Open and exposed? - Building up support behind open government commitments

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ImageIt is close to six months since the largest open government jamboree to date – the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Annual Summit in London last autumn.  Since then the membership of the OGP continues to grow – up to 63 countries.  And now a new set of regional meetings are scheduled for May through August. Open government junkies can boost their air miles accounts with a hectic world tour from Indonesia to Ireland to Costa Rica. Such gatherings should offer useful space for reflection. So what is happening on the ground?

While over a thousand OGP commitments have been delivered upon, their cumulative impact is much harder to assess.  A sense of progress can be gleaned thanks to the OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism requiring biannual independent progress updates.  Based on the forty or so reports available to date, the results are mixed.  
In the meantime, 47 OGP countries are currently drafting new OGP action plans. The challenge is in ensuring a balance of doable and stretching commitments that go beyond what was already in the works. 

The good news is that more tools and processes are becoming available to countries.  The OGP working groups are up and running, helping facilitate peer learning on core areas. Those drafting plans can turn to the Open Government Guide as a resource.  Launched at the London summit and soon to be available in Spanish and French, it offers very practical examples and advice covering both thematic areas, such as land and aid, and cross cutting topics, such as citizen engagement and open data. Perhaps most usefully it includes illustrative commitments at what it terms Intermediate, Advanced and Innovative levels.

Paul Maasen, OGP Civil Society coordinator, recently outlined a new tool to help civil society review the openness of the process of developing national action plans and the quality/ambition of the plans themselves. This should help civil society strengthen their advocacy for strong OGP plans as called for by OGP Deputy Director, Joe Powell. Another positive shift, is exploration of constructive roles that the private sector can play as signaled by creation of an OGP private sector council (see Martin Tisne’s recent blog post for more details).

We will be able to judge the effectiveness of these building blocks when national action plans are finalized. However, these efforts remain focused more on action plan development than implementation. Governments that commit to an ambitious agenda will often need technical advice to deliver. Country stakeholders and donors alike will want to measure effectiveness re improved governance. Who will meet that demand?  It is not yet clear, and goes beyond the mandate and resources of the OGP Support Unit. Yet it will likely be critical to sustaining the momentum behind the open agenda and demonstrating its effectiveness. 


Michael Jarvis

Executive Director, Transparency and Accountability Initiative

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