The Decree On the Election of Representatives of Non-Governmental Organizations into the Working Bodies of the State Administration Bodies states that public debate in the preparation of laws and strategies is conducted by consulting bodies, organizations, associations and individuals in the initial phase of drafting a law or strategy; and by organizing a public debate on the text of the draft law or strategy. The Decree proposes that every call for consultations or public debate must contain name of the person responsible for organizing and implementing consultation process. Therefore, every ministry that announced call for consultation/public debate was obliged to have officer for organizing it. However, it is not an obligation for every ministry, as it is case with contact persons for cooperation with CSOs, but the person is designated on demand.
When it comes to inclusion of CSOs in decision making process, in legislative sense, most important act is Decree on the election of CSO representatives to the working bodies of the state administration and the conduct of public debates in the preparation of laws and strategies. This regulation was adopted in 2018, like it was predicted by Strategy on improving enabling environment for the work of CSOs in Montenegro 2018-2020 and introduces new rules to improve the inclusion of CSOs in the decision-making processes. Thus, the Regulation recognizes two types of cooperation. The first one is stated in Article 3 of the Regulation. It refers to the obligation of state administration organs to include representatives of non-governmental organizations into working that they form, on the basis of public call on their web site and portal of e-administration. The second form of cooperation is through public debates in the preparations of laws and strategies. Interested public can participate in this debates during consultations in the process of drafting laws and in debates on the text of draft law.
The Decree also regulates participation of CSOs in the state funding process. Namely, a Commission for each call for funding must be established and it consists of three members: the president and two members, out of which one member is a representative of public institution and one is a representative of non-governmental organization. The Ministry, before announcing the Call for funding CSOs, must announce call for a representative of CSO. According to the Decree, a representative of a non-governmental organization in the working body may be a person who: resides in Montenegro; has experience in an area of concern that is considered or normatively regulated by a working body; is not a member of political party organs, public official, civil servant, or state employee. After the deadline for submitting suggestions for the representative of CSO finishes, the Ministry announces list of suggested representatives as well as the decision on the representative signed by the Minister.
Neither the Decree nor any other document stipulate that civil servants must undergo a training for conducting public consultations and debates. However, the Decree states that there must be a person, who is a representative of the authority body that conducts the consultation or debates, who is responsible for coordinating the process. The person in charge of coordinating the consultation of the interested public is obliged to promptly record all initiatives, proposals, suggestions and comments and after the consultation is completed a report containing an overview of the participants in the consultation and an overview of the received initiatives, proposals, suggestions and comments.
During 2019, 97 laws, 13 Decisions, 43 decisions on election, appointment and dismissal and 34 reports were adopted. All adopted laws are available either on ministries’ websites, or in the Catalogue of Regulations.
72 representatives of NGOs participated in work of Working bodies of the Parliament. When it comes to Ministries, 9 CSO representatives participated in working bodies of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, and four representatives in working bodies of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry of Internal Affairs formed six working bodies during 2019, the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights seven, Ministry of Finance eight, while the Ministry of Culture formed four bodies.
CSOs that participated in the online questionnaire stated that they participated in consultation on drafting laws, bylaws and policies in a large extent – 47.9% of responses. Out of these organizations, 52.2% responded that some of their suggestions were included; 13% that all of their suggestions were included, while the same number reported their suggestions were not considered at all. 27.08% agree or strongly agree that notice of consultations is published at least one week in advance, while majority of answers, 47.91%, were marked as “I don’t know”. On the other hand, CSO representatives mostly disagree or strongly disagree that there is enough time to prepare and submit comments – 35.41%, while 25% agree or strongly agree with that statement.
Based on CRNVO’s data, during 2019, 66 calls for participation in public hearings, while 45 were published on the e-government portal. Total od 51 minutes and reports are published, while only 26 on the e-government portal. There were 37 public hearings on draft laws during 2019. Although the public is consulted on a slightly higher level, the lack of documents available in electronic format on e-government portal remains a trend. This can be supported by the fact that 39.58% of organizations that participated in online questionnaire believe that draft documents such as Draft Laws, bylaws, decisions, reports, etc., are not available prior to consultations.
Based on answers received from seven ministries, during 2019 total of three public servants have undergone training for engagement in the consultation process. Namely, these civil servants in the Ministry of culture have undergone trainings on: new models of reporting on conducted public debates; standards of public consultations; and training on improved module of e-participation.
52.08% of online questionnaire participants disagree or strongly disagree that appointed public servants facilitated effective engagement of CSOs in the consultation process. 10.41% agree or strongly agree with this statement. In addition, 45.83% reported they disagree or strongly disagree with the statement that civil servants have enough capacities to include CSOs in drafting new documents and acts. 14.58% responded they agree or strongly agree on this issue.