UK Official Sophia Oliver Says IRM Is Top OGP Priority

18 September 2012

The United Kingdom, soon to take over as the “lead” co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, is determined to implement  the mechanism for reviewing national action plans, according to Sophia Oliver, the UK’s lead OGP official.

The “top number one priority,” Oliver said Sept. 18, which “absolutely crucial at this stage” is to “get an effective independent reporting mechanism in place,” referring to the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM).

 “This really is a make or break year for the OGP and this is the time when we really have to demonstrate the credibility and accountability of the partnership,” Oliver said during a presentation in Helsinki, Finland, at the OK Festival (video). The conference program includes a series of program related to the OGP.

The IRM is a complex process in which the 57 OGP member governments will make self-assessments of their progress toward fulfilling their action plan commitments and independent assessments also will be conducted. The OGP is on the verge of announcing the membership of the expert group that will oversee the independent assessment system and is fine-tuning the process itself.

A more formal “vision” statement of the UK’s intentions is expected at a one-year anniversary celebration to be help in New York on Sept. 26.

“A lot of other mechanical bits” of the OGP need to get working properly, she said. She said the OGP can help with a framework for self assessments, support work on data standards and help “build the evidence base.”

Addressing the “less clear” angle of citizen participation, Oliver commented, “We’re getting better at putting the information out there, but what we’re not very good at so far is working out whether that’s the right information, whether it’s in the right formats,  whether we even hold the right information, and if we don’t hold it, whether we should gather it.”

“The risk we face in the UK and possibly for the OGP generally is that we all got very good at putting information out there, but in five year’s time people still don’t feel that they are living in a transparent society with a more open government,” she said.

Oliver also said she hopes to see progress in leveraging  the partnership between government and civil society.

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