Held Conference „Open local and reginal government – challenges and opportunities“

Slika /slike/DSC_0068.JPG

The Conference „Open local and regional government – challenges and opportunities“, organised by the Government Office for Cooperation with NGOs (GOfNGOs) held on Wendesday, 14 December 2022 in a hybrid format.

About 100 participants gathered at the conference – live at the Double Tree by Hilton hotel in Zagreb, and online.

The goal was to encourage the implementation of the Partnership for Open Government (OGP) initiative  at the local and regional levels, i.e. to encourage the opening of data and consultations with the public, to increase citizen participation in decision-making, especially in the area of ​​participatory budget planning, as well as the use of innovative tools to improve citizen participation in increasing quality of life at local levels.
The Conference offered the participants a handful of useful information, but also an incentive for the inclusion of local and regional self-government units in the OGP initiative, as well as the application of ideas related to civil and democratic participation of citizens to tenders as part of the Union Program - Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV).

Helena Beus, authorised to perform the duties of the Head of GOfNGOs in her welcome speech pointed out that the Republic of Croatia (RoC) is one of 77 member states and 106 local members of global OGP initiative, from its beginning, i.e. from the year 2011 when the Initiative have been initiated. Through its membership in the Initiative the RoC support the principles of transparency, fight against corruption, empowering citizens and using the advantages of new technologies in order to make public bodies at all levels more efficient and responsible, as well as create preconditions for more efficient and innovative provision of public services, i.e. managing with public resources.

Nemanja Relić, authorised to perform the duties of the Head of the Government of the RoC Vice President Office pointed out that the values on which the OGP is based are fully complementary to the values from the Government of the RoC Programme 2020.-2024. which, among other things, forsees the implementation of measures aimed at fighting corrupiton, modernizing public administration, digitalisation and conducting education of state and public servants for the development of digital skills, measures aimed at increasing of public finance transparency, as well as measures aimed at increasing of effeciency of state and public administration in order to meet the needs of citizens and the economy in the best possible way.
Andreja Metelko-Zgombić, state secretary in the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs and the president of the Council of the OGP initiative emphasized that certain steps have already been taken through the implementation of the OGP initiative national action plans, towards achieving the stated goals. Namely, the RoC has so far created and implemented a total of three action plans for the implementation of OGP initiative (for the period from 2012 to 2013, from 2014 to 2016 and for the period untill 2020) and is in the implementation of the fourth Action plan, thus proving its commitment to the realisation of the ideas of OGP. She additionally emphasized that due to several significant reforms that were recognized as extraordinary progress in opening government to citizens, the global OGP community elected the Republic of Croatia as a member in the Steering Committee of the Initiative, and the RoC through its two consecutive mandate in this body (from 2014 to 2019) had the opportunity to actively participate in the development, guidance and ensuring the Initiative sustainability.

Darija Marić, from the GOfNGOs presented the activities within the framework of the implementation of the OGP Initiative in the RoC, stressing that the RoC has accomplished  great progress in various areas that are the focus of the OGP Initiative through the implementation of the action plans. The most significant results were achieved in the area of improving e-services for citizens and the area of access to information. For example, the „Project e-Građani“ won the prize for the best European project at the Initiative's Global Summit on the topic „Open Government for the improvement public services“, held on 2015 in the Mexico City and was internationally recognised as a succesfull project for improving the availability of public services.

Joseé María Marín from the Local Programme of the OGP presented the ways and advantages of involving local and/or regional units in the global OGP Initiative. After that several good practice examples from Croatia and the world were presented. First of all, the project of establishing a system for the implementation of counceling for local and regional units which will be integrated into the already existing „e-Counceling“ system was presented by Josip Kovačić from the Central State Office for Digital Society Development.

This was followed by the presentation of several europen examples, such as the City of Tirana and the platform “Decide Madrid”, which was initiated by the Madrid City Council in order to enable the public participation in decision-making. The City of Pakrac and the City of Rab also presented their efforts in the context of participatory planning of city budgets, and the participants had the opportunity to see several video examples – Buenos Aires in Argentina, Austin in the Unites States of America and Kadun from Nigeria. The presented examples serve as inspiration for local and regional units from Croatia to use innovative methods of participatory democracy in which citizens decide how to distribute part of the public budget or (co)create public policies.

At the end of the Conference Željka Markulin from the GOfNGOs introduced the attendees into the financing opportunities of international projects for local communities development from the Union Programme – Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values (CERV) 2021-2027, i.e., opportunities for further exchange of good practice examples, knowledge and experience aiming at opening of local and regional units to their citizens. She emphasized that the CERV is the largest programme in the European Union history intended to protect and promote the rights and values incorporated in the fundamental Treaties and the EU Charter on Human Rights. The new, centralized programme encompasses the areas of the previous Europe for Citizens, Rights, Equality and Citizenship and DAPHNE programmes, and is dedicated to building a more democratic Europe and raising awareness of the rights and values of the Union through financial support to civil society organisations, local (regional) self-government units, international organisations, public authorities with the aim of protecting and promoting of the EU fundamental rights and values as well as encouraging civil and democratic citizens participation at the EU level in order to sustain and further develop an open, democratic, equal and inclusive society based on rights and the rule of law.

The GOfNGOs is hopping that the Conference has succeeded to acomplish its goal, i.e. to inspire the local and/or regional self-government units to join this global community in the future so as to jointly achieve further significant steps and development sin the various areas that are the focus of the OGP.