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Policy Area Modules, First Edition
- Freedom of Association
- Freedom of Assembly
- Defending Activists and Journalists
- Open Contracting
- Beneficial Ownership
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene
Subsequent Policy Area Modules
- Access to Justice
- Regulatory Governance
The report takes deep dives into selected policy areas. For this first global report, the selected themes are: (i) civic space, which constitutes a vital priority for OGP countries amid the backsliding noted above; (ii) anti-corruption, where open contracting and beneficial ownership transparency are emerging areas in which OGP countries can advance from innovation to norms (as has been the case regarding access to information, asset disclosure, and open budgeting); and (iii) public service delivery, especially, education, water and sanitation, and health, which can deliver tangible impacts in the lives of citizens, but also constitute emerging areas to continue to be nurtured and deepened.
The Global Report will continue through the publication of subsequent modules such as the Justice Policy Series and Regulatory Governance in OGP paper written in collaboration with the World Bank’s Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance Team.
Civic Space: Erosion at the foundations of Open Government
Civic space is the fundamental underpinning for open government and OGP. Yet, as the report documents, civil liberties (the core of civic space) continue to experience a steady erosion, even in OGP countries. A 2018 OGP report found that nearly half of OGP countries had problems in each of the basic freedoms of assembly, association, and expression, as well as the fundamental rights that make transparency, participation, and accountability work. At the same time, very few of those countries were using their OGP action plans to address these issues.
The report takes a detailed look at three specific aspects of civic space: free association, free assembly, and defending activists and journalists.
- Freedom of Association: While most OGP countries have strong legal and practical support for freedom of association, 40% experience noteworthy challenges. There has been a trend of restrictions placed on civil society organizations, including restrictive laws, regulations and practices, as well as barriers to access, funding, and funding cuts. Commitments in OGP countries address barriers to entry (El Salvador), operational ease (Canada), and access to funding (Ukraine, Bulgaria, and Latvia). Overall, however, only five countries with freedom of association challenges have adopted ambitious commitments as assessed by OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM). The report outlines an agenda moving forward, including: laws and practices to limit or eliminate legal and de facto restrictions; facilitating operations; and promoting mechanisms and funding for sustainability.
- Freedom of Assembly: Free assembly is a bedrock of democracy, allowing people to collaborate, bring attention to issues, and get answers. About half of OGP countries have challenges in this area, but lack any commitments in assembly. Independently produced data consistently shows that between a third and half of OGP countries experience notable interference with the right to peaceful assembly. At the same time, roughly a third to half of OGP countries perform consistently well. This area is, however, the area with the least commitments in all of OGP. This suggests that there is considerable room for leadership, political participation, and a healthy civil society ecosystem. OGP members could advance applicable policies and practices in five areas: (i) notification and permits, (ii) police force, (iii) criminalization and penalties, (iv) digital and online activities, and (v) non-state actors.
- Defending Activists and Journalists (freedom of expression): Without activists and journalists, the potential for transparency and participation to result in accountability is severely weakened. Activists around the world continue to face harassment, stigmatization, detention, and violence. In four out of five OGP countries, journalists report harassment. In 50 OGP countries, there is inadequate investigation and prosecution for crimes against activists and journalists. While most OGP countries are relatively strong on issues of free expression for civil society organizations and individuals, there remain notable constraints to freedom of expression in over 40% of OGP countries. Ninety percent of countries with problems in these areas lack relevant commitments in their action plans aimed at defending expression. OGP members can use their action plans to improve the operating environment for activists and journalists by abstaining from harmful practices, setting limits and accountability measures on officials that might abuse power, and strengthening investigative and prosecutorial bodies. Eleven countries have made commitments to strengthen human rights institutions, monitor and comply with recommendations from international human rights conventions, and protect activists, journalists, and human rights defenders from harassment. Seven of these have commitments that are considered “ambitious” as assessed by the IRM (e.g., Colombia, Norway, Croatia). The report outlines an action agenda ahead in this area.
Fighting Corruption: Emerging Global Norms
The report focuses specifically on two emerging areas for tackling grand corruption and improving government efficiency: open contracting and beneficial ownership transparency. OGP members were the earliest adoptees of beneficial ownership policies and open contracting standards, helping to begin an early wave of innovation. While these two practices are not yet global norms, they are reflected in a growing number of OGP action plans and promise transformative impact.
In analyzing reforms and interviewing reformers working in this area, there are a number of cross-cutting issues. First, implementers do better when they: involve users from the start, identify means by which people can register complaints or raise suspicious activity, improve data quality (including regularity and recency), and implement open data standards and ensure interoperability with other datasets.
- Open Contracting: Corruption in public procurement can reduce the value of contracts by up to 15% (depending on estimates). Open contracting–combining disclosure of contracts with participation, monitoring, and oversight–has been shown to yield fiscal savings, reduce corruption, and increase participation of businesses, including small and medium-enterprises (e.g., Ukraine). Forty-six OGP governments have made commitments in open contracting. However, to achieve impact and results, open contracting requires adopting a problem-driven sectoral approach, engaging citizens for impact, improving data quality (open, accessible, timely, machine-readable, gender disaggregating data and using open contracting data standards), and empowering women through open contracting.
- Beneficial ownership transparency: Beneficial ownership transparency has emerged as an essential means for combating corruption, stemming illicit financial flows, and fighting tax evasion. In response, governments as diverse as Denmark, Kenya, Nigeria, and the United Kingdom have committed to publish beneficial ownership information. Sixteen OGP governments have committed to beneficial ownership transparency. To heighten impact, the report outlines four key issues to be addressed: (i) strengthening the collection of beneficial ownership information, including on trusts; (ii) improving the interoperability of the information; (iii) verifying registered information; and (iv) engaging citizens in monitoring and accountability.
Public Service Delivery: Accountability and Engagement Matter
Open government can improve people’s lives on a daily basis. To this important end, the report examines three key sectors: water and sanitation, health, and education, and uses available data to identify potential areas of work for future action plans. The areas examined include: availability of sufficiently disaggregated data for decision making, disclosure of decision-making plans and policies to the public, and priorities for participation and accountability, including inclusion of vulnerable or historically excluded groups. The report further looks at how citizen feedback can greatly improve public services, but also how a lack of data, which is practically useful for decisions, may hinder future progress.
- Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: The dividends from investing in open government in water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) are significant. WASH is one of the less explored areas in OGP action plans with only nine countries currently implementing relevant commitments. Based on OGP analysis of third-party data, OGP members can continue to advance this work through commitments focused on improving four areas:
- Data for governance: Most OGP members collect and publish point-of-service and household data. However, this data is not available at lower administrative levels, is not interoperable, and often has restrictive licensing, creating a mosaic of data that can be difficult to integrate and act upon.
- Data on governance: While most OGP countries have reporting plans in place for sanitation and drinking water, financial expenditure data and monitoring systems are not in place.
- Participation and accountability: While most OGP countries have participation and accountability efforts in place across WASH subsectors, very few have robust participation and less than half report having accessible complaint mechanisms for the sub-sectors.
- Spending on vulnerable populations: Most OGP countries have plans to address access for vulnerable populations, but very little money is spent or tracked to reach these populations relative to their size.
- Health: Addressing health issues is key to driving development outcomes, including more inclusive, sustainable growth across all economies. Opening government provides an important means of tackling the complexity of today’s global health challenges. The report provides critical data points to support an agenda for action:
- Data for governance: Health outcomes data and data on reproductive health lag far behind data on inputs.
- Data on governance: Only a minority of OGP countries regularly publish data on progress toward universal healthcare; and while most OGP countries had program-level budgeting, fewer reported on expenditures and outcome indicators.
- Public participation and accountability: OGP members, while they do address improving participation and accountability in health, have largely focused on citizen input into policy and strategy. A smaller group has focused on budget and supply tracking. Four governments have focused on accountability for patient outcomes.
- Education: While a broad range of tools can improve access and quality of learning, open government approaches of access to information, civic participation, and public accountability can be equally as important. Education systems can work better when the public has: access to information, the opportunity to participate and influence decision-making, and the ability to seek answers from government. Achieving more inclusive, sustainable outcomes requires efforts beyond transparency alone. It requires sustained investment in institutions that can enhance participation and accountability and help education systems become more responsive to public needs (e.g., parent-educator accountability). The report outlines an open government agenda for education consisting of moving from inputs to outcomes and from tools to institutions.
When comparing progress of OGP members on these selected policy areas, it is compelling to look at the areas where OGP countries have made significant achievements relative to real-world conditions. As part of this report, OGP combined third-party data across five dimensions and twelve sub-dimensions (available in a public database at opengovpartnership.org/open-data). This allows for comparison of performance in OGP with “real-world” performance at the member level, and at the level of the action plan. Figure 1 below shows the strength of OGP commitments (according to the IRM) as well as performance overall for each policy area (according to third-party organizations). All scores are normalized from 0 to 4. Higher IRM-based scores indicate stronger commitments that were relevant, ambitious, significantly complete and/or showed major evidence of changes in openness. As a result, the figure highlights where there are strong performers (active on that issue in OGP or not active) and where countries are making notable efforts, even if the results are not yet clear. For underlying indicators and methods, please see the Methods section in Volume II of this report.
Figure 1. A comparison of strength of OGP commitments with third-party performance indicators by policy area
As Figure 1 shows, the three focus areas of this first edition of the report have significant potential for growth, at least within OGP action plans. The anti-corruption initiatives, as featured within this report, are still new and have yet to see widespread adoption or changes in third-party indicators. Beneficial ownership, in particular, has yet to move from “innovations to norms.” While many elements of civic space are relatively safe within OGP countries, there remains much work to be done and it is not yet the norm that OGP action plans foster an enabling environment for civil society. Finally, the institutions and information for openness in basic public services remain underdeveloped in a large number of OGP countries.
Justice: From Advocacy to Concrete Commitments
Justice merits greater attention within OGP. While the number of justice commitments in action plans continues to grow, overall there are still too few. And although the commitments that have been put forward could improve government transparency, civic participation, and accountability, the IRM has determined that many have not been fully implemented.
The Justice Policy Series is a follow-on to the Open Government Partnership Global Report, issued in May 2019. The series’ first installment on Access to Justice was released in September 2019 and the second installment Open Justice was issued in December 2020. The third installment Justice as a Means to Enforce Open Government will be issued in 2021. The series aims to highlight the important synergies between justice and open government and the ways in which countries can use OGP to make accountable, credible improvements to their justice systems.
- Access to Justice: Until recently, access to justice has been a small part of these action plans. However, thanks to increased global activity around access to justice, such as its inclusion in the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2030 Agenda), there is growing interest by many governments and civil society leaders to better link justice with open government. This paper encourages justice reformers to better connect with OGP and its processes as a strategy to implement change. Through OGP’s built-in collaboration between government and civil society, different actors in the justice community (e.g., executive branches, judicial institutions and legal services providers) have a natural space to collaborate on making concrete commitments to improve access to justice. Moreover, OGP allows policymakers to learn from their peers in different countries. The successes and challenges faced by countries in implementing justice-related commitments–as shared through action plans and IRM assessments–can help open government advocates and policymakers in other countries develop locally-adapted commitments. This analysis explores the legal needs in OGP countries, how countries might use their OGP action plans to respond to these needs, the existing activities meeting those needs in OGP action plans, and areas for future work as suggested by OGP countries.
- Transparency and Accountability at the Frontlines of Justice: The killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many other Black Americans have brought to light systemic and entrenched racism. While these killings took place in the U.S., excessive use of force and weak accountability have been demonstrated around the world in Hong Kong, El Salvador, Brazil, Chile, Nigeria, the Philippines, South Africa, and beyond. Because abusive police practices is a global problem that manifests itself at the local level, it requires a variety of solutions addressing different levels of government. Naming the problems of discrimination and policing is an important first step, but it is not enough. This document suggests how OGP members can move from advocacy to concrete commitments on policing. It assembles what has been done and what could be done to realize the OGP’s goals of inclusion, justice, and human rights through improved transparency, participation, and accountability. This paper is an advance installment of a forthcoming publication on Open Justice to be released as part of the Open Government Partnership Global Report’s series on justice.
- Open Justice: Although the concept of justice itself has several definitions, this article focuses on legal justice – that is, the idea that all people should receive the benefits, protections, and rights granted by law. The justice system, then, is the network of actors and institutions tasked with ensuring that justice is upheld. At a minimum, the justice system includes courts, judicial officials, and police. However, in most countries, the justice system also includes administrative tribunals and organizations around them – whether dealing with tax, immigration, or other issues. In some countries and regions, traditional or religious leaders may be part of the justice system. This paper is largely focused on the formal elements of the justice system. Yet it is important to keep these broad definitions in mind, as some administrative bodies – such as immigration courts – might be exempted from transparency and oversight practices common in the judiciary. Open justice applies the principles of open government – transparency, civic participation, and public accountability – to the justice system. These principles are not only important for courts, but also for the many other actors that play a role in the delivery of justice services. This paper is the second of three in a series on justice released as a part of the Open Government Partnership Global Report.
Regulatory Governance: Working Towards a More Transparent and Participatory Rulemaking Processes
When citizens understand and help to shape the rules that govern society, regulations are more effective, business environments are stronger, and levels of corruption are lower. Since the founding of OGP, many members have made commitments to improve regulatory governance. In general, OGP reforms have contributed to important results, particularly around civic participation. Nonetheless, more work is needed to engage citizens earlier in the rulemaking process, strengthen accountability mechanisms, and mainstream open regulatory practices across multiple levels of government, particularly in lower-income countries.
This paper looks at OGP reforms in four key areas of regulatory governance where open government and the World Bank’s Global Indicators of Regulatory Governance (GIRG) data align. These are: accessing laws and regulations, transparency of rulemaking, public consultations, and challenging regulations. The paper provides specific findings and recommendations for each of these four areas as well as reform examples and stories.