Cabo Verde Joins OGP; Steering Committee to Meet

17 July 2015

Cabo Verde has indicated its intention to join the Open Government Partnership, bringing membership to 66 out of the 93 eligible countries.

The deputy minister of foreign Affairs indicated Cabo Verde’s intention in a letter dated July 13, the OGP announced. A Cabo Verde government statement notes that the idea of joining was raised when the president met with President Obama in March of 2013. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.) At the meeting with Obama, four African nations indicated interest in joining the OGP — Cabo Verde, Malawi, Senegal and Sierra Leone. Only Senegal has yet to join, having not yet met the OGP eligibility requirements.

Cabo Verde, also Cape Verde, is the first country to join the OGP since Bosnia and Herzegovina in September of 2014. Cabo Verde is an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean.

As of November 2014 there were 28 countries eligible to join the OGP that have not, according to an OGP list introduced in a blog post.

Cabo Verde scored 11 out of a possible 12 points, above the necessary 75 percent level. Cabo Verde received 3 out of 4 points in the OGP “access to information” category, based on having a constitutional provision on access to information. It does not have an access law.

OGP membership in Asia was the topic of a recent post on the OGP Civil Society Hub by Shreya Basu, the new Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Asia Pacific. She pointed out that the Asia-Pacific region is “underrepresented.”

Basu wrote: “There are several countries in the region that meet the eligibility criteria but are yet to join. This includes Bhutan, India, Japan, Nepal, the Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Thailand. Although there is bottom-up demand from domestic civil society coalitions and some outreach efforts by existing members, these efforts will need to be further strengthened and accelerated to bring these countries into the OGP fold.” (India was present at the beginning in 2011 when OGP as being organized, but decided not to join.)

Subnational Activity on Steering Committee Agenda

The announcement comes as the OGP Steering Committee and its subcommittees are preparing for several days of meetings in South Africa, whose government will assume the lead chairmanship of the OGP later this year, succeeding Mexico.

The recently posted draft agenda for the July 22-23 closed sessions includes a wide range of topics.

One topic is how to involve subnational governments. No details were provide, but the topic is not new. It was discussed at a strategy session at there April 2015 Steering Committee meeting in Mexico City, and as long ago as 2012 by an OGP subcommittee (see end of minutes). At the April meeting it was decided to form a task force to develop an Establish a task force to draft an ‘options paper’ on subnational government collaboration.

The agenda for the South African meeting includes:

  • Discuss how to highlight local government innovations at the Global Summit in Mexico
  • Discuss the “issues and options paper” and identify next steps to resolve some of the key outstanding questions

The options paper was not released. Disclosure of drafts is not require under the OGP disclosure policy which states:

For any draft documents that are submitted to the Steering Committee for discussion and approval but not subject to prior public consultation (for example internal governance protocols for the OGP Steering Committee), the final document will be published promptly on the OGP website.

Also in April, the OGP deadlocked on the question of admitting “Non-Universally Recognized Applicants.” The minutes state: “After discussion it was agreed that, given the lack of consensus, the GL 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.”

World Bank, Other Items

Relationships with multilateral organizations also are on the agenda. One morning is largely devoted to meeting with a top World Bank official, Robert Hunja, World Bank Director for Public Integrity and Openness. The Bank has played an increasingly larger role with the OGP and the agenda mentions a possible OGP trust fund at the Bank.

The Steering Committee will get reports on two countries whose compliance efforts flagged: Turkey and Malta.

The status of national action plans due this year is on the agenda, too.

A review is planned of how Azerbaijan is doing in light of a critical OGP subcommittee action pursuant to the OGP policy designed to protect the space for civil society organizations to operate in member countries. An OGP subcommittee announced May 18 that it agreed with complaints from civil society organizations (CSOs) that the Azerbaijan government is restricting CSOs and acting in ways inconsistent with OGP principles. (See previous Freedominfo.org article.)

A complaint about Hungary on the same basis has been filed. (See FreedomInfo.org article.)

The Steering Committee also is slated to discuss plans for the OGP summit meeting to be held in Mexico City Oct. 27-29 for which pre-registration has begun and about 1,500 attendees are expected. Proposals for sessions at the summit are being solicited. The deadline is Aug. 15.

The three subcommittees also will be meeting, with topics including research on measuring the impact of open government, potential new high-level OGP “ambassadors,” working groups, an “issues and options” paper, and the search for a new Executive director to replace the departing Linda Frey.

The last Steering Committee meeting was held in April. (See previous FreedomInfo.org report.)

An election are under way for new government members on the 22-member steering committee, which is equally divided between representatives elected by governments and representatives chose to represent civil society. The five countries running are Chile, Indonesia, Romania, Sierra Leone and Tunisia. The top three countries will be elected to join the Steering Committee. A month of voting ends July 30.

All of FreedomInfo.org’s coverage of the OGP is collected here.

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