OGP CSO Coordinator Backs Creating New Standards

30 September 2013

Paul Maassen, the Open Government Partnership civil society coordinator, has advocated the creation of open government standards with which to judge national efforts.

His comments come in his latest newsletter as he asks, “What can civil society itself do to monitor success at the national level?”

Maassen points to efforts by the Access Info Europe and Transparency International to measure  open government. “Building on this work and that of others, civil society could create a new global ‘open government index’ that rates and ranks countries on a wide range of aspects of open government,” he suggests. “Such an index could be a blend of (elements of) existing indices (i.e. the Global Integrity Report, the Civicus index and rapid assessment of civil society, Web Foundation’s Open Data Index, the Open Budget Index, the Resource Governance Index), or be built from scratch.”

Maassen continues, “This would be a macro-approach, setting new levels of ambition for the broader concept of open government, triggering a race to the top by explicitly ranking countries and thus triggering their vanity and competitiveness.” The result would be “a great tool for (media) advocacy,” he says, “yet time- and resource-intensive to create.”

More Modest Idea

“A more modest idea is to create a simple and transparent review methodology to be used by civil society in OGP member countries to assess the quality and ambition of both the consultation process and the resulting Action Plan,” he says. Maassen envisions quadrants with “a limited set of weighted indicators.”

He states:

The end result would be a Civil Society National OGP Review simple stating ‘country x gets 4 out of 5 stars for quality of the Action Plan, 3 out of 5 for the quality of the process.’ If chosen smartly, the indicators could be a positive stimulus for responsible government actors to makes changes, thus improving the national OGP plan and process each iterative round.

Personally I feel we might need both – and even more – tools in the coming years in order to achieve the scale of change we all hope for. But we need the second idea as soon as possible. Having a simple review methodology would give a comparable basis across countries for our critique of OGP and the actions of our governments. It would strengthen the case we make. It would help the second round of OGP plans.

 Maassen also provided an “ultra-short summary” of civil society organizations concerns about the OPG: “the eligibility threshold is too low and the criteria too limited; the commitments are not ambitious; and the consultations are insufficiently inclusive and ‘real’.”

The OGP Independent Review Mechanism has released reports on South Africa and Brazil, with more to come. The reports ae the work of independent evaluators hired by the OGP to evaluate countries’ fulfillment of the commitments made in their national action plans.

By contrast, standards such as those proposed by Maassen would not be official OGP standards, but would be used by CSO’s to measure their countries against an agreed upon standard.

OGP Civil Society Survey

Recently announced was the OGP Civil Society Survey 2013.  The survey is a “temperature check” on CSO engagement with OGP and “the health of the initiative as a whole.”

The survey is available in Spanish and English. The results will be announced at the OGP Civil Society Day (University of London Union, Oct. 30)

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