Irish Minister Proposes Joining OGP; Others?

6 December 2012

A top minister in the Irish government has proposed that Ireland join the Open Government Partnership and more information has emerged about the possibility of membership by Australia, and other countries.

The Irish Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin, in a Dec. 5 address stated, “I intend to bring proposals to Government shortly for Ireland to participate in the global Open Government Partnership, reinforcing our commitment to progress in this area.”

Ireland’s non-membership has been criticized by transparency activists in the country, even creating a Twitter tag on the subject (#ogpIRL). The point was made again when the OGP selected a former Irish president, Mary Robinson, as one of its senior experts overseeing the independent reviews of member nations’ action plans. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Pressures in Australia, New Zealand

The Australia and New Zealand governments recently were asked to disclose any documents that might explain why they have not joined the OGP. 

In New Zealand, Andrew Ecclestone made a freedom of information act request Nov. 28 asking,  
“Please send me copies of all documents created since 1 July 2011, including (but not limited to) advice to ministers and inter-departmental consultations, which consider whether the New Zealand government should apply to join the Open Government Partnership.”

His request follows the disclosure in Australia of a recommendation to join from the Attorney General that apparently was not adopted.

Peter Timmins, in his dynamic Open and Shut blog, wrote:

A document from the Attorney General’s Department released today in response to a request made via Right to Know a month ago reveals the Attorney General directed the Department to write to the Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs last May proposing Australia join the Open Government Partnership. But whether the letter was sent, and what has happened since isn’t apparent. 

Timmons has followed up with a report on a speech by government backbencher Senator John Faulkner advocating OGP membership. One Faulkner line: It is ironic that the largest recipient of Australia’s overseas development assistance, Indonesia, is a very active member of the Open Government Partnership and currently a co-chair, yet, Australia is nowhere to be seen.  

Other Signs of Interest

A number of countries apparently are exploring membership.

When Indonesia hosted the first Open Government Partnership (OGP) Outreach in Asia at the 5th Bali Democracy Forum (BDF) in Bali, Indonesia on Nov, 8-9, participants also included around 21 countries that are already members of OGP.

“As the supporting Co-Chair of OGP, Indonesia executed its mandate to promote OGP to a broader audience in the Asian region, with the theme “Embracing the Colors of Openness,” according to a description of the meeting posted on the OGP blog.

“After the event, 6 countries (Pakistan, Romania, Palestine, Nigeria, Myanmar, Serbia) showed their interest in receiving further information about OGP, with Nigeria and Palestine indicated their interest in joining OGP,” according to the posting.

Of those countries named, Pakistan, Romania and Serbia are on the list of 79 eligible countries that the OGP created in 2010. Nigeria has passed a FOI law since the four-factor list was done.

The OGP intends to update the list in early 2013.

The OGP has not released the scores of those ineligible, however, a policy discussed and reaffirmed by the Steering Committee at its London meeting Dec. 4. Government delegates opposed such a disclosure, which was supported by the civil society members on the committee.

Some currently ineligible countries have indicated an aspiration to join.

Myanmar recently announced its intention to join in 2016. (See FreedomInfo.org article.)   “Tunisia plans to join the OGP in 2012 and Libya, Morocco and Egypt plan to initiate steps toward eligibility this summer,” according to a fact sheet issued by the Group of Eight following a May 19 meeting in Camp David, Md. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Representatives from Morocco and Tunisia reportedly attended the OGP “peer exchange” meeting Dec. 5 in London. The meeting was closed.

There 58 members of the OGP.  (For more on scores and eligibility see recent FreedomInfo.org report.)

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