Russia Launches Web Portal About Open Government

18 September 2012

By Nate Jones

Jones is the Freedom of Information Coordinator at the National Security Archive who is also currently working with the Freedom of Information Foundation in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The government of the Russian Federation has launched its “Open Government” web portal to inform and solicit advice from its citizens as it attempts “to build a fundamentally new mechanism to develop and implement public policies and monitor their implementation.”

A Report to the President, featured on the site, states that, “the events of the past year and a half – a sharp decline in the popularity of the ruling party, the mass protests, and massive capital outflows –  …have shown that much of Russian society does not unquestioningly trust and support authority.”

The portal, includes an extensive 130-page report to the President describing the need for implementing open government reforms in Russia, as well as suggestions of how to implement them; a chart displaying the orders issued by former President Medvedev and current President Putin and specific goals they have established; blogs and commentary from the members of the Open Government Commission, and a robust system for soliciting and voting on citizen proposals. 

The Open Government portal also includes an announcement that Russia has joined the International Open Government Partnership and a pledge to implement specific commitments to promote transparency of government, to attract citizens to fight against corruption, and to introduce new technologies to improve governance. 

While no draft OGP Action Plan, per se, has been posted on the website, it does contain extensive documentation of initiatives that the government pledges to work towards between 2012 and 2020.  These initiatives stem primarily from the afore-mentioned Report to the President on the Formation of “Open Government,” and laws already on the books.  It remains to be seen which of these initiates are to be included in Russia’s OGP Action Plan (which includes an Independent Reporting Mechanism to track the Russian government’s results) or if Russia’s OGP plan will include any initiatives not currently reported on this site.  Russia must present its plan no later than March, 2013. 

Interestingly, the Open Government Portal lists a slew of civil society groups that the Russian government considers its partners.  Some of these organizations could be forced to register as “foreign agents” this November, under a new law requiring noncommercial organizations that received money from abroad and engage in political activities to submit to intrusive inspections by Russian tax authorities.  At least one partner, the Freedom of Information Foundation has announced that it will not register as a “foreign agent.”

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