CIVIC CHARTER Zabrcanec: The government will be a partner of civic initiatives!

“It is pleasing to be with civil activists, with representatives of civil society. On my own behalf and on behalf of the Government, I support the Civic Charter for people’s participation in shaping society, and we explicitly stand as an institution and as a Government in defense and in support of the concept of people’s participation”, stated Marjan Zabrcanec, advisor to the Prime Minister of Republic of Macedonia at CIVIL’s conference “Civic Charter – The Global Framework for People’s Participation”.

He emphasized that even while this political structure that is in power now, was in opposition, there was an active struggle for providing citizen participation in the creating of policies and in decision-making, adding that it is especially important to know that one of the key expectations of the citizens, and thus one of the key priorities of the Government is – to make the institutions a service of the citizens.

“Together with economic growth, with the concept – One society, with the Euro-Atlantic integrations, with the reforms in the institutions, I would say that the fifth, no less important, priority of the Government is to ensure that institutions are in the function of the citizens or a service to the citizens. In order to ensure those reforms, it is necessary to hear the opinion of the citizens. I would say that this is the first determinant, and in order to be able to take into consideration the opinion of the citizens, the Government has to provide channels to hear the citizens. Therefore, primarily, the Sector for public relations of the Government, but also the Prime Minister, as carriers of that concept, along with the other institutions and ministries, have embarked upon the realization of the program or concept of – Open Government. This concept has three segments. First, to provide a democratic media environment in Republic of Macedonia. Second, to provide active or progressive transparency. Third, the Government to be accessible to all who access it”, said Zabrcanec.

He reminded that in terms of providing a democratic media environment, that government advertising has been canceled, with the purpose of preventing this, or any other future government from using the media in propaganda purposes, in spreading lies and manipulations against the citizens.

“This not only enables a democratic media environment, but also a lot of funds have been saved. For comparison, in 2015, 5.5 million euros, citizens’ money, had been spent for PR, for propaganda, public relations, marketing and PR agencies. Today, if we take a projected period from June 2017 to June 2018, the amount that the Government uses for communication with the citizens is ten time lower than the previously mentioned” stressed Zabrcanec.

“In terms of active transparency, I will remind that minutes of the Government sessions are regularly published. The Government’s communication service regularly responds to all questions of the media. Regular weekly press-conferences and briefings have been introduced after each government session, as an obligation of the spokesperson and of the Sector for public relations, every Wednesday…” said Zabrcanec.

“All of the personal official expenses of ministries, deputy ministries and state secretaries have been published, and this is the first phase. I want to announce that the list of officials, of those with public functions who will be publishing their expenses will expand. This means that other echelons of the government will have to assume this obligation. And I announce that the Government will offer this concept of active transparency, as well as the tool for accountability, also to the local self-governments and to the other levels of government in this country. We do not have the jurisdiction there to impose or to make a decision, however, as a concept of active transparency, as a methodology, we will offer it to other levels of government as well. In terms of accessibility, you know that the Government declassified much of the information that was previously classified, in order to enable all interested citizens, think tanks, organizations and communities to have easier access to information. The area of accessibility also includes precisely what we are talking about today, establishing institutional channels for a systematic cooperation of the Government, the institutions with civil society organizations or with representatives of citizens”, emphasized Zabrcanec.

In the area of accessibility and cooperation with citizens, and with the purpose of enabling citizen participation, he announced that a Council for cooperation with civil society organizations is in the final phase of formation, in which 16 representatives of civil society and 14 representatives of institutions will be members.

“To recall, previously there was a process of mutual voting. Meaning that representatives of civil society organizations were selected independently by the organizations. They mutually implemented

a voting system. This Council for cooperation between the Government and civil society is expected to be officially formed at one of the next sessions of the Government. We are in the process of creating a directory of civil society organizations. We have already sent a request from the Government to the Central Registry, for them to submit to us information on all the registered civil society organizations, so that we can prepare a directory according to thematic areas and to make this directory available to all the institutions. And whenever there is a need for a consultation or for carrying out any discussion, to be able to submit the information to the appropriate civil society organizations. We are announcing that sometime from the end of April, we will start with regular thematic open days. This will probably be on every last Friday of the month. It will be a standardized thematic activity in which there will be Government consultations with civil society on various topics. So far, such consultations have been conducted on numerous topics”, stated Zabrcanec.

He added that they created the agenda for transparency, the agenda for open Government with civil society. “Consultations were carried out with civil society organizations that advocate transparency, that are active in the fight against corruption, and with media organizations. At the same time, consultations were being held with all youth organizations in regards to the government session that was held last week, dedicated to youth issues, where upon the initiatives of youth organizations, the Government brought concrete conclusions”, said Zabrcanec.

“Finally, a process of opening a public debate in regards to the needs of amending the Law on Citizens’ Associations and Foundations is in progress, an initiative that began from several civil society organizations, above all, associated in regards to the blueprint initiative. However, there was also a need, or argument about the need of amending this law in other analyses as well, both international and domestic. This public debate will also be opened, and the Ministry of Justice has also been mobilized, in order to see, primarily, the need and in which segments strengthening and improving of the contents is necessary, so that it can be in the function of providing an enabling environment for citizen participation and an opportunity for citizens and civil society organizations to participate in the shaping of society, as the Charter itself stipulates”, he added.

“I would like to encourage all civil society organizations to approach the Government. We might not always be able to respond to everyone on time, but we are open to participating in these kind of events and to being a partner of any civil initiative that comes to us”, said Zabrcanec.

Мaja Ivanovska

Camera: Аtanas Petrovski

Editing: Еrmin Klimenta

Photo: Biljana Jordanovska

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