Photo: Fisnik Xhelili,

The Open Government Partnership (OGP), through digitalization, should be used for involving the citizens, especially the marginalized groups, and, above all to serve the citizens in the matters that are really important to them, to learn from the past about the things that did not work well, in order to make them function, with achieving the progress as the ultimate goal not only for our society, but also for the region as a whole.

This was the conclusion of the panel discussion “Civic-Centred Policies – Role of Civil Society in the Development of National Action Plans of the Open Government Partnership”, that took place in Prishtina yesterday, within the framework of the ICEDA (Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda) project, in cooperation with the partner host-organization, Open Data Kosovo – Kosovo, reported

Participants from five Western Balkans countries – North Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia – shared the experiences of their countries regarding the digital transformation through the National Action Plans (NAPs) of Open Government Partnership (OGP). They presented a broad overview, related to the efforts made in their countries for greater involvement of citizens in development, but also in implementation of these policies.

The main element for more efficient implementation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is the cooperation between the civil society organizations as well as the cooperation between the CSOs and the Government. This was stated by Darko Antic from the Association for Emancipation, Solidarity and Equality of Women – North Macedonia.

“What is really important is that in the last consultation process, we tried to illustrate aspects of the vulnerable groups as part of the planned activities. For many, OGP is just another digital agenda, but for me personally, OGP is a process of improving someone’s life by applying various approaches and digital tools”, said Antic and stressed that involving everyone was quite important so that the results could be more constructive and based on the needs of the citizens.

“Motivation is very important. At the end of the day, it is not key to have an activity plan. Implementation itself is quite significant”, stressed Antic.

Concerning the involvement of civil society in the National Action Plan in Montenegro, Snezana Nikcevic from NGO 35mm said that the process was comprehensive and that it was between the institutions and civil society.

“The National Action Plan should include small organizations that have direct contact with citizens. We are dealing with the OGP”, said Nikcevic and emphasized that the engagement of media in this process has strategic meaning.

“Meaningful relations between the governments and the citizens should be created”, stressed Nikcevic.

Kristina Kalajdzic from Democratic Change Serbia said that the situation there was somewhat different, because the number of non-governmental organizations willing to participate in this process was quite small, since – as she put it – they were disappointed with the processes that they participated in earlier.

“The pro-governmental orientation is predominant and most of the civil society proposals are not taken into consideration… Generally, we are not that motivated to participate… This year we had just one meeting to discuss issues, said Kalajdzic and added that the new plan would be, hopefully, more inclusive for the civil society sector.

Emerlinda Pema, Chief of Cabinet within the Ministry of Standards of Services – Albania, talking about the policies included in the OGP, emphasized that institutions and civil society organizations should speak openly.

“The obligations taken over are not the most important thing. What is important is the plans and the initiatives, and setting the priorities together with the civil society sector. We are focused on the development of a new plan, coming from civil society. The old plan had nine obligations, but the most significant ones were digitalization of e-government and the open data platform”, said Pema.

For the open data portal – which plays a very important role in connecting the government with the civil society – Pema said that it will be included in the new Action Plan and that the decisions will be made together with the whole civil society and not just with the civil society organizations.

To provoke change, we should have greater and better cooperation with non-governmental organizations. This was one of the points stressed on the panel.

The goal of these discussions is the exchange of knowledge between the stakeholders (institutions and civil society organizations) from the Western Balkans and achieving a more productive dialogue for better performance related to the problems arising from the digital transformation through global initiatives such as the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

The event was open for the public and it could have been followed in live streaming.

What is Open Government Partnership (OGP)?

As a global initiative, Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a large partnership of entities from national and local level that work together on the development of action plans with specific steps – commitments – for a wide scope of issues. From 2011, the idea of OGP is that an open government is more accessible, more responsible and more accountaible towards the citizens and that the improvement of relations between the people and their government has long-term, exponential benefits for all. This partnership with 78 national members consisting of an evergrowing number of local governments and thousands of participants from civil society enabled the joint creation of over 4.000 open government reforms, most of which display significant influence.

Western Balkans in the Open Government Partnership

Among the national members of this initiative are the Western Balkan governments such as: Albania (2011), Bosnia and Herzegovina (2014), Montenegro (2011), North Macedonia (2011) and Serbia (2012), while Kosovo is the only country that is not part of the process albeit its efforts to join the initiative. Yesterday Kosovo adopted its National Action Plan (NAP) of Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Digitalization as a priority in the National Action Plans of Open Government Partnerships of the Western Balkans

With a smaller or larger focus, especially for the plans developed in the beginning of Covid-19 pandemic, the Western Balkan governments drafted their NAPs with the help of digitalization of various sectors identified as priorities.

The purpose of these discussions was the exchange of knowledge between stakeholders (institutions and civil society orgnizations) from the Western Balkans and starting a productive dialogue for better performance concerning the problems with the digital transformation through global initiatives such as Open Government Partnership (OGP).

The day before yesterday, the ICEDA partners, in cooperation with the host-partner Open Data Kosovo, within the framework of regional dialogue for digital agenda, discussed the challenges and accomplishments in the area of “Digital Governance in the Region through Open Government Partnership and Other Initiatives”.

The project “Increasing Civic Engagement in the Digital Agenda – ICEDA” is implemented by Metamorphosis Foundation (North Macedonia), the Academy for e-Governance (Estonia), the Movement Mjaft! (Albania), Partners for Democratic Change (Serbia), NGO 35mm (Montenegro) and ОDК – Open Data Kosovo (Kosovo). The project is financially supported by the European Union and promotes better digital services in the Western Balkan region.

Link to the original text: DEBATE – Citizens Should Be in the Focus of Action Plans through Digitalization |