News

30 May 2017

OGP in the News - Week of May 22, 2017

A series providing a round-up of media attention received by Open Government Partnership throughout the world. Want to receive OGP in the News directly in your email inbox every Monday morning? Subscribe here.

A busy week in the world of #opengov, this week’s media coverage of OGP came overwhelmingly out of the Americas with news from Mexico, Argentina and the United States.

On May 23, ten Mexican civil society organizations, including Fundar, Transparencia Mexicana, IMCO, GESOC, Mexico Evaluate, and Article 19, decided to withdraw from Mexico’s Tripartite OGP Secretariat originally composed of the government, the National Institute for Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI), and a core group of civil society organizationss. The decision came after the government failed to address issues raised in a Citizen Lab report released in February 2017, revealing various offices of the Mexican government had used digital surveillance software to spy on three Mexican researchers and health advocates, two of whom had worked on developing a commitment on obesity for Mexico’s third National Action Plan (NAP). Reflecting what many consider a growing trend of the Mexican government targeting activists and journalists, an article in El Universal quoted Mexican civil society claiming these actions were not only illegal, but signs of a totalitarian regime and contrary to the principles of OGP, which is founded on the very idea of collaboration between government and civil society. In an opinion piece for El Universal, head of Televisa’s ‘Primero Noticias’ morning newscast, Carlos Loret de Mola, reiterated sentiments expressed by the Mexican CSOs, saying, “The member organizations of the Open Government Partnership conclude that there is no security or liberty to advance the openness agenda in Mexico.”

In response to a letter submitted by the CSOs formerly belonging to Mexico’s OGP Secretariat, the OGP Support Unit released a statement emphasizing the “crucial role” Mexico has played in building the Partnership since its founding five years ago. The OGP Support Unit statement also said, “We sincerely hope that the Mexican government and civil society will be able to re-establish a working relationship in the future built on trust, transparency and accountability.”

Elsewhere in the Americas, Argentine news outlet La Nacion announced the launch of a new crowdsourced initiative to monitor and classify Senate spending and payment documents, some of which are up to six years old. By logging onto La Nacion’s VozData platform via a Facebook, Google, or La Nacion account, ordinary citizens are assigned a random Senate spending document for which they identify the successful bidder, type of expenditure, and total amount paid. Citizens can also flag the spending item as normal or “noteworthy.” Once all the documents have been reviewed, the data will be organized in a simple manner and available in an open format. Adopting the slogan, “The people want to know,” this initiative promises to bolster the Argentinian government’s OGP commitments to make data and information for both chambers of Congress more readily accessible to the public.

Meanwhile, up north, John Podesta, chair of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and counselor to former President Barack Obama, authored an opinion piece for The Washington Post about the state of “international aid, development and governance” in the United States under President Trump. Critiquing the current administration’s resistance to certain international initiatives fighting for transparency and human rights, Podesta highlighted the President’s conspicuous silence on the future of OGP:

To date, the White House has not acknowledged the OGP’s existence or signaled whether it will continue to participate in the initiative. Given the administration’s general hostility to transparency and ethics, it seems unlikely that it will commit itself to additional open government reforms through the submission of a new OGP national action plan, which is due in June.  

In the Philippines, Philstar.com reported that some 66 civil society organizations participating in OGP rallied support for the swift passage of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, or House Bill 5636. Aside from generating revenue for improved education, health, and infrastructure programs, the organizations claimed that this “long overdue” reform would “complement initiatives for transparent and participatory governance.”  

And in neighboring Indonesia, OGP’s Subnational Pilot Program Manager Brittany Lane, travelled to the regency of Bojonegoro, one of the 15 subnational pioneers. Local news outlet Suara Bojonegoro covered the visit, during which the OGP team met with Regent Kang Yoto to discuss Bojonegoro’s progress to-date on fulfilling its OGP commitments.  

Finally, AllAfrica.com republished an opinion piece from The Guardian Nigeria by journalist Abdulrazaque Bello-Barkindo, who described some of the conclusions from a BudgIT survey referenced in another Guardian article as “erroneous, to say the least.” Claiming that the dismal economic picture of Nigeria painted by BudgIT co-founder Oluseun Onigbinde (quoted in the article) and many international NGOs often lacks nuance, the author pointed to a few recent successes, including the fact that the internally generated revenue (IGR) among states has risen to about 20 per cent and that “governors are already embracing the Open Government Partnership.”

And last but not least, the United Nations has taken a more youthful approach to explaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Add this creative SDG rap to your #opengov weekend playlist!

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.