DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE

Democratic governance is when institutions, policies, and laws function according to democratic processes and norms. These can appear democratic in nature, but unless these structures are applied and implemented through a responsive and democratic system, citizens might lose trust in these institutions. To establish trust from citizens, these democratic institutions must perform with the highest level of transparency, integrity, and accountability. Successful and well-functioning democratic governance manifests through intra-institutional strengthening, public participation, and transparency. Governance is processes that influence institutions’ behavior and, in turn, facilitates citizen interaction.

Intra-Institutional Strengthening

Strong institutions are crucial pillars to strengthen and sustain democratic processes and norms. Political parties are key actors regarding facilitating inclusive participation where citizens can articulate their needs and demand responsiveness. The Civil Service is another key actor as their behavior influence how citizens are treated, considered, and centered. This means ensuring civil servants know their civic and democratic mandate and obligations, including setting the tone for democratic governance. Regulatory and oversight bodies are central in the maintenance of the standards of democratic practices. This means defining basic democratic processes for governance and political institutions, including ensuring responsiveness, control of power, and responsible use of resources. At the Oslo Center, we aim to assist sub-national governments, regulatory bodies, and political parties in their institution-building. Institutions at the sub-national level must foster dialogue, stability, and peace through participation and consultation, as they tend to be the first line of contact with citizens.

Public Participation

Public participation is a key component of democratic governance. For citizens to feel ownership of and trust in the policies of the government, institutions must be driven by inclusion, transparency, and accountability. To ensure accountable democratic governance, the executive part of subnational governments plays a critical role as they implement policies and programs. To ensure an open government, subnational executives must engage citizens in decision-making through public participation, including responding effectively to citizens’ needs. The most important aspect of public participation is the emphasis of public’s sovereign power. Citizens delegate this power to their preferred government through democratic elections. It is therefore crucial to ensure that the public’s needs are met in decision-making processes. The Oslo Center aims at working with political institutions to develop responsive and efficient public participation policies, mechanisms, and processes, as well as working with political institutions in the dissemination of critical information on decision making processes to the public.

Transparency

Transparency is a cornerstone in democratic governance, as it gives citizens the opportunity to demand information and accountability. Transparency is a crucial part of mitigating corruption and promoting accountability. Institutions have a key role in ensuring transparency. Whilst discharging their roles and responsibilities, it is important that regulatory and oversight bodies ensure that political institutions are transparent in their structures and operations. Political parties in parliament/party caucus have a responsibility regarding transparency. The parliament has an oversight role in ensuring transparency in government. Additionally, the members of parliament’s representation of citizens are the foundation of inclusive governance hence the need to hold governments accountable and lobby the interest of the citizens. At the Oslo Center, we support institutions to facilitate transparency through reforms, as well as reviewing communications strategies to bolster transparency and accountability through inclusive information sharing
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Transparency

Transparency is a cornerstone in democratic governance, as it gives citizens the opportunity to demand information and accountability. Transparency is a crucial part of mitigating corruption and promoting accountability. Institutions have a key role in ensuring transparency. Whilst discharging their roles and responsibilities, it is important that regulatory and oversight bodies ensure that political institutions are transparent in their structures and operations. Political parties in parliament/party caucus have a responsibility regarding transparency. The parliament has an oversight role in ensuring transparency in government. Additionally, the members of parliament’s representation of citizens are the foundation of inclusive governance hence the need to hold governments accountable and lobby the interest of the citizens. At the Oslo Center, we support institutions to facilitate transparency through reforms, as well as reviewing communications strategies to bolster transparency and accountability through inclusive information sharing

Projects

In October 2020, the partnership between the Oslo Center, Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), and the Open Government Partnership (OGP) was established. The NMS, in collaboration with the Oslo Center, will strengthen the budget process and enhance service delivery, including under-represented groups in slum and low-income areas in policy decision making process. The Oslo Center, as a civil society member of OGP Local, will offer technical assistance to NMS on conceptualizing and developing mechanisms of citizen participation, development of a citizen feedback mechanism, and how to simplify budgets for a better citizen understanding. The Oslo Center acknowledges the importance of civil society and government collaboration to create reforms that respond to the needs of citizens. OGP grants the platform to do this, so that the Oslo Center can partake in the support of Nairobi Metropolitan Services in strengthening its democratic governance, including creating space for citizen participation.
In partnership with the Norwegian Christian Democratic Party, supported by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), a project with the Parliament of Sri Lanka was initiated in 2018. The project focused on strengthening consensus and coalition building in the Parliament. Key activities included a follow-up mission to Colombo led by Executive Chair of the Oslo Center, Kjell Magne Bondevik, and former Minister of Petroleum and Energy from the Christian Democratic Party, Einar Steensnæs. During the delegation’s visit in Oslo, the delegation members met with representatives from various political parties to identify valuable and parallel lessons from the Norwegian context in consensus and coalition building. The government and opposition positions in consensus and coalition building were prioritized ensuring that all delegation members were introduced to topics relevant to their daily work in the Parliament. An in-depth workshop was conducted with members of parliament who participated in the visit to Oslo, addressing the continued need for cooperation and collaboration in the parliament across political issues and party lines. Discussions during the visit also touched on ruling coalitions and ways of reaching compromise in challenging political situations. The Norwegian Helsinki Committee/the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was currently our sole donors for our engagement in the Kyrgyz Republic.
From 2015-2017 the Oslo Center and Nepal Law Society was providing technical assistance to support the implementation of the newly promulgated constitution in Nepal. We supported Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs in developing a constitutional mapping with over 230 laws identified, hosted outreach programs with the aim of informing people about the status of the constitution through our mapping, drafted some key laws on fundamental rights that shows how laws can be made inclusive independent of the current controversial constitution and training political parties on internal democracy and coalition building. By providing technical assistance and support to institutions, political parties and civil society, the Oslo Center´s aim was to support inclusive and democratic structures in Nepal. The constitutional mapping was launched in January 2017. Elections on local, provincial and national level was highly prioritized, and thereby laws involving these issues were recommended to be addressed first. It involved over 350 laws that needed to be amended or drafted from starch. The mapping was also meant to help inform the public, stakeholders, civil society, and the media about the implementation of the constitution
In the Kyrgyz Republic, the Oslo Center, in cooperation with the Norwegian Helsinki Committee, assisted in efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and practices in the Kyrgyz Republic. This was achieved through workshops for members of the Kyrgyzstani parliament, Jogurku Kenesh, with the objective of assisting members of parliament to obtain more competence and expertise in law-making. The long-term goal for this work was to achieve a responsible parliament that are passing laws in compliance with international conventions and agreements. From 2014 three workshops were held on topics related to good governance, human rights, how to draft legislation in line with international conventions, develop strong and independent institutions, functional coalition governments and opposition etc. In May 2015, we held a workshop for a working group in the Ministry of Education working on a new curriculum on the history of religion for primary and secondary schools. A follow-up workshop with this working group took place in Bishkek in October 2015, in cooperation with NHC. This time we brought Ingvill Thorson Plesner from the Norwegian Centre for Human Rights, focusing more on how to develop curricula and draft a textbook on history of religion. Through our meetings and workshops we have built trust and established a constructive relationship with out partners in Birshkek, in particular with the President´s Office.
Political parties and organizations need to have the capacity to both compete and cooperate. “Political Party Dialogue: A Facilitator’s Guide” – the ultimate guidebook for organizing or taking part in political dialogues. The purpose of the guide is to explore the party dimension in dialogue facilitation and in particular focus on political party dialogue mechanisms and their various designs, capture practical and political dilemmas faced during political party dialogue and offer a succinct set of key considerations useful for practitioners on the ground. Political competition is at the center stage in many political and electoral systems with the election being seen as a major event. Often international democracy assistance has focused on “free and fair elections”. As much as political institutions work in the middle of competition for power and influence it is equally importance to appreciate and acknowledge that a thriving democracy also need political cooperation whether it is for stability reasons (trust), for agreeing on the issues of national importance or the reform agenda. The Oslo Center is a key partner with International IDEA in a concept development focusing on political party dialogue mechanisms. The first draft of a guide was identified in 2011 looking at international experiences as well as the concept itself. The Oslo Center also works with academic contributions on themes such as political party identity and cooperation between practical crafting of politics in political parties and parliament.
The project focused on key principles for good management of natural resources. Missing legislation, corruption and clear violations of human rights are very often linked to the exploitation of natural resources. Based on Norwegian experiences with management of oil and gas reserves on Norway’s continental shelf, the Oslo Center provided tangible contributions to a better, more prudent and transparent management of mineral resources in relevant countries, primarily in Asia. In 2016 the Oslo Center conducted three workshops (in Mongolia, Myanmar and Kyrgyz Republic) – in collaboration with the President and Foreign Ministry of Mongolia – highlighting different topics of good management of natural resources. The aim of the overall project was to support selected countries in their struggle to improve laws and regulations of natural resources and to eradicate corruption. There are plenty of temptations and pitfalls along the way to develop a responsible and just extraction of natural resources. However, at the end of this road, a golden opportunity shows up: to transform mineral wealth into economic growth and improved standard of living covering the whole population leading to political trust and stability. The countries that have participated in the project, are very different with respect to both the system of government as well as the nature of deposits and composition of natural resources – the project was tailored thereafter.

Key Areas of Impact

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• Political and electoral laws are developed and/or revised.

• Operationalization documents, incl. manuals, guides, handbooks, check-lists etc developed and disseminated for compliance and practical implementation of the legal framework.

• Published Political Party Dialogue: A Facilitator’s Guide

• Mechanisms and platforms for intra-institutional dialogue and consultation established and strengthened

Latest Updates

The Oslo Center has had the pleasure of joining OGP through supporting Nairobi Metropolitan Services in strengthening democratic governance and citizen participation in Nairobi, Kenya. The OGP Action Plan for Nairobi County – Planned to be launched by the end of the year. Stay tuned!

Open Government Partnership (OGP)

Today, 78 countries are working together with civil society organizations to develop solutions fostering better conditions and opportunities for citizens across the globe. Throughout the years, OGP has hit a number of milestones and achievements, including reforms fighting against corruption and enhancing citizen participation.