Action Plans Released for Eight Core OGP Countries

20 September 2011

The national action plans of the eight founding Open Government Partnership countries are now available online.

The plans indicate commitments made the United States and Brazil (co-chairs), South Africa, the United Kingdom, Norway, Mexico, Indonesia and the Philippines. (Click on the orange  name of the country.)

“We hope that many of those plans will become models for other countries that are looking to innovate in this space and haven’t perhaps had exposure to some of what’s going on in particular crannies of the world,” said a U.S. government official at a Sept. 19 briefing. The briefers said their names could not be used. (See transcript.)

Government officials felt they didn;t have enough time to fiully develop thei action plans, according to one of the anonymous U.S. briefers. The briefer said that at the Sept. 19 OPG steering committee meeting they “heard the governments talk about the processes that they had gone through to come up with these plans.”

The briefer continued: “Many expressed frustration that they hadn’t had more time, so there are a lot of decisions, I think, that are pending for all of us on the kind of 80-yard line. But nonetheless, again, this was an action-forcing event, I think, for all the countries involved.” (U.S. football is played on a 100-yard field, so being on the 80 yard line means not quite being to the goal.)

Looking forward, one briefer  said:

The measure of the Open Government Partnership in the end will be whether or not countries are doing things that they otherwise would not have done had this challenge not been issued and had this partnership not been launched. We are quite confident that that is already happening, but I think that’s why it’s so important that we engage citizens around the world to hold governments accountable, including our own, to the plans that these eight governments put forward tomorrow.

Individual Plans Described

The U.S. officials offered a broad summary of the eight plans:

So the – Brazil – basically, there are a lot of sort of buckets that one could think about, delivering public information, gender equality, open data, citizen participation, service delivery, public integrity, government transparency – so just a few. Brazil is going to increase transparency in open data, including restructuring its Transparency Portal and launching the Brazil Open Data Portal. And that’s basically to ensure the future enactment of the access to information law, which is just going – it’s basically pending, but they’re trying to use this initiative, in part, to drive through.

Norway’s plan consists of a series of pledges around gender equality and women’s participation in the private sector, public administration, political processes, equal pay. The UK has made a series of pledges around improving its open data efforts. Some of you know that this is something the United States and the Obama Administration has spent a lot of time thinking about, the Data.gov. We’ve posted 390,000 – more than 390,000 data sets that are being used by citizens and civil society groups and private sector in creating businesses and holding – using government data, such as on the crib safety or on airline flight arrival delays, et cetera, to turn it into information that’s useful for citizens. That’s what a number of the other plans are now experimenting with.

And the Philippines will extend participatory budgeting, which means citizen involvement in the budgeting process, across the government to 12 government departments by 2012, and they’re establishing an empowerment fund to support bottom-up involvement in developing – development planning and budgeting, including using social audits as a tool for monitoring implementation. And this is all kind of basic public administration, but in these kinds of pledges, I think that this is where sort of change happens.

The United States – probably the biggest announcement that the President will make tomorrow is that the United States is going to implement the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. Some of you may know about EITI, as it’s come to be known. It’s a voluntary framework in which governments come together with industry, oil, gas, and mineral companies, and with civil society. And basically what you have are governments publicly disclosing what revenues they’re getting from oil, gas, and mineral companies and from those assets. And then the companies are making parallel disclosures regarding the payments that they are making in order to – for them to obtain access to public resources, public lands, and so forth.

This may sound pretty straight forward, and you would hope that there would be no discrepancy between them, but to – not to put too fine a point on it, the U.S. collects approximately 10 billion dollars in annual revenues from the development of oil, gas, and minerals on federal lands and offshore, and disburses these revenues to the U.S. Treasury and other places. And by signing onto this initiative, not only do we put ourselves in a much stronger position to urge developing countries who have even bigger challenges with accountability in this space to be part of this initiative, part of this partnership, but I think citizens can have more assurance that their interests are being promoted and advanced by a really diverse and truly transparent process.

I would note on EITI [the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative] that this is an important supplement to some of the provisions in Dodd-Frank that also require publicly listed U.S. companies to disclose revenue. So this is – those companies that are not listed are also covered by EITI, so we think we’ve – the President is going to fill a very important gap in launching U.S. participation.

Process for Joining Countries

The OGP website also now has posted the letters of intent, usually short, of the other 38 countries that will join the multinational effort and devlop their own action plans.

The OGP  has scheduled a meeting at which countries developing their action plans can share their progress.

According to the OGP website:

“To encourage the sharing of good practices and innovations and maintain high standards, OGP countries participate in peer engagement meetings with other participating countries and the OGP Steering Committee during the commitment development process. The next meeting will take place in Brasilia, Brazil, on December 7th and 8th 2011.

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