OGP Continues Steps for Reviews of Action Plans

25 January 2013

The Open Government Partnership has opened 2013 with a call for the independent reviewers who will evaluate the first eight national action plans.

The hiring and training reviewers will be finished by the end of March if things go as planned. By late October, when the OGP will hold its second annual meeting, the first eight evaluations should be completed, according to the schedule.

The first countries to have their national action plans reviewed will be the eight founding members:  Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

These countries are expected to have their own self-assessments done by the end of March.

The dual process of internal and external reviews is a close as the OGP gets to an enforcement mechanism.  The commitments made by each of the 58 member countries are voluntary and the reviews are mainly intended to gauge the progress toward their achievement.

The process of review, however, is seen as offering space for further public discourse about the goals, what has been achieved, and what else should occur in the future. OGP leaders consider the evaluation stage critical to determining the efficacy and staying power of the effort begun officially in September 2011.

Looking for Local Talent

Identifying the researchers who will conduct the country reviews is a major first step.

The process, known as the Independent Review Mechanism (IRM), will be overseen by a five-person panel of senior experts, three of which have been appointed.  (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) Assisting them will be five technical experts, who also have been named. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) The OGP is seeking two additional senior advisors, from Latin America and Asia. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)  Managing the review process on the OGP “support unit” is Joe Foti. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The OGP recently unveiled the qualifications that the local researchers should meet.

Among other things, the OGP is looking for “demonstrated history (approximately 10 years) of policy-relevant research,” and a “national reputation as objective, impartial, and thorough.”

Other skills sought relate to the ability to conduct what will be a major information-gathering effort involving many sectors of society and producing a credible report.

There is a “strong preference” for nationals from the evaluated country and for those with experience directly relevant to country action plans.

Applications are due by Feb. 8.

The “national researchers” will be approved by the Independent Experts Panel and IRM program staff, with an opportunity for comment and input by the respective national governments. This consultation is designed mainly to surface conflicts of interest

The country reports “will be drafted by these national researchers based on a combination of interviews with local OGP stakeholders, analysis of relevant data, and reports by governments and civil society,” according to the OGP.

The overall process is defined by the Steering Committee in a “concept note,”” revised and approved Dec. 4, 2012. The concept note and other IRM materials are on the OGP website here.

In the meantime, the OGP is drafting a “common questionnaire” for the evaluators, which will be put out for public comment.

The scope of the review has evolved some during 2012, moving beyond being a check of whether a country met its goals and giving slightly more latitude to the national researcher to look at the consultation process used by the country and whether more ambitious goals should be set.

The concept note lays out four basic areas of inquiry:

  •         The extent to which the action plan and its commitments reflect, in a country-specific way, the OGP values of transparency, accountability, and civic participation, as articulated in the OGP Declaration of Principles and the Articles of Governance.
  •         Wherever relevant, IRM reports may reflect actions or measures relevant to the country’s participation in OGP that were not originally reflected in the action plan.
  •         The degree to which OGP governments are following OGP process requirements and guidance in the development and implementation of their plans, in keeping with the Articles of Governance – Addendum C.
  •         Progress made on the articulation and implementation of each commitment and the plan as a whole, according to milestones laid out by the government in its action plan.
  •         Technical recommendations regarding how countries can improve implementation of each commitment and the plan as a whole, as well as how to better realize the values and principles of OGP, with specific reference to the OGP Articles of Governance and the OGP Declaration of Principles.

Deadline Approaching for National Self-Assessments

National self-assessments were originally due to be completed three months after the first anniversary of being completed. The first eight plans were turned in before or during September of 2011, but the deadline for completed self-evaluations was extended to the end of this March.

No official assessment exists of the current progress toward that goal, although anecdotal evidence suggests the self-assessments are most advanced in Brazil, Mexico and the United States.

Some of the first eight countries have, or may, revise their initial plans, as Mexico has already done and Brazil is about to. There is no specific mandate for revising plans, but the OGP envisions them as “living” plans.

One general topic of concern for OGP leaders, and for many in the CSO community, is the quality of the national consultations, which was negatively reviewed in many countries during the first round of action plan creation.

The OGP focused seriously on the consultation process early on, establishing model policies. That focus is continuing.  The World Bank Institute and the OGP Networking Mechanism on Jan. 22 sponsored a webinar on “how to design consultations in a way which empowers participants, captures valuable new data and increases public trust.”

Varied models are emerging within civil society for assessing the national action plans and working with governments in the OGP context.

The Centre for Law and Democracy, a Canadian-based nongovernmental organization, in December produced a report entitled “Making the OGP Effective: Guidelines for Assessing OGP Action Plans.”

The deadline for the other 50 member countries of the OGP, most of which turned in their action plans last April in Brazil at the first OGP plenary conference, is the next plenary meeting, to be held Oct. 31-Nov.1 in London.  

A schedule for further independent reviews has not been set. It may be affected by budget and capacity concerns.

Be Sociable, Share!


Filed under: What's New