Project implementation period: February 2022 – July 2023
The project starts from the lack of coherence and transparency in the development of public policies at the local level, which is correlated with the lack of politically assumed, visible initiatives aimed at opening data to the public in key sectors such as public investment, energy/public heating, party funding or health. Recent political events have shown that there is a reluctance on the part of political parties to open data in sensitive sectors, although there is a public demand. At the same time, we aim to develop the capacity of interested citizens to understand how the local administration works, especially in terms of budgets and public procurement, and to drive greater transparency in more communities across the country.
The aim of the project is to increase the quality of public policies by consolidating good governance in the public sector at the local level, citizen monitoring, legislative clarity and practical implementation in the collection and publication of data of public interest.
EFOR will develop a watchdog guide for monitoring the administration, based on our own experience and dialogue with partners and local communities. It will be distributed to journalists and civic organizations and presented through a series of 6 trainings for civic groups in the country. The trainings will take place in Bucharest, Constanța, Iași, Timișoara, Reșița and Cluj. Civic groups will be involved in local monitoring activities. We will also work with teachers and students, with whom we will experience some of the topics in the guide and with whom we will make worksheets for the implementation of these concepts in the classroom. The activities will be complemented by an information campaign on the benefits of opening up public data.
EFOR will release a series of guides and reports on topics such as monitoring the administration from the budgetary and procurement perspective, evidence-based public policies (for local elected officials) and the need to increase data publishing and the development of public policies based on them.
EFOR will work with journalists, civic activists, NGOs, teachers, citizens and will focus on youth involvement. Partners will support EFOR in identifying local needs, beneficiaries, facilitating the relationship with local public authorities and contributing to the development of written materials.
What issues addressed by the project
The Nations in Transit Romania reports in recent years show a decrease in the responsibility of local authorities towards citizens, but also a degradation of open government at the local level. Municipalities are responsible for local public services, but citizens have little information available or easily accessible on how these institutions operate and how they spend public funds. The local press constantly reveals cases of corruption regarding the acquisitions or contracts made by the municipal companies in the main cities of the country. Some municipalities are opaque in their relationship with the citizens and refuse to open dialogue on issues that are essential to the community, such as local budgets or investments of local interest. At the same time, there is a public interest in holding the institutions accountable, but few citizens have the knowledge and initiative to take the next step.
There is a tendency to reduce access to public data, recently manifested by certain amendments proposed to the Law 544/2001 on freedom of access to public interest information. Moreover, public policies are based too little on evidence, data, statistics (evidence based policy), which determines the existence of a governance with unpredictable effects.
In its 2021 Annual Report, EFOR identified inefficient methods of collecting and publishing data used by several institutions, including in a state of emergency. At the same time, the degree of implementation of Government Open Partnership commitments is low, some of them reaching only 10% after 2 years. There are prominent public initiatives that have called for the opening of data in key areas such as health. Thus, there is a clear need to continue efforts to put on the public agenda the need to open up data in key sectors, including as a source for effective, data-driven public policies.
Only 20% of citizens are involved in volunteering and even fewer in civic activities; the proportion is even lower among young people (e.g. high school students). Young people believe that local authorities are not interested in solving community problems, which discourages public participation.
What we aim for – objectives
- Creating a local government monitoring tool based on consultations with beneficiaries from several communities and distributing it to civically involved actors.
- Development of civic groups in six localities in the country that are able to understand how the local administration works, how to develop public policies and to monitor the activity of local public institutions for a period of at least two months.
- Organize a public advocacy campaign to accelerate the publication of open data in key sectors, in collaboration with relevant public institutions and the civil society, in order to develop more effective and evidence-based public policies.
Our beneficiaries and partners
- Citizens interested in good governance
- NGOs, civic groups that want to strengthen their monitoring / advocacy capacity;
- Teachers and students;
- Locally elected officials and civil servants – town halls and local councils
What we will do, in brief:
- Develop a guidebook for monitoring the activity of public institutions from the budgetary and procurement perspective
- Develop a public policy guidebook for local elected officials
- Implement a help desk during the project to support citizens in civic initiatives. This service will answer any questions or requests regarding the use of the two guidebooks for anyone interested, and a team consisting of a jurist, experts in energy, public administration and public investment will provide specialized support to participants in local civic initiatives.
- Organize a series of 4 public presentations related to topics in the guide, open to anyone interested.
- Organize 6 trainings for journalists, students, civic activists, teachers, local elected officials and other interested people.
- Implement a number of 6 monitoring projects of some public institutions.
- Organize 4 trainings for teachers and students on some topics comprised in the guidebooks, adapted to the age and developing worksheets for the implementation of the concepts in class together with the teachers and students participating in the trainings.
- Implement an online communication campaign to highlight the importance of publishing open data and to promote project activities.
- Develop a monitoring policy brief that reflects good practice or the need for improvement.
- Organize a closing event of the project in which the report on the monitoring of public institutions will be presented.
What will be the effects of the project
We aim to build and strengthen local communities of formal and informal civic actors, connecting civic networks from different areas, coalitioned for a common goal – addressing a local policy issue and reflecting the impact on the way public policies are developed.
The changes that civic groups are proposing at the local level can have medium or long-term effects by improving the administrative act at the local level.
The developed guidelines will remain an easily accessible online resource and allow flexibility in future adaptation if needed.
The implementation in the high school classes of the topics included in the two guides allows the training of civically involved young people who can be involved in the future in improving the local administration.
The project is implemented by Expert Forum, in partnership with:
Romanian Housing Association Casa Plus – Bucharest
The general goal of Casa Plus is to strengthen civic values and social justice, by sustainable development of the housing fund used by owners and tenants, by protecting the environment in the areas where the association operates, by obtaining and maintaining optimal housing conditions for citizens from a group of condominiums, neighborhood, area or community, as well as by increasing the efficiency of housing/condominium administration.
Euroland Banat Association – Reșița
The Euroland Banat Association was founded in 2001 and has as major directions environmental protection, tourism and cultural promotion, education and youth policies. The organization aims to promote the socio-economic, cultural, educational, ecological, civic and tolerant development in the Banat cultural space, in Romania and internationally. An important component is the advocacy and civic actions, the organization being involved in campaigns to save some urban green areas, stopping the “grooming” practiced by the local administration, stopping deforestation around the city and national parks in the county, saving emblematic buildings, of the cultural and industrial heritage of Banat, of some historical railways, etc. The Euroland Banat Association constantly carries out educational, awareness and information activities in the field of environment and sustainable development, cultural and industrial heritage, organizes trips and meetings and debates on various topics.
The Center for Civic Resources Association – Constanța
The Center for Civic Resources was established in 2006 to support, promote and develop civic awareness and initiatives, in the spirit of participatory democracy, at the individual, community and regional levels. Through its programs, it is close to citizens, initiative groups and organizations, through specific and long-term advocacy counseling. Specifically, the CRC provides assistance when guidance is needed to address a variety of community issues through public participation. Influencing public decisions is often a difficult process, but expressing citizens’ rights is an effective way for the voices of communities to be heard and respected by decision-makers.
“Mircea Eliade” National College Resita
The college was established in 1972. On September 1, 2013 the Theoretical High School “Mircea Eliade” Resita and Gymnasium School no. 12 Resita formed a single school unit called “Mircea Eliade” National College Resita. Expert Forum has collaborated with the high school in the past within the School for Democracy program.
Project implemented by
The project is implemented by Expert Forum Association in partnership with the Romanian Housing Association Casa Plus, Euroland Banat, the Civic Resource Center and the “Mircea Eliade” National College in Resita and benefits from a 149,858 euro grant from Active Citizens Fund Romania, programme funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants Grants 2014 -2021. The content of this website does not necessarily reflect the official position of the EEA and Norway Grants 2014-2021; for more information visit www.eeagrants.org. More details about Active Citizens Fund Romania are available at www.activecitizensfund.ro. ”Working together for a green, competitive and inclusive Europe”