OGP to Add Another African Member to Steering Group

4 February 2012

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Governance Working Group has recommended that a representative from an African government be added to the Steering Committee.

The group also said that “all” OGP meetings will take place under Chatham House rules, with remarks being non-attributable to participants. This was clarified by an OGP official as not applicable to the April general meeting.

The working group met in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 26 and 27 to discuss the initiative’s guiding standards and bylaws, which are currently under development. The working group also discussed OGP’s long-term vision and its upcoming meeting in Brazil April 16-18, according to a press release and an accompanying document describing the group’s conclusions on a variety of governance matters.

The notes confirm that the Governance Working Group decided to recommend that the OGP’s governing Steering Committee approve a proposal for a new civil society co-chair. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)  The Steering Committee how has two co-chairs, from the United States and Brazil governments. There are now nine CSO representatives but only eight government representatives since India dropped out.

The civil society co-chair, the notes stipulate, “cannot become lead chair.”

The civil society representatives on the steering committee will be elected by the civil society representatives, one per country, who will be chosen to attend the April OGP meeting. Applications for those positions are due by Feb. 6. The notes do not discuss how the CSO Steering Committee co-chair will be chosen.

“Participants agreed on the need to fill the empty government slot on the Steering Committee before the April meeting with another African Government,” the notes state. “The co-chairs will come back with recommendations.” South Africa is the current government member on the Steering Committee.

The working group also reached consensus staggering the rotation of steering committee members “to ensure a smooth transition and adequate regional representation.”

The draft materials that describe the governance package are not available.

The notes indicate that the working group decided that “all pre-decisional policy documents will be published on the organization’s website.” To date this has occurred only for the proposed disclosure policy, not for the proposed governance bylaws.

Nor has the OGP disclosed a proposal for “Handling Process Violations” which the meeting notes indicate was approved with “several edits to the document.”

All recommendations emerging from Governance Working Group meeting “will be integrated into OGP’s draft Articles of Governance, and considered by the full OGP Steering Committee over the coming few months,” the press release stated. “The final OGP Articles of Governance will be made available online prior to the April 2012 annual meeting, as soon as they are approved by the OGP Steering Committee.”

Transparency Controlled

The final disclosure policy also has not released, although indications a month ago were that it would be finished by the end of January.

The working group appears to have addressed a subject not included in the draft policy, the openness of OGP meetings.

The committee notes indicate at it was decided that “all OGP meetings will take place under Chatham House rules, with remarks being non-attributable to participants.”

Under Chatham House rules the comments of speakers may be disclosed, but not their names and affiliations.

The working group said that tweeting from the closed meetings of the Steering Committee.

“In the spirit of transparency, the group decided that messaging and communicating using timely social media channels will be allowed during all Steering Committee meetings,” according to the press release. The meetings are closed to the media and the public, but some participants have tweeted about developments.

Financing Approved

“Participants agreed on a financing structure for the initiative that would ask for a $50,000 minimum contribution from Government Steering Committee members. Such contributions would be expected but not required. The group rejected the idea of a mandatory $200,000 contribution by co-chairs.”

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