It has been five years now since I, as a Minister of Justice of Georgia, began working with my colleagues from the Government and Parliament, and with my team at the Ministry of Justice, to ensure that our country’s open government agenda maintains the highest standards.
We have taken six steps so far. We reformed the freedom of information system; opened up our National Archives; created the first Open Data Portal in Georgia; made statistical data on surveillance publicly available; included citizens in public service delivery; and allowed citizens to issue electronic petitions to the Government.
After five years, we have a number of commitments that have been successfully implemented or are still in progress. But there is one success story that everyone loves to tell. I will give you an exclusive insight into our model of co-creation.
Co-creation as an established standard
Back in 2014, we committed to find ways to bring civil society into policymaking. We formed the Georgian Open Government Forum, which is a permanent dialogue mechanism to build open government policies.
The Forum is comprised of public agencies, local non-governmental and international organisations, as well as business sector representatives, sitting around one table to develop the country’s open government reforms.
We have declared that co-creation is the rule, not the exception. We evenly distribute responsibility for assessing our progress, for example, against our action plan, and publicise where we have more work to do.
We want all branches of government to share the same values. That’s why we have all three branches committed to open government: the Government of Georgia, driving the entire process; the Supreme Court of Georgia, making statistical data on surveillance open to all; and the Parliament of Georgia, implementing a standalone action plan.
This has now expanded to local government, with Tbilisi, our capital city, and five municipalities included in Georgia’s 3rd National Action Plan, following recommendations from The Forum.
We are especially proud of our local governments, which value openness and work tirelessly to ensure that citizens in small cities and remote villages are given the same opportunities as those in larger cities.
One bright example comes from a small city called Ozurgeti in western Georgia. Under Georgia’s OGP National Action Plan, Ozurgeti Municipality Assembly meetings and reporting processes were made more transparent and accessible via live broadcasting; the Assembly launched an electronic system of surveys to better gauge local concerns; and citizen participation centers were established and equipped with modern digital technology.
Pushing the international community
We are proud to chair the Open Government Partnership this year. The cornerstone of our chairmanship vision is built around citizens. We want to dedicate our term to ensuring that citizens have the opportunity to influence the government decisions that affect their daily lives.
The cornerstone of our chairmanship vision is built around citizens.
To translate this mission into concrete actions, we have identified four strategic goals, each involving activities that touch citizens’ everyday lives. These are: Strengthening co-creation and citizen engagement; advancing transparency and the fight against corruption; generating innovation in public service delivery; and building better partnerships.
This is a great responsibility that has been bestowed upon us after establishing a track record of successful reform in Georgia. We hope to celebrate many more achievements as we join forces and forge stronger ties with our partner countries, civil society, and international organisations.
This is a great responsibility but we hope that together we are stronger, and can be more open too.
Thea Tsulukiani is Minister of Justice for Georgia.
This article was published in partnership with the Open Government Partnership.