OGP Subcommittee Works on Organizational Issues, Funding

17 February 2014

The Open Government Partnership is continuing to refine its structure and procedures, build its financial base and set long-term goals, according to minutes of a subcommittee meeting held Jan. 28-29 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Among other decisions, the subcommittee recommended that for the first time, the OGP should impose a slight penalty for member countries that do not pay their dues, as most have not. Failure to contribute after two years would result in being disqualified from OGP Steering Committee elections.

The subcommittee agreed that the OGP Civil Society Coordination team should be formally integrated with the OGP Support Unit. Indonesia, the new lead OGP co-chair, announced that increasing public participation will be it main focus.

The minutes do not indicate any discussion of the hot topic at the last Steering Committee meeting; how to react when member countries restrict the activities of civil society. The Criteria and Standards subcommittee meeting this week is expected to take on that subject, FreedomInfo.org was told, with minutes out later.

In other OGP developments, the OGP on Feb. 14 issued a six page annual report, which Director Linda Frey summarized the report in a blog post.

Also, the OGP Independent Review Mechanism is continuing to publish a new batch of reports by independent evaluators who have assessed the progress on national action plans.

An initial group of 19 were announced in February, and others have been released periodically since then. The remaining schedule is:

  •  2/24: Azerbaijan, Ukraine
  •  3/3: Jordan
  •  3/10: Bulgaria
  •  Colombia, Honduras, Kenya

Subcommittee Considers Structure, Planning

The OGP Governance and Leadership Subcommittee (GL) “Strategy Session” covered a wide range of topics.

The OGP Steering Committee has three subcommittees (see membership lists). No schedule of meetings is posted. Pre-meeting documents for Steering Committee (SC) meetings are posted, but not subcommittee documents. This is the first set of subcommittee minutes issued since a GL meeting last January. These and Steering Committee meeting minutes are posted. The Steering Committee meets three times a year. with its next meeting in April. Steering committee meetings and subcommittee meetings are closed.

The GL subcommittee discussed its existing two-year strategic plan and agreed to begin work on a four-year plan.

The subcommittee “reconfirmed support for the three strategic priorities agreed by the SC last April:

  •        Enable country-level successo   maintain high-level political commitmento   support domestic reformers in implementing OGP commitments

    o   increase civil society engagement

  • ·       Promote accountability for results
  • ·         Strengthen OGP governance and build the infrastructure to deliver

The new plan will deal with “questions about what it will take to build and sustain OGP’s momentum over the longer term,” according to the minutes. “The consolidated strategy should also include new sections on context analysis, theory of change, learning & evaluation, and governance & staffing.”

Indonesia Make Participation Top Priority

Indonesia, the lead country co-chair, reported at the meeting that the theme of its year-long chairmanship will be strengthening public participation.

“Domestically, Indonesia will focus on engaging new stakeholders – particularly youth and the private sector – in OGP,” the minutes stated.  It will also seek to expand open government initiatives in Indonesia to the sub-national level.

“Internationally, Indonesia will encourage OGP to find ways to include and showcase innovation at the local government-level, and to influence the transparency, accountability and participation content in the post-2015 UN development framework. As lead chair Indonesia will actively promote the Open Government Awards, which will focus this year on the theme of citizen engagement,” the minutes state.

Indonesia proposed that OGP participating countries be asked to announce at least one new commitment in 2014 to promote public participation in their country.

Roles of Key OGP Actors Discussed

Purnima Chawla of the Center for Non-Profit Strategies (CNPS), which is advising the OGP Support Unit presented recommendations in a variety of areas.

Among other things, Chawla said the Steering Committee “should focus squarely on strategic guidance and high-level outreach, while the SU should lead on implementation,” according to the minutes. She also suggested that the Steering Committee needs to play a much more active role on fundraising.

GL members a expressed support for bringing the Civil Society Coordination team into the Support Unit.  The two small bodies already work closely together.

Chawla supporting the existing separation between the IRM and the Steering Committee, but “suggested that the advantages of close collaboration between the IRM and the Support Unit far outweigh the disadvantages.”

“For example, the Support Unit should be doing more to ensure broad dissemination and uptake of the IRM findings, as well as to incorporate cross-country lessons from the IRM in the guidelines and case studies produced by the Support Unit,” the minuets state.

The subcommittee also discussed a work plan for the Support Unit presented by Frey.

Slight Incentive in Funding Plan

The subcommittee agreed to recommend that the Steering Committee create a new “sliding scale” to govern members’ contributions to the OGP budget in 2015.

For 2014, the current government SC members should contribute the previously agreed amounts. Beginning in 2015, a new sliding scale would be created.

With existing efforts to obtain contributions from members still problematic, the subcommittee decided that If a government fails to pay its minimum contribution for 2 years in a row, it would lose its voting rights in the annual Steering Committee election. The OGP website indicates that only a handful of members have provided financial support. In May 2013, the Steering Committee asked that all members voluntarily contribute at least $25,000. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The minutes observe that reliance on member contributions “carries substantial risk, particularly in the early years.” The notes continue:

It is difficult to know how member governments will respond to this ask and how long it will take to set up appropriate payment mechanisms. In the short to medium-term, OGP therefore will need to rely more heavily on outside donor funding (from foundations and bilateral agencies) in order to deliver on the 4-year strategy and ensure a smooth transition to the dues model.

The OGP’s projected budget, including the civil society team, is $4.5-$5 million annually. The budget is not posted online but has been made available on request. The subcommittee outlined fundraising goals.

Elections, Meetings Discussed

The subcommittee minutes also include a discussion of future elections and chairmanships.

A document to explain the system for governments to stand for election to the Steering Committee is to be by the end of February.

Also discussed were plans to hold a heads of state meeting in September on the margins of the UN General Assembly. The heads of state of all 63 OGP participating countries will be invited to the event, along with high-level representatives from civil society.

During the September 2014 event, “OGP will recognize and honor the winners of the first annual Open Government Awards, which will focus this year on initiatives related to citizen engagement.” The awards process is under developments.

The subcommittee also discussed plans to implement a previous decision to adopt a biannual calendar for action plans and IRM reports. Among other things, the subcommittee aid there should be a short ‘close-out’ report “to provide a final analysis of commitment implementation after the full 2 years of implementation.”

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