Civil Society for Transparency
Guest post by Dusan Ondrusek, Director of “Partners for Democratic Change” in Slovakia, and Julia Roig, President of “Partners for Democratic Change” in the US
As with many countries in the region with common history, Slovakia’s emergence from an opaque and authoritarian civic culture is still a work in progress, with corruption and a lack of transparency presenting significant obstacles to a flourishing and vibrant public sector. Administrations come and go, as evidenced by the political turnover resulting from the elections in Slovakia on March 11; therefore, the role of NGO’s are crucial in providing continuity to transparency and accountability initiatives becomes increasingly important. On the other hand, the region needs a common approach to create long term strategies that are rolling over the election cycles (administrations), instead of short-term focused governance as social progress need attention overarching several terms for the benefit of the people living in CEE.
On March 5-6, the outgoing Slovak government headed by Prime Minister Iveta Radičová convened a national event, “From Crisis of Trust to Open Governance,” to demonstrate its commitment to the international Open Government Partnership (OGP). The OGP is a new multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen open governance.
Partners for Democratic Change Slovakia (PDCS) was engaged to facilitate the two-day event and a wide-range of civil society organizations and international experts were invited to help determine the Slovak action plan to implement the OGP. The action plan identifies three concrete areas for civil society to continue promoting: 1) regulations to guarantee open data 2) government open to dialogue and 3) transparency in government decision-making.
The OGP is a truly international initiative and Prime Minister Radičová was joined at the event by US Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick and British Ambassador Susannah Montgomery as well as other international experts. An audio recording of Ambassador Sedgwick’s speech can be found here, while remarks by Andrew Stott, UK’s first Director for Transparency and Digital Engagement, are available here.
The OGP was formally launched on September 20, 2011, when the eight founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States) endorsed an Open Government Declaration, and announced their country’s action plans. Co-chaired in its first year by Brazil and the US, the OGP has already received over 40 government declarations of commitment from nations around the world seeking to join the effort. In the Central and Eastern European region alone, Slovakia is joined by Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, and Ukraine. Like the Slovak government, all of these countries are currently developing action plans to present at the OGP’s annual summit in Brazil in April (more information about the progress of Slovakia’s OGP application can be found here).
With support from the GE Foundation, US-based international NGO Partners for Democratic Change has been working with all the affiliate members of the global network of Partners for Democratic Change International, including Partners-Slovakia, to support such efforts to promote good governance and civil society engagement.
The OGP only provides a platform for making commitments and sharing international best practices. But with meaningful partnership between organizations like Partners for Democratic Change, the business sector and governments, such initiatives can produce the necessary sustained efforts and cultural shifts needed to achieve accountability and transparency.