OGP Director Linda Frey Resigns After Two Years

13 May 2015

Linda Frey, Executive Director of the Open Government Partnership Support Unit since January 2013, announced her resignation May 13.

The Steering Committee, which met in Mexico in mid-April, urged her to stay, according to an OGP official. She will remain the position for the next three to four months. “After that, I look forward to spending some quality time with my family while I carefully consider the next chapter,” said Frey in a statement, calling it “not an easy decision.” Frey and a few OGP staffers are based in San Francisco while most of the rest of the Support Unit is located in Washington.

The minutes of the meeting, also released May 13, include a discussion of how to replace Frey. The committee plans to hire a search firm and hopes to fill the position in September.

OGP Recruiting `Ambassadors’

This was not the only personnel news in the minutes, but the other pending development is on close hold.

The OGP plans to recruit several more eminent persons as OGP “ambassadors” to help spread the OGP message and has identified six candidates. Their names are not in the minutes. The OGP plans to go down the list in order seeking acceptances.

The idea is not new but only one of the three original ambassadors remains: Mohamed “Mo” Ibrahim, a Sudanese-British mobile communications entrepreneur and billionaire. The OGP named him and two others in November 2012. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)  Ibrahim in May of 2013 urged the OGP to obtain sufficient funding, lamenting the lack of government funding. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)

Budget Targets Nearly Met

Finances were a topic at the Steering Committee meeting, with Frey reporting that there is sufficient revenue to cover a projected budget of $5.43 million for 2015. She reported that the OGP is 75 percent of the way toward achieving a fundraising target of $24 million over 4 years. “With one more significant, multi-year grant from a bilateral aid agency and one more from a private foundation OGP would be very close to meeting its fundraising goal,” the minutes reported.

Governments have increased their support, the minutes say, but two-thirds of the 65 members are not expected to contribute despite recent Steering Committee efforts to boost revenue by asking members to pay based on a sliding scale. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) Most OGP funding comes from private donors.

Nine countries that have already contributed in 2015 and at least 22 countries (one-third of all 65 OGP countries) “will very likely contribute by the end of the year.”

Azerbaijan Status Under Discussion

The three-day Mexico City meeting included reports and discussion on many topics, including the five working groups, the research agenda, an access to justice agenda and open data.

As previously reported, France was chosen as the lead OGP chair for 2017, to follow South Africa. Mexico now holds the leadership post. (See previous FreedomInfo.org article.)

Some procedural changes were approved, related to the calendar for countries to develop their action plans and to the so-called “response policy.” The policy is designed to provide an avenue for concerns that governments are restricting the space for civil society activities in ways inconsistent with OGP principles.

The response policy is undergoing its first use. Civil society organizations have filed a complaint about the government of Azerbaijan. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) An OGP evaluation has been prepared and the OGP Criteria and Standards Subcommittee is scheduled to decide May 18 what response is appropriate. The policy envisions first working with governments to remedy problems, with the possible sanction of naming a government an “inactive” member.

No Agreement on Non-State Memberships

Steering Committees government members have not been able to agree on proposed language to respond to applications for membership from “non-universally recognized applicants,” according to the minutes, without elaborating

The only such actual applicant is Kosovo, FreeedomInfo.org was told.

“After discussion it was agreed that, given the lack of consensus, the GL [Governance and Leadership] subcommittee would need to identify appropriate next steps for OGP to communicate with current and future non-universally recognized applicants. SC members noted there were other ways of engaging these applicants, including through peer exchange, civil society outreach and inclusion in OGP events. “

Separately, it was decided to create a “subnational track” at the Global Summit to be held in Mexico in October. The Peer Learning and Support subcommittee was tasked with encouraging exchange between subnational actors in different OGP countries and establishment a taskforce that will draft an options paper on subnational government collaboration with OGP for the Steering Committee to discuss at the July meeting.

Methodology Developed to Assess National Processes

Paul Maassen, the Director of the Civil Society Engagement team, announced at the meeting that civil society groups from five countries have developed a methodology for assessing national OGP processes and advocating for improvements, according to the minutes.

The project is described in more detail here. Involve UK is now revising the methodology with the OGP staff – based on the learning from phase one. Argentina wrote about using the tool here.

The Support Unit “is also designing a workshop for upcoming OGP events to offer guidance on establishing effective ‘permanent dialogue mechanisms’ to lead the OGP process at the national level.”

Frey Message (text)

Dear OGP colleagues,

Late last month I informed the Steering Committee of my decision to step down as Executive Director of the OGP Support Unit. At the request of the co-chairs, I will remain active in my position for the next three to four months to lay the foundation for a smooth leadership transition.  After that, I look forward to spending some quality time with my family while I carefully consider the next chapter.

This was not an easy decision for me to make, as I am 100% committed to OGP’s mission and extremely proud of the talented and dedicated team I have helped build.  I will always be grateful for the incredible opportunities this position has provided me, and for all that I have learned from this inspiring global community of open government reformers.

Leading the OGP Support Unit has been the most challenging and rewarding role I have had in my career to date.  Challenging, because OGP was still very much a start-up when I joined, and we had to build the plane while flying it.  As a result, I have tackled something new and unexpected almost every single day…often before sunrise!  Rewarding, because there is simply no other global initiative focused on government transparency and responsiveness that has achieved so much in such a short period of time.

Since I joined OGP in January 2013, we have together accomplished some amazing things.  Our 2013 Global Summit in London attracted over 1000 attendees, we launched five thematic working groups and seven multilateral partnerships, developed a strong four-year strategy and business model, organized five OGP regional meetings and had 10 Heads of State publicly affirm their commitment to OGP at the UN last fall.  In addition, we marked the submission of the 100th OGP action plan and count close to 2000 policy commitments, which continue to help generate national and international momentum for open government reforms. Needless to say, it has been quite a ride!

In the coming weeks, the OGP co-chairs will be in touch to outline a process and timeline to recruit my successor.  I have no doubt that there will be a long line of qualified individuals eager to take on this exciting role!  In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or suggestions.

Although I do not yet know what professional challenges I will undertake next, given our shared commitment to making governments work better for people, I am confident that our paths will cross again soon.

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