On September 16, government communicators in the nation states of South Eastern Europe will be signing an historic declaration of commitment to the principles of open government. The signing will be the culmination of the first ever South Eastern European Government CommunicationConference (SEECOM) in Budva, Montenegro.
Led by the nation of Montenegro, SEECOM will bring together the region’s government communications professionals for training, discussion of best practices, and to establish a network for collaboration and information sharing.
Similar in concept and structure to our own National Association of Government Communicators’ annual Communications School, SEECOM has an aggressive agenda, tackling topics such as media relations, internal communications, online communications, and engaging the public.
The event is being organized in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Montenegro and the German political foundation Konrad Adenauer Stiftung (KAS), with support from the U.S. Embassy in Montenegro.
A few months ago, I had the honor of meeting one of the brilliant minds behind the concept of the conference, when NAGC entertained a delegation from Montenegro visiting the United States under the State Department’s international leader development program. Vuk Vujnovic, head of International Public Relations for the Government of Montenegro, led the delegation in late January and we had a terrific discussion about the role of a government communicator, especially in how it relates to achieving open government.
Here in the United States, we’ve been working toward the ideal of open government to achieve transparency of government to our citizens. Open government is much more than just buzz words. It takes an incredible amount of effort, leadership and a changing of old mindsets.
In September 2011, Open Government became an international initiative when eight founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and the United States) each endorsed an Open Government Declaration. Now, less than a year since the efforts began, nearly 60 nations around the world have committed to implementing the tenets of open government.
Known as the Open Government Partnership, participating nations must commit to fiscal transparency, open access to government information, disclosure of information about public officials, and citizen engagement. This is no small undertaking. Countries seeking membership in the OGP must endorse a Declaration of Open Government and produce a country action plan to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and employ new technologies to strengthen governance.
Professional government communicators in South Eastern Europe understand that to be successful, they should maintain regular and close interaction with their peers from the region and around the world. Next week’s SEECOM conference is going a long way to establish and enhance those connections.
NAGC will be working to assist the SEECOM forum in their progress and learning from them as well. Together we can build a worldwide network of communication professionals enabling open government best practices, and joining forces to tackle the challenges we’ll face together.
This is an exciting time to be a government communicator!