OGP May Ratchet Up Goals for Second Action Plans

8 July 2013

By Toby McIntosh

Members of the Open Government Partnership should demonstrate “ambition” in their second national action plans, an OGP subcommittee has recommended.

This proposal and many other topics are to be considered July 11-12 in London by the OGP Steering Committee.

Although only the founding eight OGP countries are embarked on the preparation of follow-up action plans, the Steering Committee is looking to ensure that second generation plans don’t lack luster.

“The second round of national action plans should clearly demonstrate how commitments are advancing open government in scope and/or in time frame. Governments should also move beyond traditional civil society consultation models, towards ongoing meaningful dialogue on policy commitments and implementation of action plan,” according to report by the Criteria and Standards Subcommittee.

The agenda and other pre-meeting materials were posted in the last few days on the OGP website. The meetings are closed. Minutes are issued about two weeks later. (See Freedominfo.org report on April SC meeting.)

Numerous Subjects on Agenda

Besides looking at “ambition,” the Steering Committee is scheduled to revisit the topic of how to improve the “country support and peer learning strategy,” on which another subcommittee has reported.

Among other things, a “concept note” is provided on how to create “thematic working groups.” Five such groups are being planned; on fiscal openness, open parliaments, open data, access to information, and extractives.

The Steering Committee is also slated to address “partnerships” with four multilateral organizations – the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development and the United Nations Development Program.

In addition, the Steering Committee will attempt to finalize a long-in-the-making plan to provide for the election of government members of the Steering Committee (no advance materials provided).

Fundraising and the tight OGP budget are also on the agenda, but the pre-meeting materials contain no advance information on reports to be given.

The OGP materials include three documents describing plans for the Oct. 31-Nov.1 annual meeting in London.

Recently announced were plans for a one-day civil society meeting on Oct. 30.

Maintaining Vibrancy a Goal

Seeking to “maintain vibrancy and relevance” for the OGP, the C&S subcommittee report suggests how to define and assess ambition.

While OGP leaders have discussed previously how to encourage “stretch” goals, the subject is increasingly relevant as the almost two-year-old 60-member organization matures.

The founding eight OGP countries will “shortly” see the assessments of their first action plans by independent experts hired to examine them. Most of the eight have started the process of developing a second plan.

A second cohort of 39 countries will begin the review and renewal same process in November. Others among the OGP’s 60 members will follow suit. The OPG now envisions a two-year cycle of plans, self-assessment, independent assessment and the submission of a new plan.

The Steering Committee is being asked to discuss a proposed definition of ambitious that among other things says there should be “demonstrable advancement.”

The subcommittee also suggested that countries should “highlight one ambitious commitment” during the annual OGP conference. Addressing a complaint of some critics, the subcommittee said members should seek to attain the full score on the 16-point OGP admission test. (Nine points are required to join.)

Assessing Ambition

The Independent Review Mechanism, the separate body that oversees the assessment process, should “devise a framework for assessing ambition for each country commitment, ranging from minimal to potentially transformative,” the subcommittee said.

The report says:

The IRM national researchers will be responsible for evaluating national commitments. The assessment will be made according to the potential output of the commitment at the time of submission of the action plan, not the impact or difficulty of the commitment (i.e. whether a FOI law is progressed, not what impact the FOI law has had in practice).

The subcommittee also recommended that new guidelines based on best practice be established to ensure engagement with civil society.

Dealing with the consequences of moving to a two-year cycle, the subcommittee has proposed one-year interim self-assessments by governments.

All Freedominfo.org reports on the OGP are here.

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