On the 14th February 2020, the Open Government Partnership Secretariat, Integrity Watch Afghanistan, the Democratic Development Organization for Afghanistan, and the Training Human Rights Association for Afghan Women (THRA) jointly organized a conference to initiate the implementation of the National Action Plan (NAP-II) of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), in Kabul.
NAP–II consists of 18 commitments made by the Afghan government agencies which should be implemented by 2021. The directors of different departments, local representatives, and village leaders from Kabul province and members of civil society attended the event. Afghanistan joined OGP, a global initiative, in 2017, and shortly afterwards created its first National Action Plan (NAP-I) with thirteen commitments.
Some of the commitments included in NAP-II included citizens’ participation in municipality budgeting processes at provincial level, electronic collection of national incomes, development and support to public councils to monitor performances of schools, initiating public monitoring to ensure the quality of medicines and health centers, amendment of Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG)’s regulations, implementation of the Access to Information Law, developing regulations to ensure transparency of beneficial ownership of companies, the monitoring of high-level appointments of police at the Ministry of Interior by the civil society and computerizing the legislative processes.
During the event, the Director of the OGP Secretariat Mr. Khalil-ur-Rahman Mathawakil said, “The National Action Plan–II has commitments which can bring transformative change and will facilitate a conducive environment for citizens’ access to information.” He also promised that the commitments made by the various directorates to implement these within the next two years would be followed up.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, said, “Achieving open governance is possible only when we fully believe in it and establish effective mechanisms for meaningful public participation.” He criticized the government for not doing enough to ensure public participation in the budget process, especially at the municipality level. He added that the NAP I process was a painful one since it consumed a lot of time and energy but did not result in much change. Nevertheless, he welcomed the secretariat’s collaborative and constructive approach during the NAP II development. “If properly implemented, the NAP II commitments related to public participation can bring transformative change in how governance is conducted in Afghanistan,” he added.
Ms. Roshan Sairran, Director of THRA, said, “Increasing transparency, accountability, and public participation cannot be achieved merely by utterances, instead, we should put these principles to practice” She added that achieving the commitments made, required active participation of women in NAP-II’s implementation processes.
The conference was followed by a panel discussion and a question-and-answer session in which directors from the ministries of health, education and Kabul Municipality delivered their speeches, county councilors and local elders of Kabul province spoke on behalf of audiences and a number of government officials uttered assurances to implement their respective portion of the NAP-II commitments.
In the last session of the event, people presented their recommendations and ideas for implementation of NAP-II. Whereas, some participants criticized service delivery departments of the government. They said that the departments do not deliver on their promises and were not responsive to the people. A number of Maliks and elders complained against the insufficient time allotted to them to speak and as a protest abandoned the venue. At the end, Executive Director of Integrity Watch promised the audiences of organizing three more separate conferences for dialogue among local representatives, Maliks, district elders of Kabul province and government officials.
NAP-II had been created through an inclusive public participation process as more than 600 public representatives had been consulted in the formulation of the plan across 30 provinces. People had proposed more than 400 commitments to the technical committee of NAP-II to be accommodated in the plan. Therefore, the broad participation of the public in the commencing event created the opportunity to channel the public concerns and issues to the government agencies for the purpose of effective implementation of NAP-II.
OGP is an international initiative that started in 2012. More than 75 countries have joined this initiative during the last eight years and created a number of commitments for betterment of the governance and have implemented some of them so far. OGP has four principles: Transparency, Accountability, Public Participation and Use of Technology in government service delivery. On behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, Mr. Yama Yari, the ex-Minister of Transport, submitted the membership application of Afghanistan to the OGP Global Summit in December 2016 and the OGP accepted it.