Lack of Will, Understanding Inhibit Eurasia Open Government Participation

The Open Government Partnership, which launched in 2011, quickly morphed into a popular initiative. OGP membership has grown from just eight countries to 66 participating nations. Many governments and international organizations have given it direct support.

Azerbaijan, Ukraine, Mongolia, Turkey and Georgia also signed on to the OGP. In Eurasia as a whole, however, the initiative’s low level of adoption has been notable. Some countries were ineligible to join. Others lacked funding. However, the most observed and strongest impediment to OGP adoption in Eurasia is a lack of will to act on the part of government, as well as poor understanding of OGP.

For example, member countries from Eurasia lacked drive in OGP participation and implementation. (Georgia and Ukraine were exceptions.) Civil society in these countries was similarly inactive. In some cases, OGP civil society platforms did not include the right people or organizations. In Mongolia, for example, the OGP civil society organization (CSO) platform included trade unions and donor organizations, instead of active organizations.

The reasons for this phenomenon dominated the OGP Extractives Workshop led by the NRGI Eurasia office in Istanbul in October. At the three-day gathering, CSO experts and Open Society Foundation staff members from six Eurasian countries learned how extractives issues can be tied to the OGP and began to understand fiscal transparency commitments within it.

One of the most important topics discussed during the workshop wasconnecting OGP to extractives—all participating countries were resource dependent. The commodities crash underscores that in resource-dependent countries, economies depend on the correct management of extractives and revenues from this sector.

The workshop participants dialogued about what extractives-related informationcould become an OGP commitment. Contract transparency, information on segregated extractive and non-extractive revenues in budget documents, information of sovereign wealth fund assets management, and beneficiary ownership were all discussed.

Separate proposals were made on state-owned enterprises (SOEs). They included detailed and disaggregated tax collection data separated by the activity types of state-owned entities; simplified/user-friendly versions of SOE financial documents; transparency regarding the financial reports of state-owned entity subsidiaries, affiliates and joint ventures; procurement policy and contracts of SOEs; the inclusion of revenue and expenditures structure of SOEs to budgets; and information on SOE investment plans.

Fidan Bagirova is NRGI’s Eurasia senior officer.