The Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) held a round table “The Role of the Media in Encouraging Civic Participation in the Decision-Making Process”, with the aim of analyzing the current situation in the field of civic participation through the e-government portal and making a set of recommendations. administration in order to increase citizen participation in the decision-making process and raise awareness of the importance of participation in this process. The round table was held at the CentreVille Hotel, and was attended by representatives of civil society organizations and public administration.
The media have a key role to play in informing individuals, providing an inclusive and critical platform for public dialogue and debate, and creating policies that will benefit citizens. “By performing three types of roles, the media as disseminators of information on the decision-making process, a tool for education on the decision-making process and a platform for shaping public opinion can encourage citizen participation in the decision-making process,” said Marko Pejovic, program manager at CEDEM.
There is one special platform on the website www.euprava.me since 2015 – eParticipation and the obligation of the Ministry of Public Administration is to measure the extent to which institutions publish calls for public hearings, consultations, participation in working groups and public announcements, and on the other hand citizens’ comments . “The process is much more transparent than it used to be, because on the eParticipation portal you can see all calls and public announcements of public administration institutions, as well as reports that accompany them,” said Mirjana Begovic, head of the Directorate for eGovernment Development in the Ministry. public administration, and added that “in the period until 2018, there were only 4 comments on drafts and proposals of laws and strategic documents by citizens.” Since April 2019, the version of this site has been improved in function, and in 2019 there were 179 public calls, and in the first half of 2020 the number of public calls is already 169.
In 2020, only 1 comment was submitted through this platform, which is why the media and the civil sector need to inform citizens more through their communication channels, and on the other hand greater agility of public administration institutions because it happens that the report on public hearings is published. as a separate part, which further complicates the search. However, Begović stated that in the coming period, the Ministry of Public Administration will make additional efforts to educate officials and arrange available content on this portal, but also appealed to civil society representatives to subscribe to the publication of public calls, in order to receive information by e-mail. public hearings.
The e-petition portal will be improved in the coming period, because one of the most common problems in the previous period was referring petitions for issues that are not within the competence of the Government, which is why the improved version of this portal will include local self-government competencies.
Begović referred to the portal Sistem48, which is available in several cities of Montenegro, through which requests for the issuance of documents can be submitted, as well as reported problems within the competence of services, bodies and enterprises of local self-government.
The key challenges in the e-participation process are lack of interest of citizens, insufficient promotion, insufficient knowledge of IT tools, omissions in publishing procedures, while the recommendations are raising citizens’ awareness, educating citizens to use IT tools, promotion, education of public officials and administrators.
After the presentation of the representative of the Ministry of Public Administration, the participants of the round table contributed to the preparation of recommendations for the media and the Ministry of Public Administration.
Recommendations for the Ministry of Public Administration: 1) publication of documents must be accessible to all, with attention to ALT text; 2) work additionally on SEO optimization; 3) proactive role of the Ministry of Public Administration and promotion of services in cooperation with all relevant actors, with special emphasis on social networks; 4) websites or portals must be user friendly; 5) work further on the education of officials, especially those in charge of responding to comments; 5) greater respect for comments at public hearings will encourage citizens to participate.
Recommendations for the media: 1) proactive placement of information related to the decision-making process and promotion of mechanisms through which citizens can contribute to better public policies; 2) together with non-governmental organizations, research organizations or public administration institutions, may organize campaigns, gatherings and other activities that would raise awareness of the citizens about the decision-making process; 3) effective media intervention is a great opportunity to provide citizens with voluntary involvement in the decision-making process and thus improve the quality of strategic documents at national and local level and 4) the media should act as a catalyst to encourage citizen participation in this process. groups collected for activities.
The round table was held within the project “E-democracy: civic participation in the digital age” which is implemented by CEDEM with the support of the Ministry of Public Administration of Montenegro.