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									CIVIL SOCIETY-GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS OSI Information Program Workshop, 8-9 March 2002

The focus of the workshop was on interactions between civil society and government outside the framework of elections. The aim was twofold: first, to give participants an opportunity to exchange ideas and experiences, especially about new experiments and developments in the past year; and second, to help the Information Program of the Open Society Insitute (OSI) to hone its strategy for activities in this area over the next few years. These lightly-edited notes summarize salient points from some of the presentations and discussions during the workshop. They are not a complete summary of the proceedings; please forgive any omissions or inaccuracies. See the workshop website for notes and slides from most of the presentations:

Sections 1. OECD framework for government- civil society relations + discussion 2. transparency in Romania 3. deliberative polling 4. e-consultation in Lithuania 5. a website for policy proposals from the public - Estonia 6. experiments in policy consultations – Britain 7. discussion on public consultations 8. e-democracy in Barcelona 9. a website for civil society input into policymaking – – Latvia 10. local government information – lessons from Macedonia 11. freedom of information 12. summaries of group discussions on proposed OSI strategy for cit-gov‟t communications 13. summary of recurring themes

1. OECD framework for government – civil society relations (Joanne Caddy) see or Citizens as Partners sourcebook and handbook good governance principles:  accountability (possiblity to identify officials and hold them accountable)  transparency (info about gov‟t activities is available to public)  openness (possibility for listening) three dimension of citizen-gov’t relations: 1. information – one-way relation  scope, quantity and quality increasing in OECD countries 2. consultation – two-way, but gov‟t sets agenda



on the rise, but slowly; large differences remain between OECD countries

3. participation – true partnership; citizens can set agenda  still rare

laws information FOI RIA1


institutions info offices, ombudsman

tools registers, brochures, info kiosks public hearings citizens juries,

consultation active participation

special groups cooperative agreements

advisory councils central policy units

tools for information  passive: catalogues, indexes, registers (eg Finland – register on legislation, budgets, projects under preparation)  active: products (annual reports, brochures), delivery mechanisms (direct – like toll-free phone numbers, info centres; or indirect – media coverage, advertising) for consultation  feedback: opinion polls and surveys; comment and notice periods; deliberative polls  consultation: public hearings, focus groups + citizen panels; workshops for participation  citizens‟ fora (eg Norway); citizens‟ juries (eg France: 1998 review of health system) policy lessons for government   information needs to be complete, objective, reliable, relevant, easy to find and understand consultation needs to have real impact on the policy process

10 guiding principles: commitment, rights, clarity, time, objectivity, resources, coordination, accountability, evaluation, active citizenship …………………………………………………………………………………….. discussion  in Eastern Europe, there are serious obstacles of internal information management within government  in Central Asia – where democratization is driven by external actors (EU, OSCE, OECD), gov‟t information portals often serve merely a public relations / propaganda purpose – outward-looking, not meant for local citizens or real participation  Franz Kaps: the World Bank has gone through something of a transparency revolution in the past several years; almost all WB policy documents (esp Country Assistance Strategies) are now publicly available. Country policy documents are now subject to consultation with local civil society – for example the “Voices

Regulatory Impact Assessment


of the People” consultation in Ukraine; will soon be launching consultation processes in Belarus and Yugoslavia  problems with indexes, rankings – when focused on complex, abstract issues like “openness” which are difficult to measure or quantify; such indices can be of questionable utility and can be easily dismissed or ignored  instead – develop set of openness standards, codified into an “openness charter”? alternative: give governments tools for self-assessment, perhaps driven by civil society  perhaps a two-track strategy is best:  confronational: standards and measures can be used to apply political pressure for change  cooperative: guidelines. training , tools to help implement changes  we need to think of the public sector as a whole: “government” means different things in US and Europe – European definition broader, includes courts, agencies performing public functions – these need to be included in pressure for openness  Environmental Democracy Index – an example of delicate but “healthy” balance between cooperation and confrontation  in Central + Eastern Europe – there has been a decline of legal guarantees of openness after end of 1989 honeymoon period – much now depends on personal goodwill from government side: need a fourth pillar (besides info, consultation, participation): legal remedies also CSOs2 need to include business to add force to pressure for change  self-assessments by governments tend to be self-serving; on the other hand, if done by outsiders who don‟t know internal problems, can be over-critical – need a combined approach  Hungarian telecottage movement extended to Yugoslavia – ca 70 rural telecenters; these became a hub of community information (eg re privatization) creating a demand for information on the part of civil society  examples from Albania raise the question of how to develop culture of openness and participation, to make sure that tools are not used for mere propaganda  Ukraine – central level is relatively open to communicate policy to citizens and involve CSOs (eg agriculture reform) but regional/local governments are not – but some ministries are much more open than others – need to take these variations into account  another tendency – the gov‟t creates fake CSOs and participation – “like Chicago in the 30s” (elections coming in March – President‟s office started campaign against CSOs as agents of pernicious Western influence, equated with “criminal gangs”)  in larger countries like Ukraine, Russia – regional/local governments should be focus of openness efforts  lesson from Szczecin – politicians don‟t necessarily welcome openness, consultative policymaking, until its benefits can be shown to them: a powerful practical argument for openness is that it provides gov‟t with a much better sense of emerging issues and problems; gov‟t is able to respond more quickly and effectively 2 . Transparency in Romania – research on corruption in local gov’t (Oana Maria Mateescu)


CSO = civil society organization (the usual terms, ‘NGO’ and ‘non-profits’, imply a primacy of state and commercial institutions: NGO = not government; non-profit = not commercial).


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focus on 4 areas: public procurement, privatizations, organized crime, management of public resources; main tools – extensive interviews with officials and citizens difficult to study corruption only domestically when it becomes a foreign-policy issue (of EU accession) – puts a strain on the monitoring by civil society - the gov‟t uses “Romania‟s prestige” as an excuse to block examination of corruption; a double discourse – for the outside, “we have problems, but we are dealing with them” and for internal consumption – “exposure of corruption damages our foreign policy interests”, or framed as a security threat local media is financed by local gov‟t or parties, so they are passive and silent on local corruption

 Franz Kaps: there are too many anti-corruption initiatives, projects (EU, WB, OSI, OECD, Stability Pact, etc) with little outcome – “there is a conference every week” with professional anti-corruption conference “travellers” – and these efforts often have unintended consequences, eg teaching new techniques to the corrupt – int‟l actors and agencies have to “speak the same language” and “get our act together” (cf project on “donors standards”) 3. Deliberative Polling (Gabor Toka)  DP is a technique or device (developed by the political scientist James Fishkin – see ) to cope with a fundamental problem of democracy – the problem of “rational ignorance” – the voting constituency is very large, so every individual participant has minute influence – therefore little rational incentive to learn about issues affecting them – most poll opinions are based on ignorance therefore politicians have a hard time knowing what people‟s preferences are on an issue if they were well-informed DP does everything a regular poll does: first, record uninformed opinion; BUT 1. then put them in a new setting where the expression of their preferences can have an influence, in a theatrical setting and 2. expose them to information, to encounter people with different pointt of view applications (so far about 19 DPs organized) – costs are usually very significant, many times more than a regular poll – usually funded in one of two ways: 1. government actor which is required to consult, or 2. media, as public service or for entertainment value

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Should this be institutionalized? No, because politicians should not be obliged to follow public opinion too slavishly.

4. e-consultation on 15-year Economic Development Strategy for Lithuania (Nerute Kligiene) see:  aim: to involve those not officially included in 14 „expert‟ groups assigned to develop a long-term economic development strategy for Lithuania over a period of several months  6230 visitors, only 210 postings over 3 months?) ie only 3% of visitors (because topics were complex?)  little moderation needed: no postings had to be removed lessons:  need commitment of gov‟t insitutions;  discussions must be open and uncensored;  advertising and promotion is key, esp among qualified expert communities;  keep in mind additional workload for those who read and respond to postings 5. Estonian TOM “Today I Decide” policy proposal website website:


  

state-supported (PM‟s office) internet system for soliciting proposals for legislation or policy from the general public working for half a year – though prominent outside Estonia, has many critics at home contains 1. proposals from citizens 2. draft legislation from ministries

context in Estonia: high internet penetration (ca 1/3 of pop), 95% of public officials use PCs, paperless gobv‟t cabinet which does its work online; all laws and proposals are online process: 1. proposal 2. comments: 14 days for comment by anyone 3. proposal can be revised or edited by author (3 days) 4. voting for 3 days - if more than 50% in favour, then “signed” by proposer and other online participants 5. ministry has to review proposal and respond within 30 days – with an explanation of why the proposal should or should not be accepted after 6 months:  ca 2600 registered users  over 400 proposals, about half removed or voted out  on average 10 votes per proposal strengths (+) and weaknesses (–) + + + + receives publicity in the press - used by media for ideas large number of passive readers a large number of proposals fun, quick, transparent targeted at computer-literate, younger citizens most proposals short and sketchy, repetitive relatively few votes and signatures users are de facto anonymous

crucial issues for success in the future:      need authentication of users (through digital signatures?) involving more CSOs TOM as only one aspect of participation, one tool in a broader array edit proposals: put them into a form that is easier to process and evaluate needs more respect from the public sector - needs top-level support for processing in state apparatus

6. British experiments in policy consultation (Stephen Coleman) see for a new catalogue of consulation techniques Hansard Society conducted one of the first UK consultation experiments – focusing on women victims of domestic violence new 1-month gov‟t enquiry on how to use internet to collect policy information from citizens Coleman in currently doing research on: 1. internet voting – if you introduce internet voting, this solves the problem of authentication for consultation exercises as well – makes it much easier


2. participation – charter of citizens rights will be published on what citizens can expect when interacting with government – looking at four differentiated levels of consultation: from limited with experts, to open public 3. the possibility of establishing an independent agency to manage and promote public consultations (something like the BBC) some basic lessons learned so far:  internet-based consultations are not cheaper, easier, simpler: they are like TV productions, need staff, need recruitement, intensive management – you don‟t get democratic participation spontaneously  representative vs direct democracy – we don‟t want to see a descent to direct democracy, BUT this division will become less clear – eg representatives will make better decisions if they are subject to public debate, though this is not a slope to direct democracy  question of public competence – how competent is the public to have a say on policy – in 20th century, much dismissal of public – people who should make decisions need to be experts – BUT public are experts in certain areas – if you want experts on domestic violence, talk to those who experience it – it‟s a question of developing channels to tap that latent competence  evaluation – we have had a weak approach to evaluation of consultation – 1. what are real effects on policy, 2. what is the effect on the public, what is the experience of being consulted like for the public  we have to do one of two things: either drop this talk of consultation and participation, or take it very seriously; can‟t afford to do it in a theoretically underdeveloped way 7. Plenary discussion on public consultations Q: why is there an obsession with identifying participants in consultation? what‟s wrong with anonymous participation (as in voting)? shouldn‟t proposals be treated based on the merits of the idea, not on the merits of the proposer?  in many places, government is obliged to take proposals seriously only if they come from authenticated citizens or organizations  Latvia policy website – need for registration? yes – only minimal info required, name + e-mail address; this serves as a filter for minimal level of seriousness Q: what about the „digital divide‟ – those excluded from internet? how do we cover the majority which has no access? what about local languages? are we merely creating new divides through these new approaches?  Estonia – we have „two Estonias‟, elderly, poor, rural population is excluded – no good solution so far  Lithuania – agricultural group had to participate offline, organizers sent material on paper  is there a correlation between development of democracy and access to internet? there is a danger of deepening the gap – gov‟t needs to take measures to include those excluded from the process  why is this a dilemma? – the excluded can be included using other channels and media (eg traditional brochures and leaflets) eg in rural Ukraine, with no internet; if information is really valuable, people will make great efforts to get access, will drive 100 km to nearest internet café


 people need to be provided with public places – not just cafes – but „info centres‟, facilities with training as well as access – in Poland this is mostly driven by CSOs, not gov‟t  info divide = rural/urban divide Q: what is the role of the media, eg in former Soviet Union, where there is little internet access by most people?  Estonia – media took the portal seriously; some TOM portal users have marketed their proposals to the media to attract attention – but mostly used by individuals, not organizations  Latvia – website collaborates with other media – newswires take info from policy studies, base stories on it – newspapers reprint articles – commercial internet portals (viewed as superficial) have reprinted articles  through consultations, the public provides “free labour” for the government– for example, can be the “thousand eyes and ears” of environmental agencies Q: question of political culture – do people want to participate? need to distinguish between e-gov‟t and edemocracy (e.g., Singapore has former without the latter) Q: what are incentives (awards, recognition) for use or participation – is there any value in incentive systems to encourage participation, or for media to cover them? Q: access to info is only the beginning – what about quality and use of information? how can it be guaranteed?

8. e-Democracy in Barcelona (Francesc Osan) about 10% of the population (ca 150,000 of 1.5 M, through 2040 associations) were involved in consultative procedures in 1986-2000 – but this has not been real participation – this earlier system was overwhelmed new strategy – “from representation to participation” – “democracy exercised every day, not just every four years” – by 1. strengthening associations and 2. direct citizen participation instruments: municipal agency of services to associations; congress of associations; fostering “2nd degree associations”; “participative reports” – all new projects in the city, including observations and comments of citizens; citizen juries (citizens are obliged to take part in decision-making); public consultations; citizens‟ e-mail see also International Observatory of Participatory Democracy (for local gov‟ts) website: 9. Communicating independent policy initiatives to the government (Krista Baumane) see: launched in July 2001 visited by ca ¼ of internet users in Latvia (35,000 unique visitors; 9700 users per month) will be available in English in March immediate objectives: make policy and research reports available, stimulate pub debate


publish policy studies (by gov‟t, CSOs, IGOs3), draft legislation, and commissioned expert reviews of them “if you want to bury something, put it on a gov‟t site – if you want it to be read, it needs to be on an independent site” with a reputation of impartiality, good structure and design materials carefully packaged and presented (abstracts and annotation if needed) – present together with constructive critique cooperates closely with an NGO centre why has it been successful?  support of the traditional media  cooperation with the commercial internet media (coop agreement with largest portal)  material in Latvian, but ½ of reprints in newspapers are in Russian-language media challenges?  policymakers taking the internet seriously (tactics: get them to write for the site)  turning the threat of openness into an opportunity or advantage 11. Info infrastructure for 15 municipalities in Macedonia (Bardhyl Jashari) challenges  lack of political will to allow transparency  inadequate willingness of municipal employees to obtain IT training  little response from politicians to online discussions: now negotiating with local TV stations to promote online discussions

12 . Freedom of Information (FOI) Freedom of Imformation Around the World – David Banisar businesses are main users of FOI – private citizens use it less (though there are some spectacular examples, eg Thai woman who precipitated reform of education of funding of education system in Thailand the first FOI law: Sweden - 1766 Freedom of Press Act the major item of international law: Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights three types of measures: 1 constitutional provisions, 2 comprehensive FOI laws, 3 sector-specific laws  constitutional provisions – over 20 countries with constitutional right of access  comprehensive laws – over 40 have FOI laws, 30 more countries have pending efforts exemptions (to free access) – for public order, national security tests which limit exemptions –  harm tests – exemption only applies if some harm can be shown by public body  public interest tests – release info even if causes harm if release is in the public interest four basic oversight mechanisms

IGOs = inter-governmental organizations


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internal review courts ombudsman info commissions

features of effective FOI policy  clear, broad definitions of what is public information  part of an overall public sector management reform (as in Ireland recently)  high-level support in government  extensive internal training of gov‟t officials  effective oversight – an info commission essential  demand for information by users, especially press  outside users - citizens  vigorous democracy – opposition politicians FOI in Central and Eastern Europe - Helen Darbishire many laws in CEE are results of civil society pressure, esp environmental movement – now also joined by journalists associations, corporate sector CSO testing and use of the law essential to add force to the law (eg work in Slovakia – supreme court case about pollution from a gov‟t factory succeeded on the basis of harm and public interest tests post-Sept 11 effect : a worrying negative trend: national security being used as blanket excuse to block access to information, cite examples of US and UK, coupled with increased invasions of privacy FOI – plenary discussion Q: having a law does not mean that there is freedom of information; what ordinary citizens are interested in is not necessarily reflected in the press – citizens need direct access to info systems of social institutions – providing these systems could be a niche for OSI HD: FOI does not mean that press has a duty to disseminate particular types of information – press needs to be free to choose what topic to cover Q: bargain between FOI/privacy and security: how is this tension regulated (eg NATO pressure on Romania to limit privacy and FOI)? DB: it is an abuse of privacy legislation to use it to protect commercial secrets that should be public – the best way around to combat this is to invite technical experts to show that companies will not be harmed by revealing secrets – NATO needs to be shamed about the pressure it is applying on new members; HD: vigorous application of harm tests should be an effective way to resist pressures to exempt commercial and “security” secrets from FOI (NATO has been secretive about what exactly it is asking gov‟ts to do, so it has been hard to campaign against this) Q: what international instruments/treaties are available? DB: three major ones:  Council of Europe has just released recommendations on FOI;  Org of American States has just released recommendations;  the Aarhus evironmental access treaty; also OECD recommendations; Article 19 may be seeking a UN declaration on access to information in the future


 “partial access” should be permitted to documents that are exempted from access – this prevents blanket secrecy covering crucial documents  participation in FOI by corporate sector is a problem – need to revisit original intentions of FOI legislation – it‟s a misuse – a “cuckoo in the nest” Q: what about semi-official documents like e-mails or electronic records? HD: FOI means access to information not merely to documents; ie access to info in whatever form – emails, audio tapes, databases etc DB: most recent FOI legislation explicitly includes all forms of data (eg US 1996 electronic information act)  another problem: IGOs are not subject to laws the same way national gov‟ts are – the only approach is advocacy pressure body by body; eg Article 19 campaign for FOI at World Bank – a lot of talk about openness, but no real oversight, no mechanism for appeals Council of Europe – access to info policy document was classified “confidential”! accountability of IGOs is a broader problem – even access to the meetings they hold is very restricted. There have been some improvements, for example at OECD. EU is a major problem – very opaque (do not release minutes of minutes – see work of StateWatch, which goes after EU documents). Access to WTO meeting for consumer groups is very restricted. Eva Vajda – former investigative journalist in Hungary having FOI law does not mean you have access to information in practice; there is a great difference bet “documents” and “information” – need the latter which provides full context most journalists in Hungary can‟t use ombudsman‟s office because it‟s too slow Hungarian FOI law 1993 – doesn‟t define clearly what is public information – journalists tried to define this broadly according to the law, institutions have the right to make exceptions – an ongoing game between journalists and public officials journalists need support of good lawyers who can advise how to use the laws and to avoid lawsuits

12. summaries of group discussions on draft OSI strategy for cit-gov’t communications

GROUP 1 paper needs logical structure – mission, objectives, tasks, deliverables, evaluation, criteria distinguish between passive access and active provision – specify what is meant by “gov‟t” mission - reformulate: open governance to participatory governance or democracy change “policymaking” to “policy process”


put in context of local Public Admin reform section on “current situation”: focused on ICT – lacks context of gov/cit communication OSI programs: CSO support, capactiy building should be mentioned geography needs to be specified openness index: interesting Q – not clear what will be methodology + context – need separate paper – how will be used, disseminated? legislative database: can be included into awareness-raising, it‟s merely a tool – one of the products should be a portal (with facilities like distance learning, collections of best practices, descriptions of local projects) training should be linked to mission – is it participatory democracy? then training should focus on these areas – areas of training should be specified after an analysis of needs – distance learning: use new opportunities, why Estonia? in each country there should be point of training on other topics – add info on coordination with partners, international orgs – the last sentence should be taken out? less detail at this point direct grants – should be linked to mission statement – need specific criteria - eg replicability of the project – specify roles of institutions like libraries, telecenters – COLPI, LGI already doing work here – stregthening CSO demand for info, gov‟t capacity to provide info GROUP 2 mission more specific language should be used – improving the daily lives of the average individual – need of definitions from the beginning, especially of key terms like “governmentt” “communication, info, transp” – should be more results-oriented, focused on individuals current sit‟n civil society not mentioned – quality/status of new and traditional media in particular countries needs to taken into account – approach evaluation mechanisms should be mentioned – objectives, outputs, outcomes defined – tools should not be used negatively, eg for propaganda (outline some of the risks) activities  openess index – change to national openness evaluations – accent on eval process in each country – on the basis of common regional standards – focus on eval process, not index itself – setting up eval process on both regional and int‟l experience  legislation database – should be collection of best practices –  awareness-raising – focus on in-country awareness-raising  training: why Estonia? focus not on regional training centre, but on regional training materials  highlight country + subregional expertise  grants: list of possible grants supplied – who is applyiing? partnerships, coalitions? bet civil society and gov‟t? stress requirement for cooperation  budget: decrease index; increase for direct grants and training – eg projects should contain training element



why OSI? (what are its comparative advantages) - study what other are doing, including within OSI  independence  ability to provide incentives  undertake demonstration exercises  convening power  regional perspective  close connection to civil society in each country  tailoring to local context goals  strenghten supply and demand for openness o supply: awareness/capacity(skills +knowl)/benefits o demand: awareness/raising quality of pub participation build durable coalitions of interest broaden def‟n of gov/cit to include other actors (ag Parliament, local gov‟t, ombudsmen) show potential of new ICTs

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activities      collection of good practices / succesful examples (traditional tools + ICTs) qualitiative, comprehensive criteria for assessment (not necessarily and index) country level surveys (needs assessment for govt ; demand of citizens, CSOs) regional workshops/training for gov‟t + civil society training – have to clarify target groups

 don‟t concentrate only on capital cities – include rural areas; also include political opposition,  be aware of the possible divide between EU accession group and other countries – avoid new wall or curtain  an index is not an evaluation framework – objective should not be to compare performance across countries, but development of a diagnostic tool – process perhaps more important than outcome – help to see weak spots, Yuri Misnikov: but can you really avoid comparing? comparisons can be healthy for int‟l community – eg Human Dev Index – it evolved for 7 years before it was accepted – controversy stimulated discussion – a powerful advocacy tool  decide between advocacy position OR consensual, collaborative, partnership w gov‟t for change – NB OSI is in the civil society sector, it has an independent role – be careful how others use comparisons (eg to make decisions about funding) Stephen Coleman – some conluding remarks  one danger of immersion in technical details is the loss of a broader theoretical understanding, vision: keep theoretical foundation solid – ask: is this about participatory democracy or about bureaucracy?  incentives: a key practical issue – don‟t underestimate for civic actors the importance of a sense of engagement and creating civic networks – 1 cit/gov interactions begin with cit/cit relations – 2 sense of efficacy : how people feel about democracy, about what they can do intimately connected to what they actually do  keep to a pluralistic sense of strategic models – eg Latvian policy network – compare to what UK parliament has done to bring in excluded groups (in last 2 years ca 10,000 people giving evidence who never would have before – in the past, they were outside of loop of policy scrutiny


13. Summary of some recurring themes

1. different levels of governance (local, regional, national, IGOs) need different approaches, tools, mechanisms

2. use a combination of cooperative and confrontational approaches  governments need help (guidelines,training, tools) AND pressure (monitoring, comparisons, naming/shaming)  the cooperative approach advocated by the OECD (information, consultation, participation) will be more effective if complemented by adversarial civil society action (monitoring, aggressive advocacy, litigation) – from the government side, needs to be expanded to include legal remedies  but in most cases, the same actors cant‟ play both roles at once 3. cit/gov interactions don’t happen spontaneously – need resources, effort, sophistication  eg citizen consultations need heavy preparation – “like a TV production”  not enough to pass a law or put up a website – require resources, followup, professional skills  theoretical sophistication is badly needed – naivete, lack of serious theoretical foundation results in incoherent, self-defeating practice 4. internet projects most effective when combined with offline media and resources  „digital divide‟ can be overcome by combining web with other media  impact of web-based resources can be magnified by cooperation with print and broadcast media 5. incentives are key to successful cit/gov interaction positive better connection with consituents better info about probs + solutions; greater legitimacy empowerment, engagement, recognition negative embarassment, disconnection “naming and shaming” powerlessness, exclusion, alienation from political process

politicians gov’t ministries + agencies citizens and CSOs

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