“Open Government Initiative” began as a new movement in the management since 2009, has been formalized by the Declaration of Open Government signed by 69 countries in September 2011. This initiative encompasses i)the involvement of the citizens of any country in the world to more open, effective, accountable and transparent governance than their own government and to more active participation in decision-making, and ii)their expectations of establishing more reliable government with the effective anti-corruption system.
This initiative has resulted in the Declaration of Open Government signed by 69 countries in September 2011 and this declaration has begun to be implemented mostly at national level in the countries joined the initiative. Azerbaijan joined the international initiative of “Open Government Partnership” in the same year, and the main purpose for joining this initiative is to increase transparency, improve the activities in the sphere of “Open Government”, exchange international experience in this sphere and formalize best practices. By joining this initiative, Azerbaijan has designed the “National Action Plan for Promotion of Open Government for the years 2012-2015” and under this action plan declared the principles like increasing transparency in the operation of the state bodies, improving accountability, expanding public participation and applying new social technologies, however as all over the world, at this stage the activities were done mostly at national level in Azerbaijan, the central authorities were the participants of this action, the capital and larger cities were its activity area.
The subsequent “National Action Plan for Promotion of Open Government for the years 2016-2018” was approved on April 27, 2016 by the decree of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The plan covers 58 events lined up for 11 points where 25 of them consider municipalities and local authorities as chief executives or participants. Besides, regarding the validation of this plan, the involvement of civil society institutions to the implementation and evaluation process of the events has been recommended in the Paragraph 5 of the Presidential Decree. In the first period of the implementation of the Action Plan, the Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform for “Promotion of Open Government” has been established and successfully launched. This shows that Azerbaijan government is determined to drag local communities, municipalities and local authorities along to the “Promotion of Open Government”. The implementation of the “Promotion of Open Government” at the local level improves sustainability and real possibilities of applying of this initiative.
“Umid” Support to Social Development Public Union who cooperates with communities, supports mobilization and institutional development of more than 300 communities in Azerbaijan for over 20 years, appreciating these opportunities, has addressed to the Eurasia Partnership Foundation (EPF) by the “Initiative of Commencing “Promotion of Open Government” at Local Level”. This appeal has been evaluated by the Foundation, and decided to be implemented within the “Human Rights, Democratization and Good Governance Promotion in Azerbaijan” program funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The project mainly aims at strengthening relations among local open government initiators and contributing to the implementation of the activities stipulated in the National Action Plan for Promotion of Open Government. Pursuant to the project action plan, the event entitled “Initiative of Commencing “Promotion of Open Government” at Local Level” was held in Sabirabad, the largest rural district of Azerbaijan on 19th May 2017. Alimammad Nuriyev, coordinator of the Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform on Open Government Partnership Initiatives, Israyil Isgandarov, Platform member, Executive Director of “Umid” Support to Social Development Public Union, Zaur Ibrahimli, vice president of “Konstitusiya” Research Foundation, officials of Sabirabad, Saatli, and Imishli ExComs, representatives of local government bodies, and NGOs, ExCom representatives from 13 communities, members of Municipalities and Community Development Councils participated in the event.
The results of the research conducted in 15 target communities were discussed in the event to inform of the “Initiative of Commencing “Promotion of Open Government” at Local Level” project and study the implementation of the “National Action Plan for Promotion of Open Government for the years 2012-2015”. The research encompassed 6 of 11 points stipulated in the “National Action Plan for Promotion of Open Government for the years 2016-2018” and 50 people including the representatives of 15 Community-based Organizations, 4 local NGOs, 15 ExCom Territorial Representation, 5 enterprises. To answer the respondents’ questions regarding
- awareness of POG project and NAP;
- improvement of e-services and provision of access to information;
- expansion of the activities of civil society members and increase of public participation;
- strengthening of municipal operation;
- organization of awareness-raising activities regarding how to stop corruption
is considered to fulfill the activities on the items mentioned in the process of implementing National Action Plan and determine their status of promoting.
Awareness rate of POG project and NAP contains 25% where mostly include the representatives of Territorial ExCom and NGO. These respondents stated that they got the information from TV or press. Improvement of e-services is one of the main tools to ensure transparency and prevent corruption. Regarding e-services improvement, NAP considers to design mobile interface of e-government sites, develop e-government portal and aware citizens of this field, admission to educational institutions and conduction of other services in regions. It’s determined that 44% of those surveyed use e-services and are aware of them. They use e-services for payment of utility bill, credit and fines, but payment terminals, ATMs, banking and postal services for doing other processes. Nearly more than 50% of those surveyed said they themselves or a family member use these services. However, access to these services is limited as well. The payment terminals have been installed in 2 of 15 surveyed communities. Mainly such devices are located in the regional centers and big settlements.
Awareness rate of Open Government Portal contains about 16%. In addition, nearly 18% of respondents use the mobile interface of e-pages of state bodies. 24% of respondents said they are partially informed of “Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform for “Promotion of Open Government”, its objectives, role, and operation. 30% respondet said they are aware of Public Councils and their operation. 90-95% of those surveyed said they are informed of the operation of NGOs and Community-based Organizations established for project implementation by other agencies in communities. These groups involve to resoultion of community or cluster-level issues and decision-making together with ExCom and Municipality. According to the feedback of 80% respondents, reports are given to the voters by municipalities. The citizens can get information about municipal operation from different places(among villages, coffeehouses, funeral ceremonies, and other meetings). Totally 10% of Municipalities in 15 surveyed communities has social networking website. However, these reportings are held twice a year because of superficial nature.
The work done in connection with the implementation of the NAP and the activities below necessary for implementation to achieve the goals set forth are recommended.
- Organize awareness-raising events on POG project and NAP with citizens, representatives of local ExCOM, municipalities and private bodies, design and distribute various brochures and booklets;
- Organize awareness-raising activities(trainings, round tables and meetings) on access of communities to e-government portal, access to e-services, how to stop corruption and increase transparency;
- Install e-payment terminals in target communities;
- Form local level “Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform for “Promotion of Open Government”;
- Create social media tools(Facebook, tweeter etc.), spread pages among the public.
In this event, Zaur Ibrahimli, vice president of “Konstitusiya” Research Foundation presented presented the Rules of Procedure of “Initiative of Commencing “Promotion of Open Government” at Local Level” and Memorandum of Understanding. The mentioned documents have been adopted by voting. Thus, local level “Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform for “Promotion of Open Government” has been formed with the participation of 4 local NGOs, 6 state bodies, 5 local Municipalities and 8 Community Development Councils. The local level “Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform for “Promotion of Open Government” plans to design the Action Plan to support provision of citizens’ active participation in decision-making process, increase of accountability and transparency level of local government bodies and municipalities and access of local communities to e-services within a month.
Nuriyev Alimammad, Coordinator of the Government and Civil Society Dialogue Platform on Open Government Partnership Initiatives
Isgandarov Israyil, Executive Director of “Umid” Support to Social Development Public Union