CSOs Hold Session to Plan OGP-Related Activities

19 April 2012

“Welcome to a work in progress,” began Warren Krafchik.

The new co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, representing civil society, was addressing a room filled with about 150 civil society group representatives, his constituency, who had come to Brazil for the OGP’s first conference.

The two-hour meeting was held after the end of the final plenary session to discuss what role civil society groups should play, particularly to monitor the national action plans prepared by the 55-member governments.

And a survey of CSO delegates had turned up that many CSO representatives were a little unclear about the role of the Steering Committee, composed of nine government members and nine civil society members, and about plans for elections of Steering Committee members. The details are included in the Articles of Governance adopted by the Steering Committee April 16. (See related FreedomInfo.org report.)

The OGP is “very, very young,” Krafchik said, indicating that further evolution is possible. He also stressing how unusual it is for civil society and governments to jointly run a multilateral organization. Krafchik is a co-chair along with officials from Brazil and the United Kingdom.

A civil society coordinator has just been hired, Paul Maassen, who was present as Krafchik and other civil society Steering Committee members fielded questions and sought ideas. Smaller group sessions were organized to develop suggestions on topics such as how the Steering Committee members and the coordinator could help national CSOs, especially to monitor the national action plans, which is seen as the next big task now that most of  the 55-member countries have submitted their nationl action plans.

Attendees learned how aspirants to Steering Committee positions would nominate themselves for the three posts that will be open at the next OGP conference; next March in London. The Steering Committee will prepare a short list of candidates and the voting will be done by an equal number of national and international civil society representatives, selected through processes described in the Articles of Governance.

The Steering Committee, which meets quarterly, makes OGP policy and decisions, it was explained, but does not review the national action plans.

A further survey of CSOs is planned.

The dozens of suggestions made at the meeting were wide-ranging:  More information about Steering Committee issues should be dispensed. New technologies should be employed to allow CSO interaction. Establish a model monitoring process. Have a national level outreach event for ideas. Collaborate on international  norms. Refuse to judge government plans on their own terms. Think about the financial resources that CSOs may need. Compile civil society’s critiques of action plans. Translate more documents. Hold meeting based on thematic clustering. Create regional and sub-regional alliances. Publish the proposals not put in action plans.

Krafchik pledged communication efforts and urged the group to stay active on the national level.

“Let’s dream about what we can do with this initiative,” he said, imagining that the day before the 2013 OGP meeting in London, CSOs might hold their own conference.

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