OGP Grapples With Getting Members to Pay Dues

8 April 2014

By Toby McIntosh

The Open Government Partnership Steering Committee is poised to increase the pressure for financial contributions from its members, 86 percent of whom don’t contribute.

With rising budget needs, the two-and-one-half-year-old organization also is broadening its search for financial backing, which so far has come mostly from major foundations and the large countries on the Steering Committee.

The OGP now hopes to get help from multilateral organizations, too. The goal is to get one-third of its income from multilaterals such as the World Bank, another third from foundations and the remaining third from its 63 members.

It took some time, but all nine governments on the Steering Committee have now contributed, with Indonesia being the latest, as reflected in a newly updated web page on contributions. More on this later.

Most government members, 54 of them, haven’t been writing checks.

The OGP dues policy has been evolving slowly over the past several years. The growing organization, which started in 2011 with a first-year budget around $1.5 million, is projecting annual spending of $4.5-$5 million, to cover cost such as the independent reviews of members’ national action plans.

Passing the Hat Fails

After starting with an all voluntary contribution policy, the 18-member OGP Steering Committee (SC) in December 2012 adopted a sliding scale for mandatory contributions by governments serving on the committee.

The unusual OGP governance structure is composed half of members from civil society and half from governments. CSO members have not been asked to contribute.

For all other OGP members, contributions were voluntary.

In May 2013, a pressured SC appealed for a minimum payment (suggested level $25,000) by all members to help with a “substantial” budget gap.

This request was made in a letter to the governments and never followed up on.

Compliance would have raised more than $1 million, but no members provided funding.

Of the 63 OGP members  — a few quite new, but most veterans of several years — 54 have not contributed; 86 percent.

Contribution Policy Being Revised

Now the Steering Committee is revising its sliding scale and looking to put small teeth into the contribution policy.

Members will be asked to contribute based on a sliding scale related to their economies. The exact numbers are still under development, but previous scales may provide some clues.

In December 2012, the sliding scale for the SC members was set at $50,000 for low income countries, $100,000 for medium income countries and $200,000 per year for high income countries.

It also decided that in 2014, the proposed levels would be “$100k/year for low income countries, $200k/year for middle income countries and $300k/year for high income countries.” This higher level was not implemented, however.

Under the policy now being drafted, as described in the minutes of a January OGP subcommittee meeting, contributions by those on the Steering Committee would still be voluntary, with a small penalty.

Governments that don’t contribute for two years could be disqualified from participating in elections for new government representatives on the Steering Committee.

This new policy is being refined and will go before the Steering Committee May 5.

OGP officials said they could not yet describe the next sliding scale or project its impact on income.

Steering Committee Members Contribute

According to the OGP website, updated this week, all nine SC government members have contributed (Indonesia, Philippines, United Kingdom, Norway, Brazil, South Africa, Mexico, United States, and Tanzania.)

There are some accounting anomalies in the list.  For example, the $200,000 listing in 2014 for Indonesia is really meant to cover 2014 and 2013. Some of the large UK contribution in 2013 is meant for 2012. The government contributions are listed by calendar year, the OGP fiscal year, but governments operate on other fiscal cycles.

The government contributions for 2014 through March total $403,000. In 2013, the total was $1.2 million. In 2012, the total was $637,000.

Contributions shown for 2014 are: Indonesia, $200,000; Philippines, $100,000; and United Kingdom, $103,092.24.

Contributions were received in 2013 from the United Kingdom, $452,832; Norway, $213,000; South Africa, $150,000; and the Philippines, $100,000.

The 2012 contributions were: United States, $200,000; Norway, $187,000; United Kingdom, $100,000; and the Philippines, $50,000. Brazil is listed as having spent $705,000 on the 2012 summit in Brasilia.

Also shown are “in-kind contributions.” The government of Brazil said it spent $705,000 on the 2012 OGP summit in Brasilia, according to the listing. Google spent $350,000 to support an event and the OGP website launch. No word yet on the cost of 2013 London summit.

Foundation contributions also are recorded on the page. Provided in 2012 and 2013, these add up to just over $4 million. Some, however, are designated to cover 2014 and 2015, too. The grants, with combined totals, have come from: Omidyar Network, $1,400,000; Hewlett Foundation $1,240,000; Open Society Foundations, $800,000; and Ford Foundation, $600,000.

The OGP “budget” page website does not include expenditures.

Revised Articles of Governance Posted

In another development, the OGP has posted revised Articles of Governance.

Among other things, there’s a revised plan for selecting members of the Steering Committee. The original members were all OGP “founders” and the goal is to bring in new members.

Several new civil society members were chosen in 2013 through a process of nomination and committee selection. The s process will continue this year. An original plan for voting within the international CSOP community was dropped as too complicated.

An election for new government representatives by the member government, however, is expected to occur this year after much delay. Debate over the new process was complicated when none of the original SC government members volunteered to step down. The plan envisions a special election in which governments will join for staggered one, two and three year terms to ensure regular annual rotation from 2015 onwards.

An OGP blog post describes the process of developing the latest Articles, which included a consultation period that began in October 2013 during which five comments were received.

Another change may be added the Articles to deal with applications to join the OGP from non-UN recognized territories. The OGP support unit is developing a policy that will be presented at the May Steering Committee meeting.

Steering Committee meetings are closed.

See more than 170 previous FreedomInfo.org articles on the OGP here.  

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