OGP Plans December Meetings in London

12 November 2012

The Open Government Partnership Steering Committee has scheduled a Dec. 4 meeting to consider a variety of organization topics, including fine-tuning its independent review mechanism and possibly settling on a revised strategic plan.

Public comments on both matters were just posted on the OGP website.

Also posted was a long summary of the civil society OGP meeting in Croatia. Other regional meetings are being planned, but few details are available.

Although Brazil recently issued a detailed report on its implementation efforts, other countries have been less forthcoming.  In fact, when the OGP support unit this summer sent out an online questionnaire to member governments, only two countries replied (Chile and Denmark), according to the results posted on the website in response to a Freedominfo.org request under the OGP disclosure policy.

IRM Appointments Still in the Works

Delayed by several months has been the announcement of the members of the eight-person expert panel that will oversee the independent review mechanism (IRM).  In August, OGP officials expected decisions by late September (See previous Freedominfo.org report.)  Officials now say the names will be out in several weeks.

The panel will be made up of five “technical experts” and three persons with international prestige who are known advocates for democracy, open government, and human rights. More than 60 persons were evaluated for the jobs, officials have previously said.

Countries Without Plans to Attend Meeting

In addition to the Steering Committee meeting in London, the OGP will hold a “working meeting” for recent members on Dec. 4.

Some civil society groups are being invited, OGP official said, along with various experts. Attendees will include government representatives from countries that still need to write action plans, including: Liberia, Ghana, Argentina, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, Russia, Serbia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania and Mongolia.

IRM, Strategic Plan

An agenda and advance materials will be issued for the Steering Committee meeting, which is closed, but some what the members may consider is referenced in comments summarized on the website about the IRM “Concept Note” (See previous FreedomInfo.org report) and the draft strategic plan (See previous FreedomInfo.org report).

“A number of these more general comments on the IRM’s overall approach will be integrated into the Independent Expert Panel (IEP) Guiding Principles Document that the OGP Steering Committee is currently developing for review and approval at the upcoming Steering Committee Meeting on December 4, 2012 in London,” according to the OGP. It also said:

The remaining comments, which relate to more specific aspects of the IRM’s methodology and questionnaire, will be shared with the incoming IEP to consider as they further develop and refine the IRM methodology over the coming months.  As the IEP makes progress in developing this methodology, the IRM Program Manager will share relevant updates with the public, including how additional concerns coming out of this public consultation are being addressed.

Topping the OGP’s list of general comments, was “a strong desire for the IRM to take a more contextual view of whether the action plans are targeting what they need to be targeting/ambition of action plans; concern that countries are going to sign on to the OGP and pledge commitments that do little or nothing to improve government openness and yet take advantage of the political benefits that come with OGP membership—see as real weakness.”

“One idea would be to include in the review if countries are making progress in improving the eligibility criteria for joining OGP since they do not have to meet all criteria to get in to begin with,” the OGP said.

A variety of other comments were summarized, including whether public perceptions would be included, and whether the independent evaluators’ reports would be open to public comment as well as being given to the governments for pre-publication review, as now planned.

Strategic Plan Comments

Comments on the strategic plan “helped inform final revisions to the plan, specifically in the areas of improved performance benchmarks, engaging the media as important stakeholders at the country level, and ensuring a strong emphasis on process as much as results in the development and implementation of country action plans.”

The summary did not indicate what advice was included from the 10 points summarized.

The OGP reported that “there is a big fear is that government can make commitments and reap positive press, but there are few (or at least unclear) consequences for failing to act, and it is unclear what levers the OGP offers (or will offer) civil society in that capacity.”

The implementation of action plans was discussed in several of the comments.

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