OGP Drafting Plan to Invite Cities to Join in Pilot Project

11 August 2015

The Open Government Partnership Steering Committee is moving toward the creation of a pilot program to bring 8-10 cities into the OGP.

The two-year program could be rolled out in October after being further defined and given a final OK. The Steering Committee on July 22 discussed an “issues and options” paper on “Subnational Governments and the OGP,” just released along with the Steering Committee minutes. (Both on this page; scroll down.)

“Steering Committee members expressed strong support for this effort, noting that some of the most practical and innovative applications of open government are seen at a local level,” according to the minutes.

National Action Plans by OGP members predominantly address national issues, but 4 percent of the plans include commitments by subnational governments  (73 such commitments have been made out of 1,894 commitments to date).

The cities selected to be in the OGP pilot should already be leaders and innovators on open government, according to the draft plan. They would make 1-2 commitments for further action. Only subnational entities from the 66 OGP member countries would be invited to participate in the pilot phase.

The OGP has not laid out the final details of the pilot project or a selection system. The issues paper hints that the participants would be drawn from innovators that the Mexican government plans to invite to the OGP Global Summit in Mexico City in October.

Looking further ahead to phases two and three, the planners suggest that subnational commitments could integrated more systematically into National Action Plans and that eventually “we could move towards inclusion of subnational governments into OGP.” An annex to the issues paper digs deeper into options, particularly around how to determine eligibility.

An OGP task force will be developing the concept more in advance of the next Steering Committee meetings, a short ministerial meeting in September in New York and a working level meeting in October in Mexico City.

The initiative is further described in an OGP blog post by Nathaniel Heller.

Benefits and Risks Discussed

“Cities and subnational governments are where considerable action and innovation takes place on open government,” the issues paper stresses. As examples it cites:

Witness the pioneering efforts around open data, contract transparency, participatory budgeting, and civic engagement in cities such as Mexico City (Lab para la Ciudad, recently enacted Open Government law), Paris (participatory budgeting), London (digital government, open data), Buenos Aires (open government work and city-run tech/open government lab), Sao Paolo (citizen engagement and participatory policy making), Kansas City (data-driven policy making and open data), and Boston (Office of New Urban Mechanics, open data, data-driven policy making).

Quite a number of reasons are given for engaging subnational governments. “Using OGP to provide government and civil society reformers with space and visibility offers them a potentially powerful force multiplier for their work,” according to the issues paper. “OGP can provide strong institutional support to boost existing subnational open government initiatives,” it also says.

Civil society organizations working on open government and transparency in cities and subnational jurisdictions “could also receive a major boost from the engagement of subnational governments in OGP,” the paper states. Another predicted benefit is that “subnational governments could use the opportunity of becoming part of OGP to benefit from a peer-to-peer learning experience.”

“There is no existing network of open government reformers at the sub-national level, whether domestically in key OGP countries or at the international level, across countries,” the paper notes.

The Steering Committee highlighted some potential risks, the minutes indicate. “For example, there will be political sensitivity in cases where a subnational government is of a different political party to the national government; and the Steering Committee will need to assess the pilot phase carefully to understand the resource and staffing implications for the Support Unit.”

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