Lithuania, Malta, Turkey Fall Behind in OGP Process

12 February 2014

Lithuania, Malta and Turkey have failed to meet their commitments as members of the Open Government Partnership, the OGP acknowledged in an unusual public statement issued Feb. 11.

Three countries appear to be drop-outs from “Cohort 2” – a group of countries that joined the OGP at about the same time. They faced the same deadlines for producing national action plans, doing self-assessments of progress and being evaluated by an independent reviewer.

The three countries, however, missed the September deadline to submit a self-assessment and then seem to have gone underground. The OGP said Feb. 11 that staff efforts to contact the governments’ OGP representatives were “without success.” The statement also reports that there is “little evidence” that the countries’ action plan commitments were being fulfilled.

Most of the original 39 members of Cohort 2 are moving ahead, with progress reports by the independent evaluators currently being issued on 35 countries.

No Independent Evaluations Planned

The OGP said it will not being conducting evaluations for Lithuania, Malta and Turkey having “concluded there was not sufficient activity related to OGP to produce a report.”

The OGP Support Unit “will now work with these three countries to meet the requirements of continued participation in OGP,” the statement said, notwithstanding the apparent communications gap.

The OGP’s founding philosophy envisioned voluntary participation with self-set goals, a design meant to encourage progress on open government in a supportive multi-national environment. Since its official creation in September 2011, 63 countries have joined. One, Russia, dropped out. Deadlines slipped overall and some countries were tardy in producing action plans.

There is no OGP precedent of disciplining countries failing to meet their obligations. OGP leaders have consistently said they would prefer engagement over punishment, except in extreme circumstances.

The Feb. 11 statement ends by saying that what to do next has been deferred. It states:

The consequences of not receiving an IRM progress report will be considered by the Criteria and Standards subcommittee of the OGP Steering Committee in due course. The subcommittee will also be considering the implications of the IRM’s findings for the other Cohort 2 countries.

FreedomInfo.org last week e-mailed inquiries to the contacts the three countries listed on the OGP website, but received no answers.

A fourth country, the Netherlands, another Cohort 2 member, also is not getting an independent evaluation. It was put on another schedule — moved to Cohort 3.  “Essentially, the Dutch Government actively tried to gain Parliamentary approval and consult more widely to develop an improved action plan,” an OGP official told Freedominfo.org. “This process took longer than anticipated and implementation was delayed. We agreed with them to move to Cohort 3 as it more closely matched the implementation schedule they were on.”

Only about half of Cohort II made the September deadline, but most others eventually did. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) When the OGP’s Independent Review Mechanism in September announced the Cohort II reviewers, it did not name reviewers for Turkey, Malta, Lithuania and the Netherlands. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

All Three Attended London Summit

All three countries sent representatives to the OGP summit in London in November.

Turkey sent a Deputy Prime Minister. Lithuania sent its ambassador to the UK. Malta sent the Parliamentary Secretary.

All countries were asked to come to London with “stretch” commitments. Thirty-seven of the nearly 60 members at the time complied, including Turkey and Lithuania, also theirs were rather general ones:

Turkey – “Enhancing integrity, transparency and accountability of public institutions is one of main objectives of our national OGP agenda”

Lithuania offered: “Continuously improve public services for citizens using new technologies, best management and good governance practice”

Malta did not provide a stretch goal. Malta’s original action plan achieved a small degree of notoriety in OGP circles for having included “cleaner beaches” as a goal.

A Lithuanian civil society official told FreedomInfo that officials “started collecting info on progress retrospectively recently (as ironic as it might sound).”

The full OGP statement:

The Open Government Partnership’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) is in the process of publishing 35 progress reports on the group of countries that joined OGP at the Brasilia Summit in 2012 – known as Cohort 2. IRM progress reports are designed to assess implementation of National Action Plan commitments, provide feedback on public consultation and engagement with civil society, and make recommendations to improve the following National Action Plan.

Three countries from this group will not be receiving an IRM progress report at this time: Lithuania, Malta and Turkey. The decision not to produce a report for these three countries was taken for a number of reasons. First, a considerable number of attempts were made during the report research period by both the Support Unit and the IRM team to make contact with a government representative without success. Second, no self-assessment report was submitted on the National Action Plan. Third, other independent attempts to verify activities related to the National Action Plan found little evidence that commitments were being implemented. The IRM therefore concluded there was not sufficient activity related to OGP to produce a report.

The Support Unit will now work with these three countries to meet the requirements of continued participation in OGP, including improving consultation with civil society and the creation of their second OGP National Action Plan by June 15th, 2014. The consequences of not receiving an IRM progress report will be considered by the Criteria and Standards subcommittee of the OGP Steering Committee in due course. The subcommittee will also be considering the implications of the IRM’s findings for the other Cohort 2 countries.

Suspension Rules Still in Flux

The OGP still is in the process of revising its suspension policy. Comments on proposed revisions to the Articles of Governance were due in late November, but no new Articles have been posted.

Under the proposed revisions, OGP participating governments that “repeatedly (in two consecutive IRM reports) acts contrary to OGP process and to its action plan commitments (addenda B and C), fails to adequately address issues raised by the IRM, or is taking actions that undermine the values and principles of OGP,” may have their continuing participation reviewed by the Steering Committee. IRM reports are now on a two-year cycle. Should a country fall below the minimum eligibility requirements it is given a year to get back over the threshold.

The topic does not appear in the minutes of the October Steering Committee meeting.

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