OGP Opens Summit With Challenges, New Promises

31 October 2013

 The Open Government Partnership kicked off its second summit with more than 1,000 delegates gathered in London to share ideas and discuss national commitments.

With New Zealand becoming the 61st member, the two-year old multi-stakeholder group was praised by speakers who also set new challenges for a maturing organization.

A few OGP countries began to announce their “stretch goals,” beginning with British Prime Minister David Cameron, who drew applause with a pledge to make corporate ownership registries public.

“Closed governments breed poverty,” he said in remarks during which he listed four goals. First, “We have to get out there and really make the argument for open government.” he said. “Second, we have to translate words into deeds.”

The prime minister said developed countries “have to practice what we preach,” going on to announce the beneficial ownership initiative. He said the U.K. will continue to campaign for other countries to follow suit. In response to a question he said the effort will cover corporations, but not trusts. Finally, Cameron pledged to give “full-throated support” for groups that support open government.

Other stretch goals trickled out during the first day, although the announcement of them all may be delayed until Nov. 4, OGP officials said. Tanzania’s president pledged to pass a freedom of information bill “by next year.” All members were asked to come to London with one such goal. (Editor’s note: The list was released Nov.1; see related FreedomInfo.org report.)

 CSO Chairman Also Offers Agenda

Another speaker at the opening plenary session was the outgoing OGP civil society organization co-chairman Warren Krafchik , who stressed that the organization needs to address the issue of how to protect civil society.

 In an overall assessment, Krafchik said, “We’re making good progress that is clear, but not in all countries.”  Cautioning against assuming success, he observed that “there is no invisible hand of transparency.” The critical role of OGP is to “tip the balance,” according to Krafchik, the director of the International Budget Partnership.

 There is need to “fundamentally transform the government-citizen relationship,” Krafchik said. “So far the quality of the OGP process has been mixed,” he said, citing a survey of CSOs in which 40 percent of those responding praised the consultation process in their countries, but that another 40 percent said the process was weak, with 20 percent being ambivalent.

 Discussing how to protect civil society, he said one option would be to strengthen the OGP eligibility criteria in the area. A second option may be to enable the OGP to suspend countries that interfere with civic space, he said.

 “We can debate the options, we cannot delay this discussion,” said Krafchik.

Be Sociable, Share!

Tags:

Filed under: What's New