OGP Response Policy
At its September 2014 meeting in New York City, the OGP Steering Committee adopted a new policy to deal with concerns raised about civic space in participating countries. This had been debated for several months in the Steering Committee, and will now be implemented. The policy is titled “Upholding the Values and Principles of OGP, as articulated in the Open Government Declaration” and it has two tightly defined objectives:
a) Assist a country in question to overcome difficulties and to help re-establish an environment for government and civil society collaboration, and
b) Safeguard the Open Government Declaration and mitigate reputational risks to OGP.
The new policy acknowledges that there may be issues outside the scope of National Action Plans that have a major impact on successful participation in OGP, and creates an opportunity to address them. This may include restrictions on basic freedoms, access to information and the overall enabling environment for civil society. To maintain the OGP’s credibility – and safeguard its long-term future – it is important that participating countries uphold these values and principles, as expressed in the Open Government Declaration and in the Articles of Governance (all countries endorse the Open Government Declaration on joining OGP, albeit in a non-binding, voluntary manner). In addition, OGP’s theory of change in the 2015-18 strategy document highlights the importance of having an engaged civil society with the space to participate and influence National Action Plans.
Implementing the Policy
The OGP Steering Committee and Support Unit will begin implementing this policy immediately. At the end of one year of implementation (Spetember 2015) there will be a review of whether or not the policy is delivering on its objectives, including an opportunity for public comment. There are three main ways in which an inquiry can be triggered in the Criteria and Standards subcommittee under this response policy:
1. A Steering Committee member – government or civil society – brings a concern to the attention of the chair of Criteria and Standards, including details on which country and why.
2. One of the official OGP multilateral partners or Working Group co-anchors brings a concern to the attention of the OGP Steering Committee or Support Unit, including details on which country and why.
3. The OGP Steering Committee or Support Unit receives a letter of concern from a civil society, not-for-profit organization, or media organization involved in OGP at the national or international level, including details on which country and why (the Civil Society Engagement team in the Support Unit can advise organizations on how to do this).
The Support Unit will record any communication under the OGP response policy and post it here in due course. Any inquires can be directed to the OGP Support Unit at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|Subject||Date||Filer||Response Policy Process|
|Concern Regarding Azerbaijan||2 March 2015||CIVICUS, Publish What You Pay, Article 19: LETTER|
April 2015: Government of Azerbaijan publishes response letter. LETTER
February 2016: Criteria and Standards reaches resolution on Azerbaijan. REPORT
April 2016: Original filers submit letter of support. LETTER
May 2016: Government of Azerbaijan submits rebuttal. LETTER
May 4, 2016: Full OGP Steering Committee reaches resolution on Azerbaijan, designating them inactive. RESOLUTION
|Concern Regarding Hungary||8 July 2015|
Fanny Hidvegi, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union;
July 2015: Filers submit background document on concerns. REPORT
June 2016: Concern Review Team delivers findings. REPORT
June 2016: OGP Criteria and Standards Subcommittee releases a proposal for dialogue with the Government of Hungary. PROPOSAL
Updated May 4, 2016
When is the response policy triggered?
The Response Policy is triggered when the Steering Committee, the chair of the Criteria and Standards subcommittee, or the OGP Support Unit receives a letter of concern regarding a situation of relevance to OGP in a participating country from:
a fellow Steering Committee member –either government or civil society--;
a multilateral partner or Working Group co-anchor;
or a civil society, not-for-profit organization, or media organization involved in OGP at the national or international level.
What kind of situation triggers a response policy review?
Some of the types of issues that have been previously raised in concerns to the Steering Committee as damaging to the OGP process in a country may include (but are not limited to):
Introduction of new/revised policies or actions that significantly reduce access to information for citizens and civil society.
Introduction of new/revised policies or actions that significantly reduce the space for non-governmental organizations to work independently, voice critiques, and/or receive funding from domestic or international sources (e.g. new NGO laws).
Manipulation of the OGP process by governments in terms of civil society participation (e.g. only inviting GONGOs to participate in consultations).
Introduction of new/revised policies, laws, or practices, or actions, that significantly reduce enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, notably freedoms of expression and peaceful assembly, and freedom to associate.
Introduction of new/revised policies or actions that significantly reduce online or offline media freedom, or threaten media ownership and independence.
What happens once the Steering Committee receives a letter of concern?
Once a concern has been registered through one of the correct channels, it is the responsibility of the Criteria and Standards subcommittee, working with the OGP Support Unit, to establish what – if any – action should be taken. The first phase of this process is an evaluation of the merits of the concern. This is to be carried out by the OGP Support Unit with member(s) of the Criteria and Standards subcommittee, both from government and civil society, and is to include the following steps:
Establish the veracity of the information by cross-referencing concerns with government, civil society, IRM researchers and third parties, including UN bodies, according to the nature of the issue.
Establish the relevance of the concern to the Open Government Declaration and OGP’s Articles of Governance – i.e., is the matter being reported directly undermining fulfillment of the nation’s commitment to OGP principles, thereby calling into question the process of its OGP participation.
Check with previous OGP data points, such as cross-referencing with the findings of the most recent IRM report on the country, including the national context section.
Assess whether an OGP intervention could have the desired impact in a country or is necessary to protect the credibility of OGP.
What are stage 1 actions?
Once a concern is found to have merit by the Criteria and Standards subcommittee, a short notice is to be circulated to the OGP Steering Committee informing the group of the decision. The following stage 1 actions can then be carried out by members of the Criteria and Standards subcommittee, the co-Chairs, the OGP Support Unit, and other interested Steering Committee members, without the approval of the full Steering Committee:
Engage in or broker diplomatic outreach to the government concerned at the official and/or political level, including from the co-chairs.
Write an official letter from the Support Unit to the OGP point of contact in the country informing them that the Criteria and Standards subcommittee adopted the report on the concern (the point of contact should already have been informed by the Support Unit that a concern was being investigated).
Offer to broker technical assistance to work on the issues raised in the concern.
Contact multilateral partners active in the country to help address the issues raised in the concern.
Invite the OGP point of contact in the country to work with the Criteria and Standards subcommittee in establishing a work plan and a timeline for the country to address the situation, where applicable.
What are stage 2 actions?
If the stage 1 interventions fail to have the desired impact, or the situation does not improve within three months (even after the establishment of a work plan and a timeline where applicable), the Criteria and Standards subcommittee is to recommend to the full OGP Steering Committee that one of the following stage 2 actions take place:
1. Recommend that the OGP co-chairs invite the government principal to attend a special session of the Steering Committee to discuss the situation and consequences for the country’s participation in OGP.
2. Recommend the OGP co-chairs author a letter to the country informing them they are to be temporarily listed as inactive in OGP until the concern is resolved.
What countries are currently under Response Policy review?
Azerbaijan and Hungary
What happens now the government of Azerbaijan has been designated inactive as a result of the OGP Response Policy ?
The government of Azerbaijan will have a period of one year to demonstrate that the original concerns have been addressed. This one-year remediation policy was agreed in the April 2015 Ministerial Level Steering Committee Meeting held in Mexico City.
If at any point during that year the Criteria and Standards subcommittee determines that the original concerns have been addressed by the government of Azerbaijan, it shall recommend to the full Steering Committee that the country be placed back in active status immediately.
While inactive, Azerbaijan will continue to receive Steering Committee and Support Unit assistance, including from OGP Working Groups and peer exchange visits.
While inactive, the government of Azerbaijan will be able to submit a revised National Action Plan as evidence of progress made (should it so choose), and will be advised to develop new ambitious commitments (whether as part of a revised NAP or as standalone reforms) in order to address all the original Criteria and Standards subcommittee recommendations, particularly around the civil society operating environment.
While inactive, no new recommendations or requirements for reactivation would be made to the government of Azerbaijan by the Criteria and Standards subcommittee or the Steering Committee regarding the addressed issues.
While inactive, the Azerbaijan government will not be eligible to vote in Steering Committee elections, and can only attend OGP events as observers for learning purposes.
While inactive, Azerbaijan’s inactivity will be noted on the OGP website and public information materials, where appropriate (e.g., in a list of participating OGP countries).
Are countries placed in inactive status expelled from OGP?
No, they remain participating countries for a maximum of one year. If the concerns have not been addressed within that year, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee has to recommend to the full Steering Committee that the Support Unit moves the country off the inactive status list and is no longer listed as part of OGP. If while inactive a government indicates they are withdrawing from OGP unilaterally, then the Support Unit will inform the Steering Committee and move the country off the inactive status list and no longer list the country as part of OGP.
Are countries in inactive status eligible to receive Steering Committee, Support Unit or Working Group support?
Yes, if requested, inactive countries are eligible to receive Steering Committee and Support Unit assistance, including from Working Groups and peer exchange visits.
Are countries in inactive status eligible to vote on Steering Committee elections?
Who is in the Criteria and Standards subcommittee?
The government of Brazil
The government of Chile
The government of Croatia
The government of the United States
Mukelani Dimba, Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC)
Nathaniel Heller, Results for Development Institute (R4D)
Suneeta Kaimal, World Resources Institute (WRI)
Warren Krafchik, International Budget Partnership (IBP)