EU SUPPORT TO SERBIA FOR DEVELOPMENT AND MANAGEMENT OF PUBLIC POLICY

In mid-December 2021 the eConsultation portal was launched to facilitate public participation in developing and monitoring the implementation of public policy – this is a platform that provides timely information to the public about the policy-making process and is a communication channel for their participation in policy making.

The EU4PAR project and other international projects have supported steps towards greater public involvement in the policy-making process. Under these initiatives, the German-Serbian development cooperation project Support to Public Administration Reform in the EU Accession Process implemented by GIZ has provided support for the development of a specific tool – the eConsultation portal. This has included a long period of talks with civil society organizations and bodies of the public administration. We spoke with GIZ project manager Nikola Đurić about the platform and the ways in which civil society and the public can be involved in creating public policies.

Public participation in creating and monitoring the implementation of public policies is important, but how can the quality of public consultations be ensured – both the process and the content?

Timely announcements of opportunities for participation, a culture of openness in considering constructive proposals for improving policies, allocating the necessary time and staff for thorough management of such processes, and vigilant monitoring of the quality of work in this area by all public administration bodies are elements of an approach that would guarantee that the consultative process creates public policies that respond to the needs of citizens.

What is on the platform, what are its basic elements?

The basis of eConsultation consists of individual processes of citizen participation in the development of specific public policy documents and regulations. In such a process, the public has the opportunity to follow all stages of drafting regulations – from the beginning of work on the document and the publication of the starting points, through consultations and public debates, to the publication of the final draft and text of the adopted document. Besides this, a special part of the portal provides insight and joint work between the administration and the public on documents relevant to the Open Government Partnership.

What format and model of consultation does the platform support?

Besides the advantage of uniting all consultative processes and public debates in one place, the portal allows the public to apply for participation in announced events or working groups for drafting acts. In addition, work on the text of a certain document, an important element of the process, has been significantly improved. Anybody interested will be able to give their suggestions through a simple series of steps, which will then be available to all other participants, together with the response of the responsible administrative body.

Who can use the platform and how?

In addition to the public, who may act on their own behalf or on behalf of an organization or group they represent, bodies of the public administration will certainly play an important role on the portal. Moderators in bodies that present work on a specific document to the public have one role, but besides these, officials in bodies responsible for monitoring the quality of public participation will participate in the process in the role of evaluators. They will address objections to the authorities as required, and have insight into statistical indicators of the quality of public participation in the policy-making process.

How can the public be motivated to use the platform and whose task is it?

Active participation of the public in such processes will depend to a large extent on the way in which the administrative bodies react to proposals that are purposeful and well prepared. Public trust must be won over a period of years, but it is easily lost.

Experts of the two projects will cooperate on the further development of instruments and processes that should ensure the quality of public participation in consultations, preparation and monitoring of public policies by supporting various aspects of consultations – what do you see as the greatest challenges in this work?

Although the legal framework adopted so far is fragmented in a range of documents that govern this field, it is a good basis for opening the process of creating public policy. Our project is committed to establishing a quality management mechanism in the field of public participation. At the same time, this is a key challenge in the coming period and it will depend on the will of the public administration to assign responsibility and react in cases where it can be seen that the public is involved only sporadically or pro forma. eConsultation provides insight into performance indicators, but it is necessary to react when those indicators show weak results.

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