“We value public participation of all people, equally and without discrimination, in decision making and policy formulation. Public engagement, including the full participation of women, increases the effectiveness of governments, which benefit from people’s knowledge, ideas and ability to provide oversight.”
– The Open Government Declaration
Opening up government is an underexplored method for accelerating gender equality and closing critical gaps in information, access, and participation. After all, we all use public services, access loans for businesses, pay taxes, walk on city roads, request information – women, girls and LGBTQIA+ communities should have an equal say in how governments provide those services and be well positioned to hold them accountable. And when women and gender advocates are absent from open government, so is the information and skills that limit the potential of ambitious reforms impacting daily lives. Assessing inclusion across OGP is part of an ongoing effort to broaden the base of participation and expand open government efforts across governments and civil society partners.
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) has made great strides in the past years, but women’s participation and gender perspectives in OGP remain uneven around the world. As of September 2019, only 89 OGP commitments include women or gender – representing just 2% of the nearly 4,000 commitments made by national and local governments. And there are only 17 commitments that specifically use open government platforms to address reforms impacting the LGBTQIA+ community. Where we do have gender commitments, the IRM often marks them as relevant but they tend to suffer from below-average completion rates and low ambition.
However, governments and civil society organizations alike are increasingly recognizing the need to reverse this trend. In 2018, OGP participants made as many gender-related commitments as all years before – combined. Gender and inclusion played a pivotal role in both the vision and dialogue of the OGP Global Summit in Canada, prompting our open government partners to reflect on inclusion efforts in their open government reform processes.
Together, we acknowledge that the open government community can and must do better. Moving forward, OGP calls on the partnership to be strategic and ambitious in making the co-creation process and commitments more inclusive and representative. Open government partners should consider opportunities to be intentional about broadening the base of OGP, taking actions such as:
- Proactively invite and positively encourage women’s organizations, gender networks, and leaders to participate in your multi-stakeholder forum;
- Work with gender advocates to conduct an analysis of your action plan to identify where people of different genders have disproportionate levels of access or potential benefit, and then use that analysis to mainstream gender considerations into specific OGP commitments; and
- Consider a new commitment that uses open government to address a specific gap in women and girl’s services or policy needs.
The following document provides additional examples of what these actions look like in practice. The OGP Support Unit and partners are available to support these efforts and look forward to engaging with your government or organization as you consider ways to increase inclusion across your consultations and commitments.
Make Co-Creation More Inclusive
Ensure that co-creation and consultation processes are more inclusive by including civil society groups working on gender equality and inviting key gender and inclusion ministries to OGP discussions.
- Expand governmental collaboration to other related ministries or departments. For example, engage counterparts in gender and women’s ministries to participate in OGP co-creation and implementation conversations. Governmental gender advisors in other ministries may also be valuable resources on key policy issues.
- Consider the composition of OGP leadership. When Morocco joined the Open Government Partnership in 2018, the steering committee recognized gender imbalance of the leadership as a barrier for an inclusive national action plan. An independent selection committee recruited from gender groups to ensure their representation on the committee. While early, this has already led to the review of the national action plan for gender sensitive language.
- Proactively engage gender organizations and women’s networks to participate in multi-stakeholder forums and consult with them on specific commitments that may affect and support their communities’ priorities. Remember that one woman does not represent all women, so consider including a diverse group of women and gender advocates across age, race, ethnicity, education, region, and experience. Other actions to make forums and consultations more inclusive may include taking into account hidden costs like childcare, as well as the time, day and location of the forum so that is is accessible for all. Please consider proactive outreach to these groups well in advance of consultations to introduce your national or local open government process and goals.
- Open government events like Open Gov Week are great opportunities to bring together changemakers from inside and outside of government to listen to each other’s ideas, discuss solutions, and commit to taking real action to advance OGP’s thematic priorities. When hosting an event to discuss a new open government reform, consider partnering with diverse communities and incorporating speakers who represent broader gender perspectives. For example, in 2019, OGP asked the open government community to invite at least one new ministry or organization to join them in their Open Gov Week plans or to proactively engage communities who have not traditionally been involved in these conversations, such as gender organizations, rural communities, or indigenous groups. From a Feminist Open Government Day in the United Kingdom to youth engagement efforts in Papua New Guinea, more than 50 countires hosted events on inclusion, gender, participation and impact throughout the week.
Mainstream Gender into Commitments
Conduct Gender Analysis of Action Plans
Commit to conducting a gender analysis of your entire action plan to help identify where and how policies, practices, or actions may differently impact men, women, boys, girls and other gender groups. This can be done for action plans in both the design and implementation phases to assess what gaps exist and identify steps to make the action plans more gender-responsive. Gender analyses can be conducted in partnership with local, national, or international organizations; women’s ministries or governmental gender advisors; or independent consultants.
- Prior to finalizing their action plan, the Government of Canada conducted a GBA+ review of all draft commitments to ensure the full plan took into consideration the needs of women and other equity-seeking groups.
- It is not uncommon for OGP governments to reach out for support when reviewing their action plans for gender, inclusion, or equity. However, country-based women’s organizations and gender experts are ideal partners for consultation. Gender groups such as the Women’s Budget Group, based in the United Kingdom, conduct independent assessments of action plans and advance awareness of the OGP process by sharing the assessment’s findings with their platform.
Include a Gender Perspective Within a Specific Commitment
Public procurement. Budgeting and fiscal transparency. Natural resources governance. Justice. Access to information. Many core OGP themes can be enhanced by considering how they affect men, women, boys, and girls and members of the LGBTQ+ community differently and then building specific outreach and support efforts around those communities. OGP partners have started to look at how these policy issues and practices can better include women and gender throughout, and there is considerable room to partner with national and international organizations to determine which of your action plans commitments may particularly benefit from a gender perspective.
- Public service delivery commitments, including health and education-focused policies, can be improved by considering gender impacts. In Nigeria, civil society organizations are using OGP to monitor whether both young boys and girls are receiving school feeding programs. For other examples of bringing a gender perspective to service delivery, consider those from outside of OGP such as the government of Sweden, who assessed its education policy to understand gender imbalance in teacher recruitment and retention.
- As part of a participatory budgeting OGP commitment, Côte d’Ivoire committed to engage women’s groups as a target community for participatory budgeting to help set priorities and fund public services that better respond to their needs. This is one of many ways to incorporate a gender perspective in budgeting processes, from conducting gender-responsive budget analyses to address inequality in specific budgets to using gender costing exercises to ensure equity and appropriate resourcing during budget creation.
- OGP has a number of extractive and natural resources commitments, but none of those currently include a specific effort to engage women and girls in the creation or implementation of the commitment. To build on other national interventions, consider those outside of OGP such as the government of Mongolia who created a gender equality strategy for the mining sector beginning with review of laws and policies, or Malawi who committed in their EITI work plan to submit reports with gender-disaggregated data.
Collect Gender-Disaggregated Data
Governments and organizations can identify opportunities to collect gender-specific data from OGP commitments, and analyze that data to inform and improve policies and practices.
With the support of OGP to implement their commitment, the government of Elgeyo Marakwet County, Kenya uses disaggregated data to ensure equitable delivery of public services. Women, children, youth, and persons with disabilities now have public forums to channel feedback and improve the quality of performance mechanisms on service contracts and government staff.
Design Commitments that Advance Gender-Focused Priorities
The Open Government Partnership offers an action platform to advance national and local gender equality and women’s empowerment objectives, whether those are focused on reducing gender-based violence, increasing access to reproductive health services, enhancing rights and access for LGBTQIA+ communities, or improving the political voice and agency of women and girls. OGP also provides an opportunity to showcase global leadership by creating concrete national commitments around global agreements such as the Convention to End Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as international pledges like those in the Charlevoix G7 Summit Communique on women and girls education and economic participation, the W20 policy recommendations, or the joint civil society G20 Statement on gender and corruption. In partnership with government actors responsible for women and gender-centered policies, consider co-creating a commitment that uses transparency to address systemic gender issues and policy gaps.
- Germany used its action plan to conduct regular monitoring on the status of women and men in leadership positions in private sector bodies and the public service. This will serve as a framework for implementing the national Act on Equal Participation of Women and Men in Leadership Positions in the Private and the Public Sector.
- Buenos Aires has championed the inclusion of women and other gender minorities’ needs through its action plans. In one commitment, the city of Buenos Aires created an online platform called #DÓNDE that details locations and services of local clinics and health centers to help close the gap in access to reproductive health services. Importantly, the platform also provides feedback opportunities for citizens to report back on the quality of the services received at those centers.
- Colombia planned LGBTQIA+ legislation in its 2015 national action plan to ensure equal rights and non-discrimination. Legislature was drafted with input from relevant stakeholders and included representatives of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Uruguay designed and implemented an observatory for equality and nondiscrimination with a focus on sexually diverse populations, immigrants and people of African descent. The observatory will provide relevant information for the public policy cycle and social participation. It will streamline diversity protections by the Uruguayan State, public policies, programs and administrative plans and procedures, complaints of discrimination and hate crimes.
If your government or organization would like to speak further about a gender action you can take, please contact Allison Merchant, OGP’s Senior Gender Advisor, at email@example.com or your OGP Support Unit regional representative.
1 Equity-seeking groups refers to social groups whose members have historically been denied equal access to government services. Canada’s Employment Equity Act defines equity-seeking groups as women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.