of economy and innovations – especially regarding data openness, improvement of administration functioning – efficiency, effectiveness and combat against corruption, and the possibility of strengthening the trust of the citizens in the in the institutions of government and their work. From the aspect of citizens, the advantages are reflected, inter alia, in greater provision of access to information they need in order to evaluate political decisions of the government through monitoring and analysis of that information, increased efficiency and quality of the received public goods and services, and greater participation of citizens and civil society in the processes of enactment and implementation of public policies.
From joining until few months ago, BiH fully stagnated on the matter of fulfilling obligations stipulated by the OGP initiative. So, BiH missed two deadlines for to draft the first Action plan that was supposed to bring us one step closer to creation of open government that is responsible to its citizens. In the full absence of institutional activities, an informal coalition of organisations of the civil society, consisting of the Transparency International BiH, the Centre for Social Research Analitika, the Centre for Civil Interest Advocating, the Centre for Research Journalism and Association of Citizens Zašto, ne worked on drafting an alternative action plan for BiH through organising meetings of the work groups in the period July – September 2015. This process resulted in formulating 13 measures in three areas: access to information, participation of the public, information technologies and open data and fiscal transparency, work of public enterprises and integrity of government. The manner of drafting this proposal of the Action Plan was participatory and it implied formulation of the common proposals by discussions that took place, where the participants were not only the representatives of the coalition, but all the interested individuals and organisations and the representatives of the authority.
After several years of bottlenecks and numerous appeals of the civil society directed to the authorities to start meeting their obligations and the activities on establishment of the Advisory Council, whose basic task is to coordinate the process of public consultations and prepare the proposal of the framework Action Plan for implementation of the Initiative, the Council of Ministers of BiH, in October 2016, enacted the Decision on establishment of the Advisory Council of the initiative “Open Government Partnership”, and sent an invitation to all the levels of authority to appoint their representatives for work in this body. Also, based on the public call, four representatives of the civil society organisations were appointed for the work in the Advisory Council. Expert and administrative assistance in the work of the Advisory Council of the initiative will be provided by the Public Administration Reform Coordinator’s Office based on the signed Memorandum of cooperation with the Ministry of Justice of BiH.
It is of priority importance that the governments appoint their representatives in the Advisory Council as soon as possible and to finally start the process of drafting the Action Plan, because the new deadline for submission of the Action Plan is June 2017. The available time is very short, and the business before BiH is immense. It is questionable whether BiH could allow itself to once again miss the deadline and cave in already unenviable reputation in international community. According to the present dynamics of things, it seems that the authorities once again show no concrete will to improve the situation and look at the initiative Open Government Partnership as one more project of the civil society. The governments should recognise their own interest and advantages in an increased transparency and openness in the sense of better functioning of administration, greater efficiency, savings, and consequently also a greater trust of the citizens in their work and increased quality of services.
It is crucial to stress that Open Government Partnership is based on the values that are fully complementary to the values whose respect was accepted by BiH by numerous other documents in the process of accession to the European Union. The principles of Open Government Partnership and implementation of measures within this initiative is directly linked with implementation of the public administration reform, which is one of the priority requests of the EU and key pillars in the process of enlargement, jointly with the rule of law and economic management. We should not forget also that the Reform Agenda very clearly affirms the principles of transparency and efficiency of public administration and in that sense proposes concrete measures. It remains to be seen also on the example of the OGP initiative to which extent a declarative support to the reform processes for more open, more efficient, more accountable, more effective administration would really be materialised.