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Germany Design Report 2019-2021

Germany’s second action plan continues to focus on open data and civic participation in decision-making processes. Notable commitments include improving the openness of German foreign policy, expanding public participation in rule-making, and strengthening data sovereignty in North Rhine-Westphalia. Germany’s next action plan could address climate change, lobbying transparency, and expanding innovative open data practices at the state level.

 
Table 1. At a glance

Participating since: 2016
Action plan under review: Second
Report type: Design
Number of commitments: 14

Action plan development
Is there a multistakeholder forum: No
Level of public influence: Involve
Acted contrary to OGP process: No

Action plan design
Commitments relevant to OGP values: 14 (100%)
Transformative commitments: 1 (7%)
Potentially starred commitments: 1

Commitments

 

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. Germany joined OGP in 2016. Since, Germany has implemented one action plan. This report evaluates the design of Germany’s second action plan.

General overview of action plan

Germany continues to perform strongly in most major areas of open government, and Germans continue to report high levels of trust in the federal government and in the opportunities to participate in political life. Germany’s second action plan builds on the foundations established under the first plan, particularly around open data and civic participation in certain policy areas. The second action plan also includes five commitments from German laender (states).

The development of Germany’s second action plan followed a two-track consultation process similar to that used in developing the first plan. However, the second action plan saw a deeper level of engagement with stakeholders, as well as detailed feedback on stakeholder proposals and the inclusion of state-level initiatives. Despite the deeper level of engagement, several major civil society priorities did not make it into the final action plan. To help reduce this gap in the next plan, Germany could consider an additional opportunity for participants to provide feedback on the final commitments selected. It could also consider bringing the co-creation process in the country in line with OGP’s Participation and Co-creation Standards.

Noteworthy commitments in Germany’s second action plan include improving the transparency of German foreign policy, including the digitization of historical documents of the Federal Foreign Office (Commitment 2). Commitment 5 builds on the improvements in transparency of development data and dialogue in development cooperation achieved during the first action plan, while Commitment 8 aims to improve public understanding and participation in the law-making process. Additionally, Commitment 12 aims to strengthen data sovereignty in North Rhine-Westphalia and could improve public access to categories of privatized data that have considerable public value.

Table 2. Noteworthy commitments

Commitment description Moving forward Status at the end of implementation cycle
2. Civil society dialogue on foreign policy

Expand and deepen citizen engagement in foreign policymaking and continue digitizing the Federal Foreign Office’s Political Archive.

During implementation, the Federal Foreign Office could actively solicit user feedback and respond with how this feedback was incorporated. The digitization of the political archive could be guided by clear targets. The Office can publish user feedback on the archive and fully explain which segments of files are not made available. Note: this will be assessed at the end of the action plan cycle.
5. Transparency and participation in development cooperation

Improve the quality and scope of data in development cooperation and establish broader dialogue on reporting in this area, as well as on greater data use and integration.

For successful implementation, the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) could ensure high up-take of International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) standards by new reporting entities as well as transparent tracking of comments and follow-ups in the planned feedback system. BMZ could also develop customizable visualizations and integration with other development-related information systems. Note: this will be assessed at the end of the action plan cycle.
8. Better regulation through participation and testing

Expand public participation in drafting rules and make laws and regulations easily comprehensible and freely available

During implementation, the Federal Chancellery could consider adding explanatory notes to improve the comprehensibility of laws and develop user-friendly guides to the provisions of the law and its applications. The Federal Chancellery could also develop guides on how to participate in the early stages of planning new laws, namely the pre-drafting scenarios before drafting begins. Note: this will be assessed at the end of the action plan cycle.
12. Strengthening data sovereignty in North Rhine-Westphalia

Identify and address challenges for public administrations with regard to data sovereignty in North Rhine Westphalia

To maximize the impact of this commitment, the North Rhine-Westphalia Ministry of Economic Affairs could ensure that the scoping exercise and guidance materials are fully relevant to and generated in cooperation with municipalities in other German states. It could also consider expanding the current focus on data in public-private partnerships to data- sharing possibilities with other private entities whose services (such as ride or flat-sharing) intersect with essential local regulatory functions. Note: this will be assessed at the end of the action plan cycle.

Recommendations

IRM recommendations aim to inform the development of the next action plan and guide implementation of the current action plan. Please refer to Section V: General Recommendations for more details on each of the below recommendations.

Table 3. Five KEY IRM Recommendations

Add a further consultation step for the draft action plan and strengthen the institutional basis for more collaborative design and stewardship of the action plan.
Expand and systematize outreach to and involvement of actors at local and state levels, as well as parliament and the parliamentary administration.
Establish a thematic focus on climate change: the green transformation and open government.
Revisit civil society and international suggestions on lobbying (a mandatory, effectively enforced registry) and conflict-of-interest management (e.g., better reporting on assets, incomes, and interests). Include a strong commitment to maximize the efficacy of any possible regulations in these areas.
Consider expanding innovative state-level commitments on adopting open data standards and data sovereignty.

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