OGP in the News – January 2018
A weekly round-up of Open Government Partnership (OGP) media coverage around the world. Want to receive OGP in the News directly in your email inbox? Subscribe here.
Filled with #opengov news, the first month of 2018 saw OGP coverage on the positive impact of open government in Georgia and Mongolia, a surprising transparency advocate in Colombia, open parliament reviews in Greece, and much more.
Started in the run-up to the Asia Pacific Leaders’ Forum on Open Government, OGP’s partner series with GovInsider continued this month with pieces from Mongolia and Georgia. To tackle the challenge of providing quality public services to all of its citizens, particularly those settled in the aimags (provinces), the Government of Mongolia launched the Mainstreaming Social Accountability project. Piloted in ten villages, the project had two primary aims: help civil society engage with the government, and establish permanent mechanisms to sustain the initiative. The initial results have been positive for Mongolia’s vulnerable populations, with one village developing a new bidding process for healthcare services and another incorporating 7,000 temporary residents (previously unregistered) into its healthcare system.
In the second GovInsider piece, Georgian Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani provided “exclusive insight” into the current OGP co-chair’s co-creation model. She touted the Georgian Open Government Forum as the “success story that everyone loves to tell,” and discussed how the Forum distributes the responsibility of developing and assessing the country’s open government reforms among representatives of government, civil society, and business. She also described how open government is filtering down to the local level, with Georgian capital Tbilisi already a participant in the OGP Local program, and five more municipalities included in the country’s latest national action plan. As Georgia prepares to host the fifth OGP Global Summit, Tsulukiani explained that Georgia is dedicating its term as OGP government co-chair to “ensuring that citizens have the opportunity to influence the government decisions that affect their daily lives.”
Ruminating on “high levels of corruption” in South Africa, Wayne Duvenage, Chief Executive Officer of the Organization Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), found hope in the anti-corruption journey of Afghanistan. Writing for News24, he drew many comparisons between the political contexts of South Africa and Afghanistan, alluding to a “deep-rooted and systemic problem of corruption” in both countries. Duvenage credited Afghanistan’s recent strides on anti-corruption with a number of successful initiatives, including the country’s participation in OGP, international assistance in exposing “money corruption flows,” and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Justice Centre (ACJC). He concluded that South Africa has the potential to do the same via the “introduction of a full range of anti-corruption mechanisms.” Recognizing that the “fight against corruption will not be won overnight,” he invoked the story of Afghanistan to suggest that South Africa too is “poised and ready” to make headway on tackling corruption.
In Colombia, a longtime transparency advocate and celebrated major-general stepped down from the national police force. Semana.com and HSB Noticias reported that Carlos Mena had served at the helm of the General Inspection, where he championed the Comprehensive Police Transparency Policy. Mena also encouraged the institution’s participation in OGP, making it the first in Colombia’s defense sector to take part in the OGP process. One of the three departing generals, Mena will be replaced by Major General José Vicente Segura.
More OGP news came out of Mexico, where Grupo Milenio published an opinion piece on the open government experience of OGP Local participant Jalisco. The article’s author, Rubén Alonso, said the strength of open government lies in social momentum and a bottom-up approach. Advocating for an open government norm throughout Mexico, he encouraged the country to continue to protect and strengthen citizen participation. Another Grupo Milenio article revealed that Mexico’s National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) is pushing the Attorney General to publicly release the government contract signed with Pegasus software. Pegasus is the software allegedly used by the Mexican government to spy on several social activists, in turn promoting civil society organizations to withdraw from the country’s OGP Secretariat. In a nod to the “social context” surrounding the Pegasus contract, INAI commissioner Areli Cano highlighted the importance of transparency regarding the contract’s information.
Speaking at a two-day conference organized by the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), Chairman of the Pakistani Senate, Mian Raza Rabbani, encouraged greater ECO engagement across Pakistan’s three branches of government and the region. With a mission to promote sustainable economic development, ECO “can be a model organization,” said Raza Rabbani. Elaborating on some of the steps Pakistan has already taken to address issues of money laundering and terrorist financing, he pointed to the country’s membership in OGP and the establishment of the Financial Monitoring Unit in 2007. He concluded with a call for increased cooperation, saying, “We are aware that the twenty-first century belongs to Asia. We need to have better cooperation and linkages amongst our neighbors and partners in the region.”
In Europe, Athens Voice publicized concerns by Greek civil society organization VouliWatch regarding open parliament commitments in the country’s latest OGP action plan. Addressing a letter to the head of Parliament, Nikos Voutsis, VouliWatch demanded explanations for the incomplete status of Greece’s OGP commitments promising greater access to parliamentary information and the integration of an electronic document management system. Looking to the OGP future, VouliWatch writes, “We would be particularly pleased to receive a response to our letter and start mutually beneficial cooperation on the next National Action Plan for Open Government 2018-2020.”
Last but not least, the results of the latest Edelman Trust barometer highlight the need for open government now more than ever. To combat the troubling global trend, OGP CEO Sanjay Pradhan explains how OGP “can serve as a countervailing force to show a more hopeful path” – read the full blog here.
Of course, we can’t catch everything in our news round-ups, so if you see we’ve missed something or think a particular story ought to be featured, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.