Second European Outreach and Support Meeting of the Open Government Initiative held in Dubrovnik

Second European Outreach and Support Meeting of the Open Government Initiative (OGP) was held on October 4-5, in Dubrovnik. Meeting was organized by the Government of the Republic of Croatia and Croatian NGOs, in cooperation with the Government of the United Kingdom, which is one of the co-chairs of the Initiative, and with support of the EU project for technical assistance to civil society organizations (TACSO).

In the opening session, participants were greeted by the Deputy Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Joško Klisović; the Open Data and Transparency Advisor at the UK Government, Charlotte Alldritt; the Head of the Delegation of the EU to Croatia, Paul Vandoren and the ambassador of the United Kingdom in Croatia, David Arthur Slinn.

Joško Klisović welcomed the participants on behalf of the Croatian Government, thanking for the trust that was given to Croatia by selecting our country to be the host of the event. “Croatia will continue actively participating in the OGP”, Klisović stated, emphasizing that the role of the government is to serve, and not to rule over people. Also he emphasized the importance of the international component of the conference as it gives participant a chance to exchange experiences and to learn from each other.

In his address, Head of the EU Delegation in Croatia Paul Vandoren said that transparency of state service is extremely important for society in whole, as it opens a world of possibilities, and at the end it encourages economy growth and creates positive business environment.

“Open government is an important instrument for development because transparency encourages prosperity”, said Ambassador David Arthur Slinn, emhasizing that co-chairing of the OGP Initiative is an honour for the United Kingdom, but a responsibility as well. “Open Government Partnership is an idea that progresses”, said Slinn.

Choosing Croatia to be the host country of the event once again acknowledged Croatia's outstanding engagement in the Initiative, qualitatively prepared Action Plan and, especially, role model cooperation between the government and civil society organizations. The main aim of the meeting was to further strengthen the implementation of the national Action Plan, which was adopted by the Croatian Government on April 4, 2012. Action Plan was developed in accordance with the instructions of the Steering Committee of the Initiative, as the result of the public consultations and debates with civil society organizations. Efficient managing of the public resources was recognized as the priority challenge to which Action Plan measures are pointed to. In that context, special attention will be given to strengthening of fiscal transparency. Other areas of activities of the OGP, also included in the Action Plan, are: access to information, use of IT and participation of citizens and civil society.

Charlotte Alldritt from UK Government emphasized that OGP is a political initiative that in its one year of implementation has gathered big significance, meaning and respect. In the workshops that were held in the morning of the first day of the meeting, before official opening, and on which participated the representatives of the governments and members of civil society organizations, it was emphasized in particular that it is important to strengthen the implementation of action plans in countries which are members of the Initiative. “Workshops are very useful to see how things are in praxis, where ther might be some problems and on which areas additional work is needed”, said Alldritt and added that meeting such as this serve as help to the governments in reaching their given goals.

Director of the Government’s Office for Cooperation with NGOs Igor Vidačak said that the UK experience in this area is particularly interesting to Croatia, especially regarding models of cooperation with civil society organizations, since UK is one of the most advanced countries when it comes to the openness of the Government towards citizens. We are in particular interested in the experiences of the UK in the context of big projects such as the “” , website on which there are available, among other things, information about transactions from the budget of all ministries so citizens can see how public money is being spent and on what. Because one of the priorities of Croatian Action Plan is precisely fiscal transparency, said Vidačak. “When we are talking about publishing information on our website, it is not important just to publish them”, said Alldritt. “Attention needs to be given to quality of information, is information published regularly, on time, and are there any obstacles in obtaining data, in the sense of format and other technical obstacles. It is all very important and the government needs to take care of that aspect as well.”

On the second day of the meeting, discussion were held on different aspects of Partnership, from transparency of government, with special notion on fiscal transparency, over the use of IT, to access to information. Participants exchanged experiences on best practices and key challenges in providing complete, relevant, accurate, understandable and timely information on state budget, namely how and what is state money being spent. Also, they discussed on experiences regarding the use of IT in order to increase transparency, facilitate public participation in decision making process and to improve efficiency of public services.

The fact that Croatian Prime Minister Zoran Milanović, in his speech on the United Nations’ General Assembly in September this year called upon higher accountability, better governance and stronger cooperation among states, civil society and private sector, also gives evidence of Croatian dedication to the OGP Initiative. “Croatian Government has done significant progress in making its work as transparent as possible and accessible to its citizens. As a member of the OGP initiative we have become active in area of fiscal transparency, access to information, IT and civil society participation. It is our pleasure to be hosts of the meeting of European countries members of the OGP in Dubrovnik, and we expect exchange of best praxis and further promotion of cooperation between governments and civil society organizations”, said Prime Minister Milanović on that occasion.

Program of the Second European Outreach and Support Meeting of the Open Government Initiative