OGP Initiative Envisions National Action Plans

8 July 2011

By Toby McIntosh

Organizers of the Open Government Partnership hope that more than 55 countries will be motivated by a kick-off event in Washington July 12 to prepare pro-transparency “action plans.”

The action plans, to be drafted with public input, would be unveiled in early September in New York when  heads of state gather for United Nations General Assembly meeting, according to U.S. State Department officials and other sources.

The precise details of the process are just emerging – a OGP website will go live July 11 – but FreedomInfo.org has learned some basics about the program.

The overall strategy envisions that the voluntary government commitments embodied in the action plans — and subsequent scrutiny of progress toward stated goals — will advance government openness in a wide variety of areas.

The “roadmap” for participating in the partnership will be discussed at the all-day meeting July 12 that will be attended by officials from more than 55 countries.

Their introduction to the OGP initiative will be informed in part by a lengthy report describing potential pro-transparency actions in 16 areas, although organizers said that the potential range of country actions could be broader.

In addition, examples of positive transparency experiences around the world will be front and center at the July 12 ministerial meeting in Washington, which also will be attended by some 60 civil society organization representatives. “Innovation Alley” will demonstrate technologies and other tools and methodologies to enhance open government.  (See related FreedomInfo.org report.)

The sessions will be closed to the press except for the opening and closing remarks by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the first plenary session. The press also will be given a look at “innovation Alley.”  The meetings will be closed “to allow for open discussion among the government representatives,” a State spokesman said.

Participating Countries

The participating countries were invited based have met certain basic commitments to open government and exhibiting potential for taking positive steps, a U.S. official said.

The qualification list included such things as having a FOI law, making public audit reports or requiring asset disclosure for public officials. These eligibility criteria, which have not yet been released, were devised by the OPG steering committee, made up of officials from nine countries and representatives from various civil society groups.  The list has not yet been made available.

Some 70-80 countries were deemed eligible and invited.  Some were unable to send representatives, a State Department official said, but more than 55 were expected as of July 8.

Five Criteria to Join 

The agenda for July meeting is designed to introduce the concepts, tout best practices, and introduce the terms of membership for the partnership.

The actual formation of the OGP will occur in New York, and countries that choose to participate will agree to a five-point program:

–          Endorse a high level declaration of principles on open government

–          Commit  to writing a country action plan

–          Develop the plan through a multi-stakeholder consultation process

–          Agree to do a later self-assessment and cooperate with independent reporting on their  progress

 –          Contribute to the advancement of pen government in other countries

Grand Challenges

The time frame would give countries about two months to prepare action plans. Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs, in remarks on a July 7 interview  broadcast by the State Department, said, “We would envision that they would put a good deal of time putting this together,” she said.

Governments will be asked to choose at least one of five “grand challenges” to address and to make concrete commitments at the national, subnational or local level.

The five “grand challenge” areas are:

–  Improving public service

–  Increasing public integrity

–   More effectively managing public resources

–   Creating safer communities

–   Increasing corporate accountability

The country action plans will be disclosed at the New York OGP meeting.

In March, another meeting is envisioned, to be held in Brazil. Brazil co-chairs the OGP.

By that point, some assessment of progress will be made, the State official said.

Video Interview

The hopes of the organizers were on display July 7 during a 45-minute video interview featuring Otero and Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership and a member of the OGP steering committee. It can be seen on the State Department OGP web page.

Both emphasized the breadth of the topic, Otero defining it as including not only information from governments, but also healthy civic engagement and mechanisms for accountability. They noted many examples of innovations, some sparked by technology, that are fostering transparency.

Krafchik said citizens have a lot to contribute as watchdogs, as advisers to improve services and as contributors to policy decisions. They described the OGP as a way to energize the global movement toward open government.

Another website is expected to go live on July 11: www.opengovpartnership.org

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