OGP Steering Committee Agenda Features Governance

10 April 2012

By Toby McIntosh

The adoption of “Articles of Governance” is a major topic on the agenda of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee meeting April 16 in Brasilia, Brazil, according to the agenda released April 10.

As the agenda was announced, a key State Department official working on OGP said in a Twitter post that the April 17-18 OGP conference following the Steering Committee meeting will be attended by “nearly 60 govts & 700+ participants.” Earlier indications had tallied expected participation at 450.

The fast pace at which the OGP has been formed has meant that the creation of a more permanent organizational structure has proceeding at the same time that the multilateral organization has been facilitating its main mission of encouraging more transparent, effective and accountable governments. Since the kick-off event in September, OGP member governments have been preparing “national action plans,” the core documents that will detail their voluntary transparency commitments.  More than 40 of these will unveiled at the meeting in Brazil.

In the meantime, the 17-member Steering Committee, composed of both government and civil society representatives, has been negotiating the OGP governance structure.  Some of the basic details are known and more may emerge.

New roles for Tanzania, Krafchik?

Adding a new government member from an African country is expected, as is the selection of a third co-chair, to represent civil society.

Possible hints on who will be taking on these positions may be contained in the agenda for the conference.

Jakaya Kikwete, the president of the United Republic of Tanzania, is scheduled to speak at the opening session, following U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and Nikoloz Gilauri, Prime Minister of Georgia.

Warren Krafchik, of the International Budget Partnership and a Steering Committee member, will be the civil society speaker during the next series of opening remarks. Also addressing “Setting the Stage for the Age of Open: OGP 2012,” will be Brazilian Minister Jorge Hage and U.S. Under Secretary of State María Otero.

Although these items are not explicitly on the agenda, the Governance Subcommittee made such recommendations in January, according to posted notes of the meeting.  (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) And some decisions were made at the last Steering Committee meeting, in December 2012. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The full committee, which last met in December, has nine representatives from civil society and eight from governments (India was one of nine founding governments, but later dropped out.) The committee members, listed on the OGP website, are from those countries and groups involved in the OGP’s founding, dating back to 2010.

The overall governance plan envisions a system in which civil society representatives from the 54 OGP countries will elect their own Steering Committee representatives.  In parallel, the 54 government representatives will pick replacements for the current government Steering Committee members. These processes are expected to be elaborated in the governance plan.

The Governance Subcommittee recommended evening up the membership to 9-9, specifically suggesting that the new member come from Africa. South Africa is now the only African government on the Steering Committee. The other African OGP member countries are Liberia, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.

The Steering Committee also decided that a civil society representative be chosen as a co-chair, tasking the subcommittee with devising the details.

Meeting Closed

The five-hour meeting so far is closed to observers and no draft materials have been released, although there are hints that some will be.

The Governance Subcommittee suggested that that the Steering Committee meeting should be conducted under Chatham House rules, meaning that no statements can be attributed to individual participants.

The subcommittee also said that those attending the meeting (possibly included invited civil society representatives and additional government representatives) may use social media during the proceedings, under Chatham House rules.

Reporting Mechanism on the Agenda

Another key topic for discussion will concern the “independent reporting mechanism” – the process through which the member nations’ implementation of their action plans will be reviewed.

A general description of this process has long been on the OGP’s website, but a “concept note” from the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee is on the agenda.

In addition, the Steering Committee will get updated on OGP “institutional developments,” including “institutional hosting” and the OGP Networking Mechanism.

 It also will review its budget and finances.

The OGP in September listed its contributors on the website, but has not issued a budget.  Much of the effort is underwritten by participating countries, with substantial help from a consortium of private foundations.  The draft disclosure policy said the organization “proactively makes available on-line a substantial amount of information,” including donors, amounts, timeframe, and annual budget/expenses.

The annual meeting that will occur April 17-18 also will be discussed. The agenda says there will be a “communications overview,” a discussion of the role of Steering Committee members, and a review of the roster of new OGP countries.

After that the committee will turn to an “overview of subcommittee membership and upcoming tasks.”  The OGP has four subcommittees. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.) It will review a SC “rotation proposal.”

The final hour will focus on future plans, with presentations from the United Kingdom representative. The U.K. will replace the United States as an OGP co-chair, to serve along with Brazil. Also scheduled to make a “priorities” presentation is the yet-to-be named co-chair from civil society. The meeting will conclude with a discussion of “regional outreach and country follow-up.”

Read all FreedomInfo.org articles about the OGP at http://www.freedominfo.org/regions/global/ogp/

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