OGP Seeks to Recruit New Steering Committee Members

15 January 2013

The Open Government Partnership is moving to add new members to its Steering Committee, which has turned out to be a touchy challenge.      

Incumbent government members have been reluctant to leave.

A significant step forward occurred Jan. 15 when the OGP issued a public call for nominations of civil society leaders interested in serving on the OGP Steering Committee. Half of the 18 current members of the Steering Commitee represent civil society and half represent member governments, a unique structure internationally.

To make room for new members, three civil society members will step aside, the OPG announced, but it remains undecided which three governments will drop off, and only one country, Norway, has offered to retire.

Plans to bring on new leadership on a staged basis have been in the works since before the OGP wrote its Articles of Governance. Most current committee members were OGP founders. So it was agreed early on to have three members from each constituency “volunteer” to rotate off the committee so that new members could take their place. The process would be repeated in subsequent years.

Devising the processes – different for each constituency — and figuring out who would step aside has taken longer than expected.

From the civil society side, the three members to depart will be Tom Blanton of the National Security Archive, Gladwell Otieno of the Africa Center for Open Governance, and Juan Pardinas of IMCO, of the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness.

Friction Among Governments

On the governmental side, the volunteering process has been the cause of internal tension and remains unresolved.

The sensitive job of feeling out the member governments on the topic in late 2012 was handled by the United Kingdom, the current lead co-chair. Indonesia is the other governmental co-chair and Warren Krafchik of the International Budget Partnership is the CSO co-chair.

The subject came up during the Steering Committee meeting Dec. 4 in London.  (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) 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.

If the names were disclosed, sources told FreedomInfo.org, the sentence would read:

South Africa noted concerns about being it asked to volunteer to rotate off while the Philippines was encouraged to remain on …

According to one source, a Philippines representative had originally indicated a willingness to rotate off, but later that message was reversed.

The current members are: the UK, Indonesia, Mexico (already slated to be replace the UK as a co-chair), the United States, Brazil, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa and Tanzania (not an original member, but added in 2012 to balance the committee after India dropped before the OGP was officially formed).

South Africa’s membership had been questioned by critics because of the government’s controversial legislation pejoratively termed the “secrecy bill,” now softened somewhat by amendments and near final passage, but still much criticized by transparency activists in South Africa.

The government in the Philippines has been faulted for the failure to pass a freedom of information bill, now hanging by a thread in the final days of the legislative session.

As the OGP minutes state, the matter of government rotation remains undecided. The UK government is said to be continuing the delicate diplomacy.   

There’s still time. The selection of new governments, by a vote among the 58 OGP member countries, is not expected to occur until this summer.

The Steering Committee’s next meeting is April 22-24 in London and another one is planned for July.

The second OGP plenary meeting is scheduled for Oct. 31-Nov. 1 in London.

Process Set to Replace CSO Members

The OGP in recent months ditched an elaborate plan for elections of CSO members by CSOs worldwide and instead adopted a simpler system (including criteria for skills, diversity goals and a timeline) by which self-selected nominees will be vetted through a five-person selection committee and ultimately voted on by the CSO Steering Committee members.

Candidates from Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, Europe and Asia/Oceania are especially being encouraged to apply, as well as women and candidates that are not from the headquarters of international organisations/networks/coalitions.

The deadline for submissions is Feb. 23.

In addition to seeking nominees to serve on the Steering Committee, the OGP is advertising for two volunteers to serve on the selection committee.

The deadline for application letters is Feb. 8.

The other members of the selection panel will be Blanton, Rajani and the Civil Society Coordinator Paul Maassen.

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