Transparency and Democracy. Meeting in Tbilisi
Although Personal Democracy Forum CEE 2017 took place in April, its impact is not limited to this date. The ePaństwo Foundation, thanks to the support received from the National Endowment for Democracy, moved to Tbilisi for two days in June to hold debates on transparency, open data and democracy with experts from the region.
During the first day, our discussions were focused around the topics presented at PDF CEE 2017:
– Democracy as a Buzzword
It seems that we define democracy in contradictory ways. Although we keep using similar words to describe it. Perhaps they do not mean anything anymore?
– Revolution | Evolution | Stagnation
From enthusiasm through grassroot work to powerlessness. How can we learn from experiences of introducing the change?
– Creation | Manipulation | Responsibility
When states are ineffective, citizens take matters into their own hands. What sort of challenges do we have to face in contemporary politics?
– Maintenance | Sustainability | Innovation
Hopelessness and insecurity are becoming the most popular companions of CSOs. What environment should be created to expel those words from our vocabulary?
In each of the topics, we put emphasis on the impact our or other projects have on governments and civil society, how we measure this impact and what kind of activities are needed. Each and every one of us is working in the similar thematic area but is specialized in slightly different fields (i.e. public procurement, fighting corruption, transparency, rule of law etc.) and political environments, therefore we could get a broad perspective of the region.
We had a pleasure to work with a wide spectrum of activists:
- Palina Brodik (OPORA, UKR)
- Dmitry Palamarchuk (Transparency International, UKR)
- Maria Sereda (Prague Civil Society, CZE)
- Natalia Petrova (Memorial, RUS)
- Viktor Nestulia (Transparency International, UKR)
- Igbal Safarov (Utrech University, AZE/NL)
- Suren Deheryan (Ampop.am data-driven news website, ARM)
- Pavol Lacko (Aliancia Fair-Play, SK)
- Lina Mačiulė (Transparency International, LT)
- Aleksandra Kamińska (ePaństwo Foundation, PL)
- Krzysztof Izdebski (ePaństwo Foundation, PL)
- Jason Addie (ForSet, GEO)
- Teona Turashvili (IDFI, GEO)
- Nino Macharashvili (ForSet/DCN, GEO)
Later, we summarized our discussion formulating three points:
There are different systems but democracy is the widest structure – based on such values like the rule of law. People should be able to participate in the process of shaping democracies of their countries.
- is an idea: everyone tries to enforce governments to be as close to the ideal democracy as possible. Governments should operate with the rule of law and be accountable.
- is a tool for decision making: in democratic systems, everyone is equal.
- reflects the idea of cooperation.
- is freedom, co-creation and co-governance.
Requirements for democracy:
- Personal level
- Community level
- Government level (public trust)
At the end we agreed that it looks like liberal democracy is the ideal and desirable system.
The questions are:
Do people really use our tools? Does our work make real impact? Is it possible that we failed (we – CSOs and citizens)? What can we do better?
- NGOs should be as transparent as possible (public registries of the organization) – if you’re fighting for transparency, be the role model of a transparent NGO.
- Be as participatory as possible.
- Ensure the information flow between CSOs and media.
- Keep integrity of beliefs within your organization.
- Secure your NGO’s internal capacity.
- Increase impact by showing positive examples.
- Inspire and empower people, make them believe that democracy can work.
- Use emotion, make democracy sexy.
We have to look from the perspective of time. We can’t expect rapid changes. It is often that we need more time to see the impact. Look at Ukraine. We can complain about lot of things but if one see what was there 5 or 10 years ago, the change is enormous. Let us follow this track.
- Media don’t use our information and they don’t trust NGOs, therefore we need to fight with the stereotypes around NGOs.
- We should work with new generations to show them that NGOs’ work affects their life.
- Citizens can’t relate to what NGOs talk about, therefore they should find the language to effectively communicate the impact of new laws on their lives.
- NGOs need to think how they can help citizens understand emerging problems and find practical solutions.
- NGOs are disconnected: they should find their place in the broad society and work on mutual relations.
The second day of the meeting was devoted to project presentations and we had a considerable Georgian audience at the venue.
Giorgi Lomtadze (Institute for Development of Freedom of Information) presented the Transparent Public Procurement Rating. The project aims to, first, elaborate a common standard for assessing public procurement legislation in different countries, then use this standard to assess the implementation of the legislation for the purpose of identifying actual problems and laying ground for their reform and development
Teona Turashvili (Institute for Development of Freedom of Information) showed opendata.ge Public Information Database.
Maria Sereda (Prague Civil Society) discussed various activities of this Prague-based regional organization including supporting journalists in the Caucasus and organizing UNLOCK conference.
Igbal Safarov (Utrecht University School of Governance) spoke about his research on Utilization on open government data: A systematic literature review of types, conditions, effects and users.
Nino Macharashvili (ForSet, Digital Communication Network) shared plans for Data Festival Tbilisi that will take place in November 2017.
Suren Derehyan (Ampop Media, Journalists for the Future) presented the Ampop Media portal where Armenian journalists are working on the content using new technologies, data mining and analyzing as well as infographics to approach as many citizens as possible.
Palo Lacko (Aliancia Fair-play) talked about Otvorene Zmluvy the portal which enables citizens and journalists to analyze contracts covered from public funds.
Eric Barrett, an independent data activist, suggested successful ways to communicate with infographics.
Viktor Nestulia (Transparency International Ukraine) presented ProZorro public procurement platform with a special emphasis on the DoZorro component which makes civic control over public money easier.
Lina Mačiulė (Transparency International Lithuanian Chapter) showed S.T.I.R.NA the portal which enables to discover information about the owners of their favourite media channels in a speedy and convenient manner.