Last week, 60 government and CSO representatives from nine Eurasian countries gathered in Kiev, Ukraine, to discuss best practices in open government and obstacles to implementing them.
Organized by Ukrainian cabinet ministers and NRGI, in collaboration with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Ukraine’s International Renaissance Foundation, it was the first event of its kind in Eurasia and could serve as a starting point for broader initiatives to enhance transparency and accountability priorities there.
“Our aim is discussing how the transparency and accountability that we mention all the time can actually translate into real and meaningful action and systematic reforms,” NRGI chief operating officer Suneeta Kaimal said in her opening speech.
Founded in 2011, OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
Eurasia is a promising but challenging region for open government. In countries like Georgia and Ukraine, there are excellent examples of openness, public participation and collaboration. Meanwhile, there are other countries that are far behind.
The most important value OGP instilled is the active and equal participation of civil society, conference attendees said. Civil society has a critical role in addressing problems of participation, lack of government will, low stakeholder capacity and legislation gaps.
According to Transparency International Ukraine’s Olesya Arkhypska, OGP was effective in Ukraine due to civil society’s proactive position.
“The existing mechanism of the initiative is a unique opportunity to transform and build a proper system of responsible government,” she said. “Our immediate task is not only to further transformation of the coordination system of the civil society and government agencies in Ukraine, combating corruption, but also building the transnational platform of the stakeholders.”
Gaps in fiscal transparency, anticorruption actions, extractives transparency and public participation were identified, and diverse stakeholders discussed potential actions to overcome them. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan scoping studies highlighted the obstacles these countries face in joining OGP.
Panelists from Azerbaijan, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Ukraine talked about disclosure of beneficial ownership and contracts and OGP’s role in EITI mainstreaming. Media use of this extractives data was also discussed.
Extractives transparency—and OGP’s role in it—was front and center. Open government helps to ensure citizens’ voices are heard, and the natural resources sector is crucial because citizens must benefit from extractives revenues that governments manage on their behalf, Kaimal said.
“Accountability lines are too often broken. OGP has the potential to change this,” said Kaimal.
Fidan Bagirova is the Eurasia senior officer at the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).