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Immunization of BiH population has not started yet – citizens worried

2021-04-05T10:03:42+02:0003/04/ 2021|News|

Bosnia and Herzegovina, like other developing countries, has a problem with the procurement of vaccines for immunization of the population against the COVID-19 virus. The high degree of decentralization of the state, a large number of levels of government, and a cumbersome administrative apparatus, lack of accountability of the government, non-functioning of the global COVAX system, are just some of the problems hindering the national immunization program in BiH. One of the key shortcomings is the lack of a state-level ministry of health, which would have a dedicated budget in such crisis situations, and coordination and monitoring of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

While some countries of the Western Balkans, more specifically the Republic of Serbia, in their vaccination program have the priority of solidarity with other countries in the region, where citizens of BiH and the region can register and be immunized free of charge, other countries, specifically BiH, are unable to offer an adequate set of measures and mechanisms for collective immunization of the population.

We asked the citizens of BiH on the platform www.mojauprava.ba within the WeBER 2.0 project – Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration – how worried they are because immunization has not yet begun – vaccination of the population at COVID-19 in BiH. 474 BiH citizens participated in our survey, and 87.55% of respondents expressed concern, while 4.85% of the respondents were neutral. A total of 7.6% of respondents did not express concern about the fact that immunization of the population with COVID-19 in BiH has not started.

What when immunization starts? Where is the public administration in all this?

A number of vaccines arrived in BiH last week via the COVAX global system, and collective and mass immunization of the population will begin. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a national immunization program for its citizens in accordance with modern policies and strategies that are primarily a reflection of the recommendations of the World Health Organization. Due to the high decentralization of the state, programs are adopted at lower levels of government. Currently, the Agency for Medicines, which participates in safety and in the procedures of regulation and approval of vaccines, has competencies in the entire immunization protocol of BiH, and there is a high degree of transparency.

The recommendations of the World Health Organization are that states should have strong mechanisms that enable informed decision-making on immunization priorities and the introduction of new program strategies and technologies.

At the moment, we do not have uniform protocols in BiH, nor a transparent way of informing citizens about the ways of immunization of the population in BiH. The state has not provided at any level a campaign to inform citizens about the vaccines that have arrived, side effects, vaccination plan and methods, priority groups, etc., all with the aim that as many citizens as possible participate in collective immunization. Ad hoc strategies are adopted at lower levels, for example at the level of the entities of the Federation of BiH, in one cantonal unit we have modern electronic forms, while in another citizens have to express their desire for vaccination again at the counter.

In order to respect the principles of transparency of open public administration and modern digitalized e-government, it is necessary for the BiH authorities to do the following:

  • Adopt uniform mechanisms that will be harmonized at the entire level of the state, with the participation of all levels of government. These mechanisms will ensure a unique set of measures for monitoring collective immunization in order to report as openly as possible to the domestic and international public. We currently have a large number of citizens who were vaccinated in the neighbouring Republic of Serbia, and we also have a large number of citizens who were vaccinated in the BiH entity of Republika Srpska, as well as individual cases of health workers out of 5,000 vaccines donated by the Republic of Serbia. All of these data do not exist in a single global immunization monitoring system.
  • The great distrust of citizens in the institutions of BiH is present in all surveys in BiH, and this is one of the indicators that the public administration must take into account. It is necessary to do a single campaign at all levels of government in order to inform the citizens and restore trust in government. This mistrust is especially caused by this case because the vaccines were not procured on time, and collective immunization has been promised since December last year. In order to make public administration more transparent, this should be one of its priorities. Also, in the world, including BiH, there is an infodemia, and a high degree of distrust in the safety of vaccines is to be expected, and for this reason the campaign is very much needed to raise awareness of the importance of collective immunization.
  • A unique e-government register is needed, which will enable transparency in vaccination, simplicity and protection of citizens from the possible spread of the corona virus by going to the counter. The quality and availability of these services are key factor in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the results of our research conducted last year as part of the WeBER 2.0 project, showed that the pandemic did not affect the fact that citizens in BiH and in our region are more likely to start using e-services.

4th April 2021.

Blog post by Mahir Sijamija, Project and Communications Officer at Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI BH)

Citizens First: Second Regional WeBER Conference

2021-03-03T11:36:39+01:0002/03/ 2021|News|

25th – 26th of February 2021 – Second Regional Conference Citizens First was held on the 25th and 26th of February. The conference was held in a hybrid format, with speakers from Serbia attending live, while speakers from the region and Europe joined online. The conference was physically attended by a limited number of people from Belgrade, in line with current epidemiological measures.

You can watch the recording of the first day of the conference here, and the recording of the second day can be found here.

Over two days, five panels and six parallel sessions were held, where participants from Serbia, Europe and the region had the opportunity to discuss the progress and challenges facing civil society in monitoring the public administration reform process, the efforts it is making would be more involved in creating a citizen-oriented administration.

The event was organized by European Policy Centre (CEP), in co-operation with five other regional organizations from the Western Balkans within the Think for Europe Network. The conference is part of WeBER2.0, a regional initiative dedicated to empowering civil society and citizens to be more willing to monitor and control the public administration reform process.

Highlights from the conference:

Tamara Srzentic, Minister of Public Administration of Montenegro, said in her introductory address that “when the community comes together to solve problems, anything is possible.” She added that it sometimes happens that policy planning and implementation are not well “connected”. “Implemented policies can be compared to a car that is loosely connected to the wheels – you will not get where you wanted and you will hurt many people on your way,” said Srzentic.

Srzentic said that policies should be made “starting with users”, that is, to have them in the foreground. “The government cannot do it alone – if you are part of the community, which we all are, we can help governments create a society that benefits us all,” Srzentic said.

“A well-functioning administration is one in which processes and institutions are created to meet the needs of society using the resources at their disposal”, said Myriam Ferran, Director for Strategy and Turkey at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations (DG NEAR).

We want to create a system based on a partnership that works in both directions – for both civil society and the administration. This relationship is sensitive because sometimes there are obstacles and sometimes misconceptions. Therefore, it is important to build trust between civil society and the administration,” she added, emphasizing that it is not easy to build. “Issues of working with the government, administration and improving the functioning of public administration, as well as the very importance of transparency and inclusiveness, is something that EU countries are constantly working on because it should never stop,” Ferran said.

Hata Kujrakovic, a student from Sarajevo, who spoke as a youth representative, said that young people from the entire region were very disappointed with the situation. “Let’s look around – what do we see? We see young, educated people leaving their countries en masse. This is a consequence of the problems we face. Research shows that corruption, unemployment, poor living standards and the lack of any prospects that this will change are the main reasons for moving abroad.” Young people are especially frustrated and discouraged when they see how the public sector is employed through connections. “It is very demoralizing when we see that all the money, effort, the time we have invested in education and personal development, the sacrifices we have made – are simply not enough because we do not have a “connection”.  Because of this feeling of despair, it seems that we have only one thing left – to leave,” she said.

In the first panel, called, “A meeting point between bottom-up and top-down reform impetuses”, discussants were Milena Lazarevic, Programme Director at CEP and WeBER Team Leader, and Gregor Virant, Head of SIGMA (a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union aimed at supporting the administration reform of countries in the process of joining the EU) and a former Minister of Public Administration of Slovenia. The panel was moderated by Radio Television Serbia (RTS) journalist, Vesna Damjanic.

Milena Lazarevic drew attention to the fact that it seems that the governments in the region are carrying out reforms only “because of Brussels”, and not because of their citizens. “Through many cases, it can be seen that when laws are passed and policies are considered, drafts are sent to Brussels and international actors, but public consultations, which should be at the heart of the process, are often not held,” Lazarevic said.

Lazarevic pointed out that one of the ideas of the WeBER2.0 initiative is to promote “champions from the region”, administrations that work best in the service of citizens, as examples of good practice for others. She added that only when we come out of the crisis period brought by the pandemic, we will see whether the governments have progressed, or retreated, especially when it comes to transparency in decision-making and spending budget funds”, said Lazarevic. Gregor Virant stressed that “expectations of the speed of progress on the road to the EU in the region are high”.

“We must understand that things will not happen overnight: reforms are a long process. We should not overestimate what can be done in two years, but we should not underestimate what can be done in 10 years “, concluded Virant.

Milos Djindjic, the Lead Researcher on the WeBER2.0 project and Programme Manager at the European Policy Centre (CEP) and Julijana Karai, a Researcher at the European Policy Institute (EPI) in Skopje, presented the findings of the research team observing the public administration reform process during the previous year.

“Our findings show that more than 50% of the surveyed citizens believe that solving problems related to public administration has become easier in the past year,” said Djindjic. The results also show that service providers still rarely publish information on their sites. The findings will soon be published online.

After the presentation of the project results, six parallel sessions followed, one for each area of public administration reform, where representatives of civil society and public administration discussed more detailed findings in each area.

On the second day of the conference, moderated by journalist Nenad Sebek, two panels were held: In the first, civil society representatives presented their examples and ideas for improving public administration, and in the second, Western Balkan citizens discussed their expectations from public administration.

The conference also presented a new WeBER2.0 platform where citizens of the Western Balkans can express their experiences with public administration, find advices and experiences of other citizens and express their opinions on various issues related to public administration. You can access the platform here.

In the final panel titled “Do citizens want good administration?”, moderated by Milos Djindjic, participants were Florian Hauser, Team Leader at the Center for Thematic Expertise of Public Administration Reform in DG NEAR, in the European Commission, Annika Uudelepp, Country Manager for Serbia and Regional Manager for EU Enlargement within SIGMA – OECD, and Jan-Hinrik Meyer-Sahling, Professor of Political Science, University of Nottingham (United Kingdom) and WeBER Advisory Council member.

“Citizens are quite comfortable with the ‘status quo’ because they enjoy the so-called ‘clientelism’ and passive attitude: they, therefore, overlook their need for better public policies, even though it is detrimental to them in the long run, but it serves them in the short term,” said Professor Meyer Sahling.

“We need to build a civic culture – learn to be critical thinkers, and assess our environment and our public administration”, agreed Florian Hauser.

Annika Uudelepp said that this is where civil society organisations should enter the scene, as they would serve as a “translator” of the citizens’ needs.

“Institutions and bureaucracies have their jargon, which is often not understandable to citizens, and citizens often do not know how to explain their demands. That is where civil society should enter the scene”, said Uudelepp.

The conference was held with the support of the European Union, and within the project “Protection of Civil Space – Regional Center for Civil Society Development” funded by SIDA and implemented by BCSDN.

Photo credit: Branko Birac (@vrlodobro)

WeBER Advisory Council Meeting

2021-02-10T14:39:28+01:0010/02/ 2021|News|

10 February 2021 – The WeBER2.0 Advisory Council (AC) meeting took place on the 10th of February 2021, gathering our esteemed AC members and the WeBER2.0 project team. The meeting was held online, and it served as an opportunity to not only catch up but also discuss the circumstances surrounding the 2019/2020 PAR monitoring cycle and the methodological approach our researchers used when producing the latest PAR Monitor report. During the meeting, AC members provided constructive feedback and comments on the draft chapters of the report, as well as expert advice on how the structure and the content could be further improved.

The main findings from the PAR Monitor 2019/2020 will be presented at the WeBER2.0 Second Regional “Citizens First” Conference, which will be held on the 25th and 26th of February 2021.

Q&A on the Call for Proposals „Local Civil Society PAR Enabling SGF“

2020-10-15T17:43:06+02:0015/10/ 2020|Announcements, News|

The Local Civil Society PAR Enabling Small Grant Facility (SGF) of the WeBER 2.0 Project will be implemented in the period January 2021 – January 2022. A total sum of 225.000 EUR will be allocated to support up to 30 grants. The answers to all questions raised by the potential applicants are published below. The integral Q&A list is available in English as well as in local languages.

The information sessions about WeBER 2.0 SGF were held

By |2020-10-14T15:57:47+02:0014/10/ 2020|News|

Information sessions about WeBER 2.0 Local Civil Society PAR Enabling Small Grant Facility (SGF) were held in all countries of the Western Balkans (WB) in the last week of September.

The overall goal of SFG is to strengthen the engagement of grassroots and other local civil society organisations (CSOs) in local public administration reform (PAR), thus further building bottom-up demand and brining PAR closer to the citizens of the region. Moreover, SGF aims to provide support for CSOs that are active in monitoring and evaluating PAR in WB and encourage them to engage citizens in PAR, advocate for PAR locally and establish a dialogue on PAR with local authorities.

The info sessions were attended by a variety of local and grassroot CSOs of the region who had a chance to ask questions and seek clarifications related to SGF. All questions received during the info sessions in all six countries, as well as through email, will be integrated and answered. The Clarifications List will be published on the WeBER 2.0 website by 15 October 2020.

In case you missed it, you can find a video recording of the info session held in your country by following this link.

NEW: First episode of WeBER podcast series!

By |2020-09-23T17:54:26+02:0023/09/ 2020|News|

Welcome to the first episode of the WeBER podcast series of European Talks podcast, a new communication tool in the regional WeBER initiative context. Each podcast episode will be devised around a relevant public administration reform and civil society related topic in the region. With this series, we mainly target civil society, experts, government officials and external interested audience (rather than public). Highly conversational in nature, it is available in video format.

In the first episode, our guest is Gregor Virant, Head of SIGMA (Support for Improvement in Governance and Management) is a joint initiative of the OECD and the European Union and former Minister of Public Administration of Slovenia. Milena Lazarević, an expert on this topic, of the European Policy Centre – CEP Programme Director and WeBER initiative Team Leader, talked with him about the SIGMA principles of public administration, the WeBER initiative and why civil society must monitor and involve in the public administration reform process.

European Talks podcast is a short form conversation that aims to untangle difficult questions on various topics related to Serbia’s relations with the EU and its member states, by talking to experts, diplomats, and other relevant actors. Whether you are a researcher, a politician, or just genuinely curious about the topic, European Talks podcast will provide you with valuable ideas, answers as well as new questions. The producer is the European Policy Centre – CEP, a non-governmental, non-profit, independent think tank based in Belgrade. CEP is the coordinator of the WeBER initiative.

Listen to European Talks on Google Podcasts, Apple PodcastSoundCloud, or on Spotify.

Information Sessions: WeBER 2.0 Small Grant Facility

By |2020-09-21T11:13:16+02:0016/09/ 2020|News|

WeBER 2.0 – Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration is seeking project proposals for the implementation of the Local Civil Society PAR Enabling Small Grant Facility (SGF) for support to civil society monitoring of public administration reform at the local level. Find more information here.

Please find below information about the info sessions that will be held for interested applicants.

Please announce your participation at the info session by contacting the country representative as indicated in the table below.

Country

Organiser of the info session

Date

Time

Contact

Serbia European Policy Centre – CEP 24 September 2020 11.00 Jovana Knezevic jovana.knezevic@cep.org.rs
Albania Institute for Democracy and Mediation – IDM 25 September 2020 11.00 Iliada Korcari ikorcari@idmalbania.org
Kosovo Group for Legal and Political Studies – GLPS 24 September 2020 10.00 Ema Pula ema.pula@legalpoliticalstudies.org 
Montenegro Institute Alternative – IA 24 September 2020 11.00 Dragana Jacimovic dragana@institut-alternativa.org
Bosnia and Herzegovina Foreign Policy Initiative BH – FPI BH 25 September 2020 11.00 Mahir Sijamija mahir@vpi.ba
North Macedonia European Policy Institute – EPI 28 September 2020 12.30 Vaska Ristovska vaska.ristovska@epi.org.mk

Public perceptions of service delivery in the Western Balkans are on the rise

2020-09-14T11:08:28+02:0010/09/ 2020|News|

Results from the public perception survey on service delivery suggest that governments in the Western Balkans are striving towards digitalisation and citizen-oriented services.[1] This year’s surveys show that all of the countries in the region are either making progress or remain at the level of the first PAR Monitor 2017/2018.

Public perception points to a more citizen-oriented service delivery

Compared to the results of the previous PAR Monitor, Serbia and Albania record the most noticeable changes with regards to citizens’ perceived simplicity of dealing with public administration (Graph 1). In other words, there were respectively 23 and 18 percentage point increases in these two countries, followed by Montenegro at 14 percentage points.

Survey also show that roughly two thirds of citizens in the region feel that governments are moving towards digitalisation (69%). Apart from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where slightly below 50% of citizens perceive this trend, in all the other countries of the region, between 66 and 81% of citizens surveyed feel this way. At the regional level, citizens noted positive improvement in the time needed to obtain administrative services. This was especially so in Serbia, Albania, and Montenegro, where more than 60% citizens confirmed it has decreased.

It is also worth noting that 58% of citizens in the region claim to recognise governments’ efforts to simplify administrative procedures – more than in the previous PAR Monitor. As before, public administration in Kosovo takes first place according to perceptions, followed by Serbia.

The availability of e-services: more awareness, same levels of usage

The public is increasingly aware of e-services across the Western Balkan countries. Unlike the previous PAR Monitor, no country records below 50% of awareness, with as high as 74% of citizens in Albania (Graph 2). On the flip side, we find that a lot of citizens still do not use these services – a third of citizens in the region stated they had never used them. Additionally, with less than a third of citizens using them either rarely or just sometimes, many used them only occasionally. Notably, only 10% of citizens have used e-services often.

At the same time, surveys show that most citizens in every country (between 70 and 80%) report that e-services are easy to use. This resembles the results of PAR Monitor 2017/2018, in which approximately 80% of citizens surveyed in all countries included reported the ease of use of these services.

Bearing in mind the high awareness figures, a lack of information on e-services is unlikely to account for the low-level usage. More than two thirds of citizens who used e-services, more or less frequently, had little or no difficulties finalising services they requested. Nonetheless, in terms of public perceptions, there has been tangible improvement in citizen-oriented service delivery in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Serbia. On the other hand, the situation in Kosovo and North Macedonia has mostly remained unchanged.

 

 

[1] As in the 2017/2018 PAR Monitor, public perception of the awareness of and usefulness of feedback mechanisms, and their availability to citizens, is measured with public perception surveys that were implemented in each of the Western Balkan countries in the same manner. Surveys were implemented in the period from 5 to 30 May 2020.

 

The fifth meeting of the National Working Group for Public Administration Reform in Albania

By |2020-08-18T11:27:30+02:0018/08/ 2020|News|

The fifth meeting of the WeBER National Working Group (NWG) of Albania for Public Administration Reform (PAR) was organized online on Wednesday, July 22nd 2020, by the Institute for Democracy and Mediation, Tirana, via Zoom.

Organisers announced the WeBER 2.0 small grant facility scheme for civil society organizations to be launched in September, followed by a presentation on the methodology and case studies of citizen’s consultations as applied in the European Union. After sharing their experience and challenges related to the application of public consultations’ methods, NWG participants were invited to discuss PAR priorities for Albania. To this end, they were introduced to the Loomio discussion platform, which will facilitate communication among WeBER2.0 NWG members on the Public Administration Reform, both nationally and regionally.

Providers of administrative services need to regularly reveal the content of feedback by citizens

2020-08-18T15:25:16+02:0017/08/ 2020|News|

Brand-new public perception survey results indicate fewer citizen-friendly options for providing opinions on administrative services, compared to PAR Monitor 2017/2018. At the same time, public opinion regarding the involvement of citizens and civil society in monitoring services is clearly growing. When it comes to the availability of information on citizen feedback, websites of service providers are no better than before. Such information on received feedback is mostly absent from their online portals, even in its most basic form.

The public views feedback channels as harder to use but stronger effects of external monitoring of service delivery

Perception surveys indicate that around half of the Western Balkan population sees possibilities to give opinions on the quality of services. This perception grew for almost 20% since the PAR Monitor 2017/2018.[1] On the country level, roughly a third of citizens in Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina believe this is the case while in all the others, it reaches more than 50% of population.

In terms of the citizen-friendliness however, things appear to have gotten worse. A striking example is Albania, with 42% less of those surveyed noting that feedback channels are easy to use. In four of the countries, this decline is 30 percentage points or more.

More citizens in the region feel they are involved, together with civil society, in monitoring service delivery by administrations (42% as opposed to 26% previously). This has also led to a growing perception that such involvement has in fact improved service delivery. The difference can go as high as 20 percentage points, as in the cases of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Service providers remain reluctant to divulge details on feedback from citizens

There is a general lack of transparency of the information shared by citizens as feedback. Like the baseline PAR Monitor, administrations share almost no such information regarding five common administrative services. These include property, business, vehicle registration, obtaining personal documents, and VAT declaration and payment.

Still, some have just started publishing information in some areas – in Albania, for vehicle registration, and in Serbia, there is some basic data on the numbers of received and resolved complaints regarding registering businesses.

Overall, without transparency on feedback and how it is being used, citizen-oriented service delivery is hardly imaginable. Providing details on how users feel about services should become business as usual, but is, instead, lacking for the second monitoring cycle in a row. Overall, the PAR Monitor 2019/2020 has shown few major changes, and a certain level of backsliding in two countries.

[1] As in PAR Monitor 2017/2018, public perceptions on awareness of and usefulness of feedback mechanisms, and availability of feedback information to citizens, are measured through public perception surveys implemented in each of the Western Balkan countries in the same manner. Surveys were implemented in the period from the 5 to 30 May 2020.