News

31 July 2017

OGP in the News - Week of July 24, 2017

A weekly round-up of Open Government Partnership (OGP) media coverage around the world. Want to receive OGP in the News directly in your email inbox? Subscribe here.

Coinciding with an OGP workshop in Pakistan, we saw a deluge of OGP news out of the Asia-Pacific, along with stories from Ghana, Bolivia, and the United States.

Last week, OGP Director of Civil Society Engagement Paul Maassen authored a piece for the Guardian about OGP and open government initiatives that are empowering citizens around the world. The article continued to garner media attention this week, and was republished by Hivos and the Transparency and Accountability Initiative.

This week, members of the OGP team travelled to Islamabad, Pakistan, where OGP’s deputy chief executive officer Joe Powell delivered a speech before representatives of the Pakistani government. Congratulating the country for joining OGP in December at the Partnership’s 2016 Global Summit in Paris, Powell reminded the meeting’s attendees that “joining OGP is actually the easy part.” He went on to outline the “hard work” that lies ahead as Pakistan prepares to draft its first OGP National Action Plan (NAP). Pakistan Today reported OGP enthusiasm from representatives of the Ministry of Climate Change, who told the OGP Support Unit staff about plans to “[institutionalize] the role of civil society in climate related decision-making processes.”

Resource governance in Indonesia is showing promising signs of improvement, according to the latest Resource Governance Index. Publicized by Kontan Online, Indonesia’s mining industry was deemed “satisfactory,” ranking 11th behind India out of a total 89 “sector-specific country assessments,” while the nation’s oil and gas sector was ranked 12th. The article noted that these positive results have been bolstered by Indonesia’s participation in several international initiatives, including the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and of course OGP. In particular, OGP was credited with the government’s strong performance in data disclosure.

Elsewhere in the Pacific, an opinion piece in The New Zealand Herald announced the imminent release of an “extraordinary” report on new New Zealand’s corruption and whistleblowing infrastructure and policies. The piece’s author, Bryce Edwards, explained that the report was commissioned after a former senior manager at the Ministry of Transport, Joanne Harrison, was discovered to have stolen over $700,000 of government money. Although several employees attempted to report Harrison’s fraudulent activities early on (she began stealing in 2013), then head of the Transport Ministry Martin Matthews did not take action. This in turn has prompted many to question the effectiveness of New Zealand’s Protected Disclosures Act. Quoted in the article, a blogger reported that amended whistleblower legislation was brought up during last year’s OGP consultation, but “was not taken up by the government.” Pointing to the Harrison case, the same blogger called for improved whistleblower protection.     

AllAfrica.com quoted Ghanaian President Akufo-Addo speaking to the importance of open data in “improving the living standards of our people,” at the 2017 Africa Open Data Conference, which took place in Accra, Ghana, and brought together some 800 innovators and experts from across the continent. President Akufo-Addo noted that he and other African leaders would need to improve data literacy to fully tap into the potential of open data. According to the article, Ghana is already on its way to developing a productive open data infrastructure, having joined OGP in 2011 and seeking to use “open data to achieve transparent and accountable governance.”

More open data news came out of Bolivia, where La Razón announced that two annual Latin American open data conferences—Abrelatam and ConDatos—will take place in Costa Rica at the end of August. Bringing together representatives from both government and civil society, the conferences aim to promote openness and open data use for improved public services. This year, the conferences will be set against a “complicated” political backdrop, charged with recent scandals, including the Panama Paper leaks, Brazil’s Odebrecht scandal, and reports of government spying in Mexico, which prompted several civil society organizations to withdraw from the country’s former tripartite OGP Secretariat.

Finally, Mother Jones ran an updated version of a past article highlighting the ambiguity of open government and anticorruption in the United States under President Donald Trump. Recognizing that the United States has historically “held itself up as a pillar of open and ethical government,” authors Andy Kroll and Russ Choma have noticed a change for the worse, writing that “the United States is rapidly tarnishing its squeaky-clean image.” Along with breaking from longstanding ethical norms (failing to divest from financial assets, appointing family members to important White House positions, etc.), the Trump administration has remained quiet about U.S. involvement in OGP: “The Trump administration has yet to say whether it will remain in the Open Government Partnership; if it leaves, the United States will join abstainers such as Russia and Angola.”

Last but not least, join us for a webinar on August 2, where members of the OGP Steering Committee will discuss recent Partnership decisions! Details here.

Of course, we can’t catch everything in our news round-ups, so if you see we’ve missed something or think a particular story ought to be featured, please send it to jacqueline.mcgraw@opengovpartnership.org.