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Netherlands End-of-Term Report 2016-2018

The second Netherlands action plan focused mainly on open data. The strength of this action plan was its implementation, with overall substantial completion. Moving forward, the IRM recommends that the drive for implementation is met with more ambition in the action plan design.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a voluntary international initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) carries out a review of the activities of each OGP-participating country. This report summarizes the results of the second year of implementation from July 2017 through September 2018.

The OGP process in the Netherlands has been coordinated by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). Though civil society organizations (CSOs) were consulted during the action plan development, the commitments were chosen by the government. CSOs were not involved during the implementation period.

Two commitments were carried out by the Open State Foundation. One of them, detailed open spending data, was rewarded by OGP in 2016. The results of this commitment look promising for the near future. Most open data commitments need more than the two-year life span of the action plan to show considerable results.

At the time of writing, the government had not published an end of term self-assessment report. While specific commitments from this action plan were not carried over to the 2018–2020 action plan, some policy areas like open government and transparency at the municipal level continue to be present.

Consultation with Civil Society during Implementation

Countries participating in OGP follow a process for consultation during development and implementation of their action plan. There was no consultation with civil society during the implementation of the second year of the action plan. However, as part of Commitment 1, the lead institution held regular user meetings. An additional development to the institutional context of OGP in the country was that on 19 September 2018, the government’s point of contact told the IRM researcher that there is a budget for open government activities.[1]

Table 2: Consultation during Implementation

Regular Multistakeholder Forum Midterm End of Term
1. Did a forum exist? No No
2. Did it meet regularly? No No

Table 3: Level of Public Influence during Implementation

The IRM has adapted the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) “Spectrum of Participation” to apply to OGP.[2] This spectrum shows the potential level of public influence on the contents of the action plan. In the spirit of OGP, most countries should aspire for “collaborative.”

Level of Public Influence during Implementation of Action Plan Midterm End of Term
Empower The government handed decision-making power to members of the public.    
Collaborate There was iterative dialogue AND the public helped set the agenda.    
Involve The government gave feedback on how public inputs were considered.    
Consult The public could give inputs.    
Inform The government provided the public with information on the action plan.  
No Consultation No consultation  

About the Assessment

The indicators and method used in the IRM research can be found in the IRM Procedures Manual.[3] One measure, the “starred commitment” (✪), deserves further explanation due to its particular interest to readers and usefulness for encouraging a race to the top among OGP-participating countries. Starred commitments are considered exemplary OGP commitments. To receive a star, a commitment must meet several criteria:

  • Starred commitments will have “medium” or “high” specificity. A commitment must lay out clearly defined activities and steps to make a judgment about its potential impact.
  • The commitment’s language should make clear its relevance to opening government. Specifically, it must relate to at least one of the OGP values of Access to Information, Civic Participation, or Public Accountability.
  • The commitment would have a “transformative” potential impact if completely implemented.[4]
  • The government must make significant progress on this commitment during the action plan implementation period, receiving an assessment of “substantial” or “complete” implementation.

Starred commitments can lose their starred status if their completion falls short of substantial or full completion at the end of the action plan implementation period.

In the mid-term report, the Dutch action plan did not contain starred commitments. At the end of term, based on the changes in the level of completion, the Dutch action plan did not contain starred commitments.

Finally, the tables in this section present an excerpt of the wealth of data the IRM collects during its reporting process. For the full dataset for The Netherlands see the OGP Explorer at http://www.opengovpartnership.org/explorer.

About “Did It Open Government?”

To capture changes in government practice, the IRM introduced a new variable “Did It Open Government?” in end-of-term reports. This variable attempts to move beyond measuring outputs and deliverables to looking at how the government practice has changed as a result of the commitment’s implementation.

As written, some OGP commitments are vague and/or not clearly relevant to OGP values but achieve significant policy reforms. In other cases, commitments as written appear relevant and ambitious, but fail to open government as implemented.  The “Did It Open Government” variable attempts to captures these subtleties.

The “Did It Open Government?” variable assesses changes in government practice using the following spectrum:

  • Worsened: Government openness worsens as a result of the commitment.
  • Did not change: No changes in government practice.
  • Marginal: Some change, but minor in terms of its effect on level of openness.
  • Major: A step forward for government openness in the relevant policy area but remains limited in scope or scale.
  • Outstanding: A reform that has transformed “business as usual” in the relevant policy area by opening government.

To assess this variable, researchers establish the status quo at the outset of the action plan. They then assess outcomes as implemented for changes in government openness.

Readers should keep in mind limitations. IRM end-of-term reports are prepared only a few months after the implementation cycle is completed. The variable focuses on outcomes that can be observed in government openness practices at the end of the two-year implementation period. The report and the variable do not intend to assess impact because of the complex methodological implications and the time frame of the report.

Commitment Implementation

General Overview of Commitments

As part of OGP, countries are required to make commitments in a two-year action plan. The tables below summarize the completion level at the end of term and progress on the “Did It Open Government?” metric. For commitments that were complete at the midterm, the report will provide a summary of the progress report findings but focus on analysis of the ‘Did It Open Government?’ variable. For further details on these commitments, please see the Netherlands IRM Progress Report 2016–18.

The plan’s primary thematic focus was on open data, and therefore had a heavy relevance to access to information. In general, the implementation of the action plan had substantial or complete progress. However, progress during the second year of implementation increased in only three out of the nine commitments. As for overall changes in government practice, many of the commitments actions focused on pilot programs that have not been scaled up yet and results are yet to be seen.

National Open Data Agenda NL0019
Stuiveling Open Data Award NL0020
Groningen Open Data Re-Use NL0021
Releasing Ministerial Research Reports NL0022
Detailed Open Spending Data NL0023
Open Local Authority Decision-Making NL0024
Training Civil Servants on Public Participation NL0025
Easier Freedom of Information Requests NL0026
Open Government Expertise Centre (LEOO) NL0027

Methodological Note

End-of-term reports are based on desk research and interviews with governmental and nongovernmental stakeholders. The IRM reports build on the findings of the government’s self-assessment report; other assessments of progress put out by civil society, the private sector or international organizations; and the previous IRM progress report.

For this report, the IRM collaborated with Dr. Caroline Raat LLM, an independent researcher, until December 2018. Dr. Raat informed an initial draft of this report, which IRM staff used to build on and produce the final IRM report.

[1] According to the e-mail from 2017, there was a small budget for OGP activities, € 70,000, and only 1 FTE.
[2]“IAP2’s Public Participation Spectrum”, International Association for Public Participation, 2014, https://bit.ly/2oZsFYd.
[3] “IRM Procedures Manual”, Independent Reporting Mechanism, Open Government Partnership, http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/about-irm.
[4] The International Experts Panel changed this criterion in 2015. For more information, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/node/5919.

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