OGP Members Begin Work on National Action Plans

25 August 2011

Efforts by the eight conveners of the Open Government Partnership to draft their national “action plans” are slowly emerging, according to a FreedomInfo.org survey.

However, in most countries the development of a plan does not appear to involve the wide public consultation called for in the “road map” for OGP aspirants to follow.

In the United States, where the process came under fire by nongovernmental organizations (See previous FreedomInfo.org report),  the Obama administration has made one alteration in its procedures, saying it will post comments online instead of releasing a summary.  Also, the administration Aug. 22 asked for public comments on three additional topics. The administration has not agreed to release draft plan. Officials have held several meetings with NGOs to discuss the development of the plan and another is scheduled for Aug. 30.

In other countries, the procedures for creating action plans appear less advanced, or at least are less visible.

Brazil plans to seek comment on a draft national plan, FreedomInfo.org has learned from a non-official source.

In South Africa, a leading pro-transparency group called on the government to make the process more open.  In the United Kingdom, no specific OGP consultation has been announced, but an open data consultation was recently started. A top minister in the Philippines has invited groups to a meeting. NGOs have held their own planning sessions in Mexico. Little information is available from Indonesia or Norway.

See further details below.

Background

The OGP is a U.S.-initiated multilateral effort to promote transparency internationally. Countries that join (eight so far) commit to prepare national action plans, to be announced in mid-September, probably Sept. 20.

The OGP roadmap envisions advance disclosures about the consultation procedures themselves, casting a wide net, publishing public comments and identifying a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation. One person familiar with process downplayed strict adherence to the specifics of the roadmap process, saying it as meant to influence long-term actions more than the development of the first national plan.

The original eight government members of the OGP steering committee are: Brazil (co-chair), the United States (co-chair), Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Other countries are expected to join, but none have announced their intentions.  The first eight are expected to announce their action plans in mid-September when the OGP is officially inaugurated at a meeting in New York on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting. Others countries joining will have until next Spring to prepare their action plans, for a meeting in Brazil. (See previous FreedomInfo.org reports on the OGP by clicking on “open government partnership” under “latest tags.”)

OGP members also must sign a “declaration” on open government that is still being drafted by a steering committee of the eight member countries and an equal number of NGO representatives.

South African Groups Make Request

The Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC) wrote President Jacob Zuma this week, asking him “to be open about the South Africa’s participation” in the OGP.  “South Africa is a member of the steering committee of the OGP yet very little is known about the project in South Africa,” the group said.

ODAC has asked for more information. “We are not aware of any public consultation processes that have been conducted to develop the action plan” Mukelani Dimba, Deputy Executive Director at ODAC. Dimba noted that according to the OGP’s own principles, the public must be consulted. He said: “What commitments are we as a country making towards advancing openness and accountability in the conduct of public affairs? What action plan will President Zuma be tabling in New York in September? Government must be open about the Open Government Partnership.”

United Kingdom Starts Open Data Consultation

In early August (See earlier FreedomInfo.org report), the British government launched an open data consultation paper titled “Making Open Data Real – A Public Consultation.”

The consultation announcement, however, did not reference the OGP and the time frame for its completion, Oct. 27, after the New York OGP meeting.

The UK paper sets out “proposals for embedding a culture of openness and transparency in public services.” The stated goal is to explore “how we might create the `pull’ (a right to data) and the `push’ (a presumption of publication) that will underpin the further development of Open Government in the UK.”

Meeting Planned in the Philippines

In the Philippines, NGO have just been invited to a meeting with a top government minister to discuss the OGP, FreedomInfo.org has learned. Advocates of freedom of information legislation there are currently frustrated with the Aguino administration for foot-dragging on a FOI bill.

The Aug. 26 meeting has been called by Department of Budget and Management chief Florencio (Butch) Abad, who attended to the July OGP informational meeting in Washington and has been deeply involved in drafting a administration’s position on the FOI bill. No agenda was given.

Brazil

The Brazilian government is planning to send out for public consultation a draft version of the commitments discussed inside the government, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The idea is to have both online consultations and to hold a meeting late in the week of Aug. 29 to get suggestions.

“They spent a lot of time simply getting the various ministries to support the OGP idea and the commitments… which is actually very important if you want it to be implemented,” according to the source.

Efforts in Brazil to pass a FOI law have been stymied in recent months despite a commitment by the president to pass a bill in May.  (See related FreedomInfo.org report.)

Mexico

NGOs in Mexico have met about the potential action plan, but FreedomInfo.org has no further information.

Norway

No information available.

Indonesia

No information available.

Expanded Request in United States

The Obama administration Aug. 22 asked  for public comments on three additional questions and indicated that responses will be posted online. Previously, when soliciting input on several other questions, the administration had said it would publish a summary, an idea which was criticized by NGOs. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report)

The latest post, by Aneesh Chopra, the U.S. Chief Technology Officer, and Cass Sunstein, the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, expresses thanks for responses so far and states we will be publishing all responsive submissions online in the next few weeks.”

The post also seeks to provide some background and perspective on the administration’s transparency work and how it fits with the OGP. The post continues:

“As we continue to develop our plan, we would like to ask for your help again.  We noted in the last blog post that countries participating in the Open Government Partnership have pledged to tackle one or more of five key challenges that face governments today.  Today, we are asking for your thoughts and ideas related to two of these key challenges – more effectively managing public resources and increasing corporate accountability:

  1. Managing and properly archiving government records using new technologies not only makes government more efficient but also preserves vital records for the future.  What issues should the government take into consideration as it contemplates a records management system in an electronic environment? What would be the appropriate next steps?
  2. The President’s January 18, 2011, Memorandum on Regulatory Compliance directed Administration officials to create a platform to make compliance and enforcement “data available online in searchable form, including on centralized platforms,” and ordered that Administration officials “shall work to explore how best to generate and share enforcement and compliance information across the Government.”  What existing tools can best help the government do this?
  3. What are the best practices used by other countries that effectively and fairly promote corporate accountability?  What lessons can be drawn for the U.S.?

Responses are to be sent to opengov@ostp.gov.  “All responsive submissions that we receive will be posted online in the future.  Please do not include any personally identifiable information other than your name or the name of your organization in the body of your response.  We will carefully consider your ideas and input as we develop our National Plan.”

The post does not address another procedural concern of U.S. groups following the process, that the administration disclose its draft plan.  A spokesperson’s response to FreedomInfo.org, however, indicated that no draft plan would be issued.

79 Potential OGP Members

Organizers said 79 countries are eligible for membership.

Speaking at a reception following the July 12 event in Washington, Maria Otero, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, indicated that interest had been expressed by Kenya, Honduras, Mongolia, Chile, Uruguay, Thailand, Liberia and Canada. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) A State spokeswoman later clarified that Kenya and Honduras publicly announced their intention to join formally and that Mongolia publicly said it would go home and recommend joining to its government.

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