OGP to Recruit Two More Senior IRM Advisors

21 December 2012

The Open Government Partnership will pick two more senior advisors to help guide the Independent Review Mechanism by which national action plans will be evaluated, according to recently published minutes of an OGP Steering Committee meeting held Dec. 4 in London.

The OGP will seek nominations from Asia and Latin America. The two additional senior advisors will join three others recently announced (see previous FreedomInfo.org report) and five technical advisors (see previous FreedomInfo.org report).  Two of the three chosen so far come from Africa, and the third is Irish.

The expansion plan for the International Expert Panel was one on many decisions taken by the Steering Committee in an all-day meeting.

The minutes also indicate that Mexico will become an OGP co-chair later next year.

Some Review Deadlines Set 

Several other outcomes define the timing of the review process.

The committee agreed that the founding eight countries should publish their action plan self-assessments in March 2013. The reviews by independent experts on these eight will be due in September 2013. For countries that launched their plans in Brazil last April at the first OGP plenary conference, the deadline will be September 2013, before the second OGP annual meeting will be held in London Oct. 31-Nov. 1. Other deadlines remain under discussion.

The 20-member Steering Committee also approved guidelines for the review mechanism and discussed next steps after the first round of action plans.

The underlying documents discussed at the meeting were posted before the session. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

Disclosing Eligibility Data Debated

The Steering Committee discussed eligibility requirements, deciding after a debate that it would not proactively disclose the scores for countries that did not qualify for OGP membership. The committee, however, said the scores could be released if requested.

Civil society representatives on the committee argued for proactive disclosure of the scores, but government members, including Brazil, said proactive disclosure would appear to be passing judgment on countries. The OGP originally found 79 countries to be eligible, of which 58 have joined.

Dues Structure Set

The Steering Committee was told that the organization is facing “liquidity challenges” and discussed its finances. Unnamed private foundations are expected to provide grants soon, with more on the horizon, the minutes state.

The OGP aims to have equal support from private sources and governments, but funding from governments has been “less reliable,” according to the minutes. The members agreed that relying on private foundations is unsustainable over the long term.

Deciding that governments should provide half of the budget, the committee adopted a sliding scale for “minimum contributions” from countries represented on the Steering Committee: $200,000 per year for high income countries, $100,000 for medium income countries, and $50,000 for low income countries. Contributions from other OGP countries will be requested, according to the minutes.

The OGP budget will grow in 2013 to $2.3 million, up from $1.5 million in 2012, according to documents posted before the meeting. No detail on income has been disclosed.

New Rotation Plan Approved for Committee

The OGP also approved a new plan for selecting the 10 civil society members, ditching an elaborate plan for elections and adopting a system in which committee-vetted nominees will be selected by the CSO members of the Steering Committee. The first round of the process is expected to occur by March for three new CSO members.

The Steering Committee is now composed primarily of representatives from groups and countries that founded.  Existing members are to rotate off the committee, but thus far no volunteers have stepped forward except Norway. Rather obliquely, the minutes state, “One member noted concerns about certain members being asked to volunteer to rotate off while others were encouraged to remain on, and all SC members agreed on the need to move forward with full transparency, fairness and trust regarding rotation discussions.”

The government members will not begin to rotate off until next October, with the vote among OGP member countries to occur in July when another Steering Committee meeting will take place. Another SC meeting will be held in April.

Concerns were expressed about online voting, according to the minutes, but the decision indicates that the voting will be “possibly virtually.”

The minutes note a need to “confirm” that Mexico will become the next government co-chair of the OGP.  The United Kingdom is the current lead co-chair, with Indonesia as the other government co-chair. A member of civil society also is a co-chairman, Warren Krafchik, director of the International Budget Partnership.

Other Topics Discussed

The committee received a report on the OGP Networking Mechanism and agreed that it “has not achieved sufficient traction” and that steps need to taken “to arrest this challenge.”

The committee approved with slight modifications a set of principles to govern regional OGP outreach meetings.

Also approved was an amended “Framework for Multilateral Cooperation” defining potential arrangements with multilateral organizations.

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