Turkey Again Promises to Meet OGP Commitments

3 May 2016

After several years of inactivity as a member of the Open Government Partnership, the Turkish government pledged a revitalized membership, again.

The promise came in a one-page April 27 letter, and was apparently sufficient for the OGP Steering Committee on May 4 to decide not to label Turkey as an “inactive” member.

The last-minute request for another chance came from Deputy Prime Minister Lutfi Elvan, who wrote “we would like to reinitiate our OGP process with full enthusiasm.” He promised creation of a national action plan “approximately at the end of June.” (See  text of letter.)

A year ago, facing the same concerns, the Turkish government also promised “full enthusiasm.”

Turkey has missed OGP deadlines since late 2013, most significantly by not producing a second national action plan in 2014.

The OGP Criteria & Standards Subcommittee has recommended that Turkey be made an “inactive” member based on established rules. The designation would serve as a public rebuke of sorts, but well short of expulsion. The OGP process is geared to encourage and help inactive members to reengage.

South Africa, the current lead chair of the organization, is opposed to declaring Turkey “inactive,” FreedomInfo.org has reported. (See article.)

Elvan began the 2016 letter by recounting that Turkey has held four elections in 21 months, faced are refugee crisis from the war in Syria and the increased threat of terrorism. Turkey recently prepared a comprehensive anti-corruption plan, he wrote.

Warnings for Two Years

The OGP has sending warning letters to Turkey about its inactivity since early 2014.

Turkey missed a September 2013 deadline to submit a self-assessment report, the OGP said Feb. 11 in a statement that marked the first public mention of OGP members (three at that point) missing deadlines.

In December of 2014, it issued a second warning. Turkey had failed to prepare its second national action plan as of Nov. 1, four months after the deadline of July 1. (See FreedomInfo.org article.)

Similar letters to about a dozen countries in recent years have successfully rejuvenated their memberships, but the warning to Turkey, coupled with informal staff efforts, proved unsuccessful.

The second warning triggered a slow move toward implementing the OGP sanction of declaring Turkey an “inactive” member for missing two successive deadlines.

Turkey was asked to send a representative to a subcommittee meeting in March 2015, but he became sick and was unable to come. 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 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.” The OGP published statement from the government of Turkey reaffirming its commitment to the OGP: “We would like to start again the OGP process with full enthusiasm and make considerable progress to achieve our goals.”

At a July 2015 Steering Committee, according to the minutes, “In the case of Turkey CS [The Criteria and Standards Subcommittee] has advised to wait until a new government is formed following recent elections. They will continue to monitor the situation and update the Steering Committee at the next meeting in October.”

Turkey does not appear to have been discussed at the October 2015 Steering Committee meeting.

The CS subcommittee in February of 2016 agreed to ask the OGP co-chairs and other Steering Committee members “to invest political and diplomatic capacity to make a final outreach to Turkey to reengage in OGP prior to the ministerial level Steering Committee meeting in South Africa on May 3-4th, 2016.” (See FreedomInfo.org article.)

Elvan’s letter indicates that a South African delegation had planned to visit Turkey, but that it did not take place.

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