News

30 June 2017

OGP in the News - Week of June 26, 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.

There was a lot of news this week in the world of OGP, including stories on Spain’s latest OGP action plan, “openwashing” in France and Taiwan, a look at New Zealand’s opengov commitments, and updates from the most recent OGP Steering Committee meeting.

El Confidencial announced that Spain’s Ministry of Finance and Public Administration presented the country’s third OGP National Action Plan (NAP), which includes 20 commitments structured around five themes: collaboration, participation, transparency, accountability, and training. Among the new commitments are initiatives to improve and expand the national transparency portal, as well as reform the judiciary by providing citizens with more information about court hearings and records. A sectoral commission has been set up to work with a network of local communities and enact open government policies at the local level. An Open Government Forum will also be established to work with Spanish civil society on implementing these reforms. Furthermore, after successfully using participatory budgeting practices to allocate 13.5 million euros in the Spanish Region of Murcia, 20 Minutos.es quoted the region’s spokesperson Noelia Arroyo saying he was pleased to see a national participatory budget commitment—largely inspired by Murcia’s positive experience—in the new OGP NAP.

In Scotland, meanwhile, The Herald reported that reformers and journalists in Scotland are calling on OGP to investigate claims of ministers deliberately blocking Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Scotland presented its very first SNAP (Subnational Action Plan) at the OGP Global Summit in Paris in December 2016 but has, according to the article, recently come under accusations that “FOI requests are often screened by special advisers for any potential political damage.” The call for an independent OGP investigation into Scotland’s handling of FOI requests has been spearheaded by Labour Member of Scottish Parliament, Neil Findlay.   

As evidence continues to surface about the Mexican government’s use of Pegasus Malware to tap the cellphones of several activists and journalists, Mexican civil society has reiterated its call for greater transparency. According to  the Chicago Tribune 16 people have been victims of illegal government espionage under the Peña Nieto administration. Citing the decision of several Mexican civil society organizations to withdraw from Mexico’s national OGP framework to protest against these illegal spying activities, Director of Consumer Power Alejandro Calvillo was quoted saying, “All we can do is go public and expose this. It was a good thing for the group open government organizations to expose it. It means that you are not alone and that civil society says: we need to be united against these types of actions.”

For the second week in a row, OGP was big news in a non-OGP country, this time Taiwan. Technology news site PC Home Online ran an article on the topic of “openwashing,” or surface-level transparency that does not actually offer citizens a space to fully participate in government. The article cited an incident in France, which happened just days before the 2016 OGP Global Summit in Paris, when 11 civil society organizations, including République Citoyenne, wrote a joint communiqué accusing the French government of “openwashing” for repeatedly ignoring citizen input when making important political decisions. With similar incidences occurring in Taiwan, the article emphasized how open government is becoming a “modern trend” that not only is an essential ingredient of democracy, but also promises to improve government efficiency.    

Elsewhere in the region, Scoop published a press release by Transparency International New Zealand, which announced that progress indicators for the country’s 2016-2018 NAP are now online and will be updated quarterly. Citizens are invited to feedback on this midterm self-assessment via New Zealand’s OGP website from July 19 to August 1, 2017.

And in Nigeria, a freshly-released report conducted by the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI) crowned Nigeria’s Excess Crude Account (ECA) the “most poorly governed sovereign wealth fund among 33 resource-rich countries around the world.” Nigeria was also ranked 55 out of a total 89 resource-rich countries assessed in NRGI’s 2017 Resource Governance Index. NRGI Manager for Nigeria Sarah Muyonga told AllAfrica.com that the country’s poor resource management score stems largely from an absence of disclosure rules, particularly when it comes to government officials’ financial interests, and a lack of beneficial ownership transparency within the extractive industry. Despite both OGP and EITI (Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative) commitments to make Nigeria’s extractive sector more transparent, another AllAfrica.com article reported that the government has “yet to disclose details of contracts in oil, gas and mining contracts.”    

Finally, Human Rights Watch released a joint statement with Article 19, CIVICUS, and Publish What You Pay concerning the latest OGP Steering Committee decision to extend Azerbaijan’s inactivity status. Citing a number of government regulations that have severely restricted Azerbaijan’s “once vibrant civil society” in recent years, the four co-signatories called the Steering Committee decision a “positive step and an indication of the OGP’s strong commitment to protecting civic space as an essential part of promoting open government.”

Last but not least, want to learn more about the OGP Subnational Pilot Programme? This month’s subnational-themed newsletter is coming soon and will tell you everything you need to know. Subscribe 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.