Beirut, 05 October 2018 (Communication and Information Unit) – Achieving “open government” in the Arab region was the focus of a recent workshop held at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut, where the regional commission’s experts presented tools and actions to develop and implement initiatives in the Arab region, especially related to open data and participation.
The three-day workshop, held from 25 to 27 September, gathered 37 government officials from the Arab region, in addition to regional and international experts.
This work on open government is one segment of a three-part Development Account project entitled "Institutional development for better service delivery towards the achievement of the sustainable development goals in Western Asia" which was launched by the Commission in 2016.
The open government project aims at building the capacity of ESCWA member States so officials can utilize emerging technologies effectively and efficiently to enhance transparency and accountability, and to adopt a more participatory approach to governance.
The workshop, its objective and topics are in direct support of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, especially Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which calls to “promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”.
“It is important to use technology to promote development and enhance governmental processes, accountability, transparency and involvement of all citizens in decision-making for inclusive, economic and social development in the region, as well as to bridge the gap between the region and the rest of the world,” said the ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary for Programme, Mounir Tabet, in his opening remarks.
The workshop presented participants with the different tools, options and actions that can be used to develop, improve, and/or implement open government, open data and participation strategy and initiatives in the Arab region based on the ESCWA Policy Framework for Strengthening Open Government in the Arab Region.
"Open data is a pillar of open government that helps generate jobs through the creation of value-added services using datasets released by public services and helps build citizen trust through publicizing critical information related to government policies, projects and spending,” explained the Director of the e-Government Unit at the Presidency of the Government in Tunisia, Khaled Sellami.
Meanwhile, the Chief of the Innovation Section at ESCWA, Nibal Idlebi, said the Commission is seeking “to unify the concepts and adoption of an open government policy framework in the Arab region” through the project.
She also highlighted the importance of regional cooperation “for the exchange of experiences and success stories in the development of legal and regulatory framework of open government, and for sharing technological solutions for open data to foster citizen engagement in decision-making.”
ESCWA recognizes the intricacies of implementing the open government concept in the Arab region as it requires changes to long-standing systems, to the way governments think, and to the way citizens perceive their responsibility and role in governance. To support these changes, ESCWA developed an open government framework built on existing systems using a four-phased model (openness, participation, collaboration and engagement). It can be used by government institutions and ministries to systematically introduce and develop open government.