OGP Conference Ends With Enthusiasm, Planning

19 April 2012

The Open Government Partnership meeting in Brazil concluded April 18 with new leaders praising the energy shown during two busy days on panel discussions and interactions and looking to the future of the fast-growing institution.

Founded officially seven months ago in September 2012, the OGP is composed of nations who agree to make commitments that will advance open government. The conference brought together hundreds of delegates from the 55 member OGP governments, representatives of national civil society groups and international nongovernmental organizations, and others.

“Open government  is going to be the most important public contribution that we will make in a generation,” said Tim Kelsey, the Director of Transparency and Open Data in the UK Cabinet Office, during the final session after two days of meetings.

The United Kingdom will host the second annual meeting next March in London, and Kelsey promised  “a major international celebration of open government.”

The United Kingdom has now succeeded the United States as one of the two government co-chairs of the OGP, along with Brazil.

Warren Krafchik, the new civil society co-chair, said in his final remarks, “The scale of the energy of this conference is a testament to the potential we have.”

After the final plenary, civil society representatives gathered for a two-hour session to discuss the civil society role on the OGP and future actions. (See related report.) 

Looking to the Future

 Both Kelsey and Krafchik identified upcoming issues and goals.

Kelsey listed “three big challenges” for the future, beginning with clear messaging about the meaning of open government and making  the OGP “the knowledge exchange for open government.” Open government, he said, “is about giving me control of my life.”

He said the OGP needs to be proactive in sharing information, citing conversations about possible alliances with multilateral organizations.

Making the OGP administration “sustainable”  is also a goal, he said, suggesting that the 55 members should  contribute financially.

Krafchik, the director of the International Budget Partnership, who picked as the new civil society co-chair April 16, said the next challenge is to move from conception to implementation.

Describing the potential for the OGP to stimulate more open government, he observed that good practices are “really universal,” with many of the best developments coming from southern countries.

With most of the member countries having completed their action plans, a major next step will be their self-analysis of progress on the plans in a year and a parallel analysis by an expert.

The OGP Independent Review Mechanism (IRM) outlining this process is “still a work in progress” he said, promising a conclusion in several months. (See related report.)

Civil society organizations should take the initiative in monitoring national action plans, Krafchik said, stressing that “participation is at the heart of the OGP process.”

Noting that civil society “often breaks down into silos,”  he said civil society needs to  work together and the leverage of the OGP process. “True success will be when we change lives,” Krafchik said, “We want to change the relationship between government and citizens. “

Samantha Power, a senior advisor to President Obama, urged the audience,  “It’s up to all of us as we take this thing forward.”  

She encouraged governments and groups to take the initiate to hold meetings and conduct activities. She reiterated the U.S. offer to make available the code for the U.S. open data portal and the “We the People” citizen petition system. She also noted that the U.S. Prime Minister David Cameron and Obama had a good conversation about OGP at a recent meeting in Washington.

Summary of Commitments

According to a summary by the OGP staff, the ten most common pledges are:

  • Innovative public accountability mechanisms – including a new ‘openness barometer in Slovak Republic, a ‘governance observatory’ in Peru and ‘public scorecard in Dominican Republic.
  • Open data portals – covering everything from crime statistics and political party funding to local budgets and procurement (proposed by Chile, Estonia, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Peru, Romania, Spain and Tanzania).
  • New legal and institutional mechanisms – including the creation of new state agencies (including in Peru and Uruguay), changes to access to information laws and systems (Canada and Croatia) and new anti-corruption laws/strategies (Estonia, Jordan and Peru). 
  • Improved service delivery – including an interactive local water-point mapping system in Tanzania, digitized medical records in Spain and new/improved portals on service delivery in Italy, Israel, Tanzania and Uruguay.
  • Natural resource transparency – Ukraine and Colombia have both signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, while Bulgaria, Colombia and Canada are taking steps to increase transparency around natural resources concessions and associated revenues (at both a national and local level). 
  • International aid – Spain and Canada have committed to making their development agencies more transparent and aligned with international donor reporting agreements like the International Aid Transparency Initiative. 
  • Public integrity – introduction of new whistle-blower protection laws in Slovak Republic and Montenegro. 
  • Citizens’ budgets – Bulgaria, Croatia and Tanzania are all creating citizens’ budgets at the national and/or local level to ensure public access to information to where public resources are going in plain, accessible language. 
  • E-petitions – Ukraine, Slovak Republic, Moldova and Montenegro are all introducing online e-petition portals to collect and respond to citizens’ proposals more quickly and effectively. 
  • Challenges and prizes – Uruguay, Israel, Italy, Jordan and Colombia are introducing government-sponsored prizes and challenges to encourage the private sector and public agencies to better use government data. 

 

 

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