The Open Government Partnership has many attributes that make it stand out from other multilateral initiatives. The central role for civil society, the focus on supporting domestic reformers, and the diverse mix of countries in leadership roles, are all cited as organisational strengths. In February it will be the turn of OGP’s unique accountability mechanism, which is set up to be entirely independent and makes all of its findings public, to take centre stage.
The Independent Reporting Mechanism will be publishing 35 progress reports over the next month. These are check-ins on how the large group of countries who formally joined OGP at the Brasilia Summit in April 2012 are doing against their open government reform commitments. The reports examine individual commitments from the National Action Plans, as well as the quality of the consultation process and dialogue between civil society and the government. The executive summaries will highlight the star commitments that saw tremendous progress, and were the most ambitious in terms of potential impact.
These reports come at an important time for OGP. All the countries receiving reports are embarking on their second National Action Plan, due for publication on June 15th 2014. (Over 2/3 of OGP participating countries are currently developing new action plans.) The recommendations made by the IRM are designed to feed into the process of creating the new plans, making specific suggestions to improve the ambition and quality of new commitments and civil society engagement. However, these recommendations will only be acted upon if they are widely publicized at the national level and used by both civil society and government officials. If the reports remain unread, the likelihood of meaningful reforms through OGP will decrease.
To avoid missing this opportunity, there are a number of activities that could be taken on by individuals or organisations. First, each in-country IRM researcher has committed to attend or co-host at least one public discussion event to be put together by either the government or civil society. Dates for events will be released on a country-by-country basis in the coming weeks through February and March. Second, the reports will be open for online public comment on the OGP website for at least two weeks from the publication of the administrative language version of each report. This is the time to put forward any alternative points of view that didn’t make it into the final report and add information on the wider context for open government reform in OGP countries. Third, the IRM findings should be addressed during consultation meetings for the next National Action Plan. Many of the first plans were rushed and consultation curtailed, but second-time around there is space for deeper dialogue and engagement with civil society. Fourth, consider what opportunities there are for media coverage of the report findings. This can be a helpful way of disseminating the messages from the IRM, and of OGP participation more widely, beyond the core group of government officials and civil society.
Experience from OGP’s short lifetime shows that it is most effective when people in participating countries see it as a vehicle for fundamental change in the relationship between citizen and state, and to push for ambitious policy commitments. The publication of 35 detailed reports provides a moment of accountability and reflection on progress so far that should be maximised. For that to happen, we hope everyone in the OGP community will step up and help to spread the word.
*The following countries will have progress reports published over the next month. The reports will be published each Friday in batches on the OGP website.
Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Korea, Latvia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, Ukraine, Uruguay.