OGP Celebrates Anniversary, OKs Civic Space Policy

25 September 2014

The Open Government Partnership Sept. 24 celebrated its third anniversary with speeches from world leaders and civil society representatives praising the now 65-nation effort.

US President Barrack Obama, Mexican President Peña Nieto and 9 other heads of state attended, along with over 30 ministers and more than 300 civil society leaders from around the world, according to the OGP. The almost two-hour event was held in New York as the UN General Assembly held its meetings (video link).

At a business meeting the next day, the OGP Steering Committee adopted a policy for handling complaints that some governments have restricted the activities of civil society groups.

In another development, a major report on the activities of 43 OGP countries (the first two cohorts) was issued. A summary said:

Implementation of OGP action plans was uneven. A group of countries completed or made significant progress on many commitments, but a larger group completed less than half of all commitments. Completion varied widely between the first and second cohort. It is almost certain that the rates of completion following IRM assessment are likely to rise, as the IRM research period did not include the final months of implementation.

Strategy Plotted

The OGP also has issued a four-year strategy document, described by Linda Frey, the Executive Director. She wrote:

By early 2014, it was clear that we needed a road map to take OGP from scrappy start-up to a consolidated, high-impact organization. Hence the decision to develop an ambitious, but pragmatic, 4-year strategy for OGP.

The publication of this strategy signifies two important things.  First, OGP is here to stay.  There is enough evidence that the model is working that we need to double down and make the necessary investments to deliver on its full potential.  Second, it isn’t going to be easy.

A first priority, the strategy document says is “to shore up high-level political support and commitment for OGP in participating countries.”

The second top strategic goal is to do more to support and empower the civil servants responsible for implementing open government reforms.”

The third main goal is“to strengthen civil society engagement in OGP, particularly at the country-level.

The OGP budget is project to run at about the $5.4 million level.

Mexico has now become the lead chair of the OGP, taking over from Indonesia, and issued its vision statement, in line with current thinking.

NRGI Natural Resource Governance Institute Deputy Director Suneeta Kaimal, the OGP chairman for civil society, gave remarks at a civil society leaders breakfast offered three suggestions:

  • First, we can leverage the strengths and reach of the civil society community to advance collective aims.
  • Second, we can use OGP to learn and innovate.
  • Third, we can hold use OGP to hold governments to account. We face a disturbing trend of closing space that threatens the very premise of OGP.

Other Developments

The OGP gained its 65th member as Bosnia and Herzegovina joined.

A two-minute animation video on the OGP mission concludes with a three-point summary — “Open by Default; Policy by the People; Accountability for Results.”

An OGP outcome statement on the New York event can be read here.

A summary of an early September civil society peer exchange meeting in the Netherlands covers many subjects including various models of government-civil society engagement and what would be the criteria for a “bad” IRM report.

Civic Space Policy Adopted

The OGP Steering Committee met Sept. 25, with one agenda item being a policy for handling complaints that some members have restricting the activities of civil society groups. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

The new September 2014 SC Proposed Response Policy was adopted unanimously. .

The policy envisions a process of investigating complaints and working with governments to remedy problems, with the possible sanction of naming a government an “inactive” member.

The policy includes five possible areas that could trigger OGP action. In four of these areas, the country actions would have to “significantly reduce” reduces civic space.

The policy culminates a push by civil society that began at the November 2103 OGP summit in London. “It ain’t perfect, but pretty good! After a year there will be a review,” commented Paul Maassen, the OGP civil society coordinator.

The committee also adopted a “Charter” for its Independent Reporting Mechanism.

The agenda for the meeting is here. The meetings are closed. Minutes are released in about two weeks.

There are eight new members on the now 22-person Steering Committee.

Indonesia and Rakesh Rajani officially rotated off as the lead country and civil society co-chairs of OGP. Mexico and Suneeta Kaimal are their successors. South Africa will be the new incoming country support co-chair, and Alejándro Gonzalez from the Mexican organization GESOC will be the incoming civil society support co-chair.

As a result of recent elections, new members are France, Georgia, Croatia, Sugeng Bahagijo, Manish Bapna, Mukelani Dimba, Cecilia Blondet and Alvin Mosioma. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

IRM Report Issued

OGP countries have made over 2,000 open government reform commitments as part of 87 national action plans, according to the OGP, which has now  released a detailed analysis of the first batch of plans, how they were conceived and whether they were achieved.

The major review of the results by IRM Program Director Joe Foti has now been released, along with an executive summary. The findings were also discussed in the OGP blog.

The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) evaluates OGP participating government performance using researchers. There are IRM reports for 43 countries. The results are assembled into a comprehensive database.

The report concludes:

KEY TAKEAWAYS

The IRM can serve as a learning tool in addition to an accountability tool, especially around the OGP process, action plan commitments, and institutions. The OGP Support Unit, in collaboration with other organizations, will need to carry out or commission further research to measure ultimate outcomes and impacts.

Completed and “starred” commitments are two key indicators of success at the national action plan level. As OGP participating countries implement their next action plans, they will need to continue to innovate and to build off countries with high potential impact commitments and high rates of implementation. Ideally this number will increase over the next round of reports.

While there are high performers in many of the aspects of OGP, a large number of countries face deficits with regard to their basic participation in OGP. Priorities will need to be established around which countries will need additional assistance.

OGP process requirements are not uniformly followed. Evidence suggests that compliance with process requirements may be related more closely to other measures of success.

At this time, it is inconclusive (based on IRM data) which institutional arrangements are more conducive to the successful development and implementation of an OGP action plan.

The OGP Support Unit will need continued investment in direct country support, peer learning, and civil society support. It has already begun this work, and future IRM reports will be able to shine light on the fruits of this labor.

Tisne Suggests OGP Index

Reflections on the third anniversary were offered in a three-part series by Martin Tisne, policy director for the global Government Transparency initiative of Omidyar Network. The Omidyar Network is a major funder of the OGP and Tisne sits on a committee.

In the third of Tisine’s blog posts recommends that the OGP “should consider tightening its civil liberties eligibility criterion.” He also asked:

Is there a need for an OGP index? Much like in the aid sector where the Aid Transparency Index ranks countries against each other and thus acts as a boost for the implementation of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), or the Open Budget Survey in the fiscal transparency sector, OGP might benefit from an independent, third party ranking system (which could either be an aggregate index, a dashboard bringing together existing indices etc.).

In his second post Tisne discusses scaling up the OGP effort. In the first he addresses: “The OGP is not a club. It is a platform, or a process.”

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