Once the Action Plan has been submitted, the real work starts: implementation. There are a few options during this phase. Business as usual: government implements, civil society criticizes. Or the version where both sides build a partnership, working together, setting up on-going coordination mechanisms, drawing on each-others expertise. A hybrid, with some organisations on the inside and a few others on the outside undertaking monitoring efforts is the third option
OGP = partnership
The concept of partnership might be the most exciting element of OGP. In many countries civil society has fought hard and long to get a seat at the table of power and to be taken as a serious partner. At least, in theory, with OGP that fight has been won.
The partnership really is not just between government and civil society. It is also between civil society and civil society. For example, to really improve the access to information situation in a country it would be ideal if the open data technology ‘geeks’ work with the access to information policy ‘wonks’; and they jointly involve media to make use of the access to information laws and open data sets. Actos in OGP should reinforce agendas, not compete.
A broad and proper consultation is obligatory to be a member country of OGP. It is important to see the consultation process not as a stand-alone moment, but really as the first step of a change process, a partnership. In this first phase, government officials and civil society start talking to each other, explore each other’s interests and preferences, figure out the dynamics of context and power, and learn to understand each other’s language.All of these are elements that are needed to build a long lasting relationship. Key aspects to make this work are: to keep an open mind, foster equal power relations and interact/meet frequently.
Governments should continue to work with civil society once the action plan drafting phase is finished and should involve CS actors in the implementation phase. Civic engagement and public consultation are not a one off process within OGP, a wide range of interactive models have been deployed:
• Canada – OGP Advisory Board;
• Georgia – Mixed Steering Board with members of government and Civil Society taking turns on chairmanship;
• Ghana – Multi-stakeholder national Steering Committee in line with the international one;
• Mexico – Technical Secretariat composed of a member of Civil Society and representatives from two government agencies;
• Peru – Multi-Sectorial Commission to follow-up the country’s action plan composed of 5 government agencies and five civil society representatives;
• United States – Government/civil society teams around specific commitments.
Whatever format is chosen, it is important that the model is inclusive and transparent. A good practice is for civil society members to decide among themselves who will be a part of the official structure and who will not. Making sure that actors on the outside are well-informed and have ways to engage is a responsibility of both government and civil society actors working on the ‘inside’.
At the international level there are eleven civil society representatives on the OGP Steering Committee, the board which governs the initiative. These members possess a wide range of thematic and regional expertise, and regularly engage in OGP outreach at the national, regional and international level.
Civil society actors working with OGP at the national level are encouraged to contact the SC members or the Independent Civil Society Coordinator to share important insights, concerns or plans from the country level dynamic —especially those they believe should be raised within the OGP Steering Committee for discussion.