OGP Deadline Challenging Members, Meeting Notes Say

23 December 2011

The Open Governance Partnership Steering Committee is continuing to develop its policies on governance and disclosure while many of the 50 member countries are grappling with the preparation of national action plans that are due in April.  

Official notes from the December OGP meeting in Brazil suggest that countries are feeling the pinch of the tight time frame for holding consultations and developing the action plans. An ambitious OGP networking initiative to provide assistance has been little utilized, but is ramping up.

In the meantime, the 17-member Steering Committee is continuing to write the rules for OGP’s infrastructure.

A governance sub-group meeting will be meeting in Washington Jan. 26-27 to finalize the governance document.  No draft governance policy has been circulated. A few hints about the content have emerged: rotating memberships and three year terms 

The Steering Committee also is writing a disclosure policy that is expected to be issued by the end of January.

The next Steering Committee meeting will be in April just before the next full OGP meeting in Brazil. A summary of the December Steering Committee meeting is soon to be issued.

(For all previous FreedomInfo.org articles on the OGP, see here.)

Action Plan Development Still in Early Stages

The OGP Dec. 20 issued an Executive Summary of the Dec. 7-8 peer exchange working meeting in Brazil, with short descriptions of the mostly closed sessions indicating that in many countries the development of a national action plan is just getting under way and that they are feeling the time pinch.  

As previously reported in FreedomInfo.org, the member countries have been newly tasked with submitting  updates on their consultation and plan development efforts by Jan. 31.

 Member country representatives presented updates orally in Brazil in six regional breakout sessions, but their reports are not all synopsized in the Executive Summary. It mentions a few examples and notes that “the vast majority of participants were concerned about the fast approaching deadline for their action plans, and recognized that public consultation should begin and/or continue in earnest to maximize governments’ ability to benefit from external feedback by April.”

The April deadline came up in other sections of the summary. The paragraph on Latin American states:

Latin America—These countries again discussed the common challenge of a short timeline to design their action plans, leading to a possible trade off between the quality of the consultation process available and delivering results. The region also faces structural difficulties in organizing quick and effective consultation process, emphasizing the need for proactive civil society participation to push government engagement. Representatives recognized that civil society can provide a valuable diversity of opinions, metrics to measure impact, strategies for engaging sub-national communities, and the opportunity to develop alliances and partnerships.

Overall, the Brazil meeting was intended “to provide new participating countries with a clear sense of the OGP process and expectations, along with a more concrete sense of how their peers have approached different challenges in developing their draft action plans.” The summary quotes Brazil’s Minister of State Jorge Hage as saying that the 50 members “all have something to learn from each other, and OGP is the best platform to do this.”

The summary also contains brief notes on some of the speeches at the meeting.

Affinity Groups to Be Formed

Global Integrity Executive Director, Nathaniel Heller, who manages the OGP Networking Mechanism, “provided an overview of the more than 80 sources of expertise—from the public, private, and civic sectors—that are ready and eager to work with governments on developing and implementing their OGP commitments.”

The summary says that OGP governments and civil society organizations “had a robust discussion around the OGP Networking Mechanism (NM), including the slow pace of demand for NM services and introductions to date.”

“Many governments have just begun their development process, and between December and April 2012, the NM also will be exploring how it can facilitate the creation of ad hoc “affinity groups” of OGP governments, clustered around common areas of interest. For example, several governments are considering budget transparency reforms, and putting them in touch with each other on a regular basis—in tandem with issue experts and pro-bono service providers—could yield exciting synergies,” according to the summary.

In a subsequent update, Heller shared portions of a November update he sent to the Steering Committee.

“Providers of open government expertise – the “supply side” – are eager to engage with aspiring OGP governments,” he reported, most being NGOs, universities, or private companies. Currently, 80 suppliers have registered with the OGP NM to work with governments, most in a pro bono capacity or at low cost.

“Only a handful of governments and government agencies (3) have expressed interest in serving as `suppliers,’ “ he said in November. His recent circulation said that activity is picking up, with several new contacts.

“Generating demand for OGP NM services and referrals has been and will likely remain difficult,” he said in his November report. “To date, only three governments have expressed interest in OGP NM services.”

The lack of demand may stem from the fast-track development of the OGP and the focus of governments on negotiating internally with stakeholders, according to Heller. He also mentioned that “dedicated day-to-day points of contact have often not been identified within aspiring OGP governments” and that internal government lines of authority are often unclear.

Commitment Times Clarified

The summary also adds detail on how long OGP members’ commitments should last.  The answer. it states,  is a minimum of two years. The relevant portion states: 

The issue of timing was also a topic of discussion, with some countries looking at a one-year commitment while others were considering a three-year commitment. Steering Committee members clarified that action plans are for a minimum of two years, and should be considered living documents that can be amended and updated on a rolling basis, based on continued public feedback and consultation. Participants agreed on the importance of reviewing each others’ draft action plans and possibly setting up another regional meeting to explore similar commitments across countries and particular sectors in greater depth.

The summary proved one hint about the forthcoming governance document, indicating that there will be “a process for rotating members onto the Steering Committee from new member countries and civil society, and transitioning existing members off on a regular schedule. It was announced that the rotating term will be three years.”

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