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Openness Index: Decrease of openness in Western Balkans

Openness of institutions of executive power from the Western Balkans (WB) region is not at a satisfactory level.

By Metamorphosis (guest author) · October 10, 2018

Openness of institutions of executive power from the Western Balkans (WB) region is not at a satisfactory level. Only approximately 47% of indicators from the Regional Openness Index are currently being achieved.

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Openness is a key element of democracy, since it allows citizens to receive the information and knowledge necessary for participation in political life, effective decision-making and for holding institutions accountable for their policies. The Regional Openness Index measures the degree to which institutions of Western Balkan countries are open for citizens and society. It is based on the principles of 1) transparency, 2) accessibility, 3) integrity and 4) effectiveness. It is a tool designed for citizens to examine the openness of public administration and other public bodies. It also helps managers and politicians in evaluating their work towards the better openness. The Index was created in the framework of the Regional network Accountability, Technology and Institutional Openness Network in Southeast Europe (ActionSEE), founded by leading Western Balkans NGOs working on transparency and accountability: EDRi member Metamorphosis Foundation from Macedonia, CA Why not from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Center for Democratic Transition from Montenegro, and Center for Research Transparency Accountability (CRTA) from Serbia.

The founding members of the Regional network are organisations that use information and communications technology in their work on promoting democracy. ActionSEE conducts an EU-funded project providing a platform for dialogue between significant stakeholders, and a concrete tool to measure the degree to which state institutions uphold principles and standards of open governance. It aims to increase the inclusion of civil society and media organisations in decision making processes in informing public opinion and policies, as well as to raise the capacity of civic societies to address sensitive issues.

In the first measurement conducted in 2016 the results from six countries measured 642 institutions, and more than 25 000 indicators and research findings were published. International standards, recommendations given in multiple EU reports on countries in the region as well as good practices were followed during the measuring of the level of institutional openness. The institutions were assessed by using specific quantitative and qualitative indicators, such as access to information on institutions’ official websites, legal framework’s quality in individual cases, other sources of public information, published data regarding the work of institutions, public procurement, and information on spending of public spending.

The situation in the region regarding the openness of the government differs from country to country, but one of the important factors is whether the given country is a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Albania, Croatia, Macedonian, Montenegro and Serbia are members, while Bosnia and Herzegovina joined in September 2014. However, while the OGP is mostly focused on national policy making and its implementation, the Regional Openness Index deals with all the levels and all the public bodies.

The 2017 Index was conducted between December 2017 and late February 2018. It showed that clear, consistent and policies of openness grounded in strategic documents do not exist. Instead of the expected progress in the area of openness, institutions of executive power had even worse results in comparison to previous year. Openness amounts to only approximately 38% of fulfilled indicators, whereas the percentage for the previous year was higher, at 41%.

A lack of a strategic approach to openness is still evident in the regional countries. The data obtained suggest that, in a large number of cases, there is still no expression of openness and transparency of institutions of executive power in relevant documents (strategies, procedures or policies related to the issues). Not even the presence of international initiatives advocating openness contributed to increase in openness and transparency.

Only the Macedonian government’s top executive body shows an obvious increase of the level of openness. An example of the practices leading to this increase is the prime minister’s cabinet and general secretariat starting to publish session agendas, minutes from sessions held, as well as regular press releases after the sessions. The implementation of the recommendations given by the civil society sector on advancing the institutional openness made a valuable contribution to this, for instance the recommendations laid down in the Regional Roadmap for the Western Balkans countries.

Regional Openness Index

The Openness Index 2016

The Openness Index 2017

Roadmap on good governance for state institutions in the Republic of Macedonia (08.08.2017)

ActionSEE: Roadmaps for institutions

(Contribution by EDRi member Metamorphosis, Macedonia)