CSOs Begin Discussion of OGP Rotation, Voting Rules

25 July 2012

The civil society community of the Open Government Partnership is reexamining the planned system for electing civil society members to the OGP Steering Committee.

The OGP civil society coordinator, Paul Maassen, has invited comments from civil society on the mechanism by which the current nine civil society members of the Steering Committee will rotate off the committee and their replacements will be elected.

A process  is already outlined in the OGP’s Articles of Governance, but the goal is to see if it can be simplified and improved, Maassen told FreedomInfo.org.  He asked for comments from civil society organizations (CSOs) by Aug. 19.

Among topics that could considered are the concept of one vote per country, how the country representatives are selected, the timing of the elections and the ideal make-up of the Steering Committee.

Any proposed changes would be published as a draft document and put out for 30 days of public comment. The Steering Committee would need to approve amendments to the Articles.

Maassen also is conducting a survey to learn about civil society efforts and interests in connection with OGP. Among other things, it asks: “Do you have ideas and suggestions on how the rotation mechanism should operate (e.g. should nominations be solicited, who would be eligible to vote, what would the criteria for selection be?” The survey deadline is Aug. 5.

Masseen asked for volunteers from CSOs to participate on a small group to consider options. The volunteers are: Galib Abasov (National Budget Group, Azerbaijan); Alison Tilley (ODAC, South Africa); Kim Smouter (European Network of National Civil Society Associations, Brussels); Emilene Martinez (México Infórmate); and Vincent Lazatin (Transparency and Accountability Network, Philippines).

Articles of Governance Could Be Changed

The discussions of rotations and voting could result in changes being made to the rules as they now stand; described in the Articles of Governance.

The Articles define how over the next few years the Steering Committee will transition to be a fully elected body. The Steering Committee, unusual for a multilateral body, is equally composed of representatives from civil society and governments. Most of the 18 current members are “founders” and the plan for the future is to fully elect member of the committee, which could be expanded to 20.

The CSO community will elect its representatives and member governments will elect their representatives. To ensure some continuity, this transformation is to take place on a staged basis over three years.

The founding members agreed that on a volunteer basis three CSO and three government members would leave the committee and that the others would take staggered two, three or four year terms. Although OGP officials had expected this to be decided by now, those decisions have not been announced.

Elections Planned for 2013

Next year, when the OGP annual conference will be held in London, secret ballot elections will be held during a plenary business session to fill the vacancies.

To elect the civil society members on the committee, both national and international CSOs will be selected. Each constituency will have an equal number of votes.  At the moment, with 56 OGP government members, this will mean a total CSO voting bloc of 112; 56 from the country CSO representatives and 56 from the international organizations.

One voting civil society representative will be chosen for each member country. Who will represent civil society from each country will be determined, not by governments, but through a process of self-selection within countries, with any difficulties reaching consensus to be resolved with the OGP Support Unit and the OGP Governance and Leadership Subcommittee.

The selection system is described in several places in the Articles, but the section on “elections and voting” says that each country’s CSO representative will be the one chosen as the “financed participant.” The financing process is described in the “annual conference” section, which states that the OGP Support Unit “work with civil society to determine the most appropriate representation for each country, in an open process.” If there is “difficulty reaching civil society consensus at the country level, the Support Unit and Governance and Leadership sub-committee are to proactively identify qualified representatives wherever possible through an open and competitive application process according to transparency, public criteria.”

If there is no “financed participant,” according to the “elections and voting” system, “the first local civil society organization from that country to meet the application criteria are to be eligible to vote at the annual meeting as well.”

An equal number of international organizations will be allowed to vote, chosen through a separate application process, but apparently on a first-come first served basis. The Articles of Governance describe the process in the section on elections and voting, stating that “the first” qualified applicants will be chosen, up to the limit on the constituency size.

Government and CSOs interested in serving on the steering committee will be asked to describe themselves and indicate how they could contribute, their strengths and how much time they could devote to the task.

Applications to serve on the Steering Committee will be due 90 days in advance of the annual conference, which next year will be held in March in London. No exact dates are posted yet on the OGP website..

“After review by the Steering Committee, a full list of candidate governments and organizations is to be presented to the plenary,” according to the Articles.

Separately, the heads of government delegations will vote for new government Steering Committee representatives to replace those rotating off the committee.

The new Steering Committee will hold a short business meeting after each annual conference, according to the Articles of Governance.

The Steering Committee will elect the three co-chairs, two from government and one from civil society. The lead co-chair will be responsible for the annual meeting. The Articles also establish four subcommittees, already in existence.

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