OGP Examines Membership of Kenya, Malawi, Montenegro

28 January 2016

The Open Government Partnership is reviewing the memberships of three member countries that have missed two deadlines to prepare national action plans (NAPs).

Kenya, Malawi and Montenegro have failed for two successive years to produce action plans, a core commitment made by OGP members.

The three countries could face being declared “inactive” under the OGP “two strikes” policy, but OGP leaders have been inclined toward leniency in the interest of encouraging continued participation. This is not the first time that members have fallen far behind, but most have gotten back on track. None have been declared inactive, including Turkey which has three strikes, but whose participation remain under review.

Under the OGP Articles of Governance, a member that “repeatedly (for two consecutive action plan cycles) acts contrary to OGP process or its Action Plan commitments” the OGP Steering Committee “may upon recommendation of the Criteria and Standards (CS) sub-committee review the participation of said government in OGP.”

Kenya, Malawi and Montenegro Warned

The OGP on Jan. 7 sent letters to Kenya, Malawi and Montenegro giving them new deadlines of July 1, 2016, to produce action plans.

Under OGP policy, “If a country is more than six months late [submitting an action plan] it will be moved to the following year’s group and be considered to be starting a new action plan cycle (e.g. from the odd year grouping to the even year grouping.”

In addition, Bosnia and Herzegovina received a letter because it has not submitted its NAP within four months of the due date.

Kenya, Malawi and Montenegro missed action plans deadlines in 2014 and 2015. In November of 2015, the three countries were informed that their two-strike situations would be examined by the Criteria and Standards subcommittee (see Dec. 11 OGP blog post).

The three countries got their first warning in November of 2014, along with eight other countries (see the 2014 blog post, including links to the past letters, except the one to Kenya, here).

The next meeting of the CS subcommittee is in February.

Three Strikes for Turkey

While most countries that get warning letters have met new deadlines, Turkey stands out as the most wayward OGP member.

Australia might have claimed the title, but the new government is developing an action plan after the previous conservative government put the OGP membership in the deep freeze.

Turkey was one of two countries cautioned in late 2014 that the CS subcommittee would review their situations because they had missed two deadlines. Warning letters were sent to Malta and Turkey. Malta soon complied by submitted an action plan, but Turkey did not, missing not only the 2014 deadline, but also the 2015 deadline without apparent consequence.

The November 2014 letter to Turkey said it had not met a July 1, 2014 deadline to prepare its second action plan. The same letter recounted the first strike – Turkey was informed in April 2014 that in the absence of evidence that its first plan was being implemented, the OGP would forego the usual process of assigning an independent reviewer, as is done for all plans.

Turkey was asked to send a representative to a subcommittee meeting in March 2015 but he called in sick. The OGP staff was told to write Turkey to explain what it needed to do to meet the new deadline of June 30, 2015, to produce an action plan, and to offer help, according to the minutes. “Civil society members volunteered to discuss Turkey’s participation with their counterparts in the country,” the minutes state, concluding, “After receiving more information from the Government of Turkey the subcommittee will resume their review.” (The referenced minutes are all on one page of the OGP website.)

The CS subcommittee in March of 2015 held an extensive discussion on refining the policy, especially about what it would mean to declare a member “inactive.” Whether missing two deadlines would mean automatic disqualification was considered. The staff was asked to make a formal presentation on the policy for discussion by the Steering Committee in April.

The April 2015 Steering Committee meeting minutes report that “both Malta and Turkey have taken steps to re-engage with OGP and to ensure delivery of new National Action Plans in the coming months.” More broadly, the Steering Committee debated and adopted a resolution endorsing subcommittee recommendations, agreeing that “in some circumstances” members should be placed on “inactive” status. A referenced “Annex II” describing the recommendations is not part of the minutes.

By July 2015, when the Steering Committee met again, Turkey still had not submitted an action plan. The subcommittee advised waiting until a new Turkish government was formed following August elections. The subcommittee said it would monitor the situation and update the Steering Committee at the next meeting in October. The October minutes say Turkey was discussed, but do not indicate any decision was made. No subcommittee documents have been posted on the OGP website since March 2015. Turkey does not appear to have been discussed at the October 2015 Steering Committee meeting.

The OGP website now indicates that the due date for Turkey to submit a second action plan is July 1, 2016.

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