The current social, economic, geopolitical and environmental challenges that governments are facing present a critical juncture for democracies around the world. In many OECD Members, public confidence in government institutions has been decreasing, with this trend being accompanied by declining voter turnout, the rising prevalence of mis- and disinformation, growing political polarisation and larger groups dissociating themselves from traditional democratic processes. Within this context, the OECD launched the Building Trust and Reinforcing Democracy Initiative (RDI) in 2021 with the dual goals of strengthening democratic governance and protecting them from existing and emerging threats. Through this initiative, OECD members explicitly recognise the need to protect and promote civic space as part of enhancing participation, representation and openness in public life. Civic space is viewed as a cornerstone of democratic governance and a crucial means for citizens to meaningfully engage in shaping their societies.

Romania is currently developing a strategic vision for the protection of civic space as part of its national open government agenda. In asking the OECD to undertake a Civic Space Review, it has embarked on an ambitious process to place citizens and civil society organisations at the heart of policymaking. This focus arrives at a critical time in Romania, as the country’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan will also introduce widespread reforms to embrace the twin green and digital transitions for a more sustainable future. Romania’s ongoing OECD accession process provides a further opportunity to prioritise more inclusive and people-centred public decision making that fosters partnerships with diverse stakeholders. This window of opportunity could enable Romania to push through reforms that will help build trust and strengthen democracy overall. Romania’s ambitions in this regard are highly commendable but will require sustained political commitment, dedicated resources, and strong co-ordination to achieve.

The Civic Space Review is part of a broader project on Enhancing Policy Coherence, Transparency and Coordination at the Centre of the Government in Romania, which is funded by the European Union via the Technical Support Instrument (TSI), and implemented by the OECD, in co-operation with the European Commission. In parallel, the OECD is undertaking an Open Government Review of Romania which will provide an evidence-based review of ongoing open government policies and initiatives, based on the ten provisions of the OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government. This Review – which analyses the enabling environment for open government reforms related to civic freedoms, media freedoms, online civic space and civil society – should thus be read in conjunction with the Open Government Review. Together, the Recommendations from these reviews offer a blueprint for Romania’s desired – and possible – future: more responsive, interactive, transparent and accountable governance that keeps citizens informed and engaged to achieve shared objectives together.

The OECD Secretariat wishes to express its gratitude to the OECD Working Party on Open Government for its review of the report. The OECD Public Governance Committee approved the report in June 2023.

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