OGP in the News – June 2017
A series providing a round-up of media attention received by Open Government Partnership throughout the world. Want to receive OGP in the News directly in your email inbox every Monday morning? Subscribe here.
The start of summer may have slowed things down in the office, but OGP news never stops. June was as busy as ever with updates from Mexico, Spain, Nigeria, and beyond.
Much of this month’s OGP media coverage spotlighted a continuing investigation into illegal espionage by the Mexican government. Several civil society organizations, including Article 19 and Citizen Lab, conducted a report (following-up on a report released by Citizen Lab in February 2017) documenting “systematic monitoring of journalists and human rights defenders” in Mexico. Labeled a “Mexican Watergate” by national news publication Excélsior, the Mexican government’s use of malware to spy on activists, lawyers and journalists—including two contributors to Mexico’s third National Action Plan (NAP)—made headlines far beyond Mexico, appearing in BuzzFeed News, Argentina’s Taringa!, and Venezuela’s TeleSUR. This was old news to the group of Mexican civil society organizations that protested the government’s spying activities by withdrawing from the country’s OGP Tripartite Secretariat in May. The OGP Support Unit and Steering Committee co-chairs responded to the withdrawal with two statements, picked up by Freedominfo.org and recirculated on Twitter, expressing hope that the “ingredients of open government” will be “equally helpful in reestablishing trust and cooperation between government and civil society in Mexico.” In an opinion piece for Animal Politico, Ricardo Luévano of Article 19 explained how the decision to leave OGP was rooted in far more than illegal government spying, claiming that the government narrowed the scope and impact of many of the OGP initiatives during the final stages of the country’s NAP development. Mexican civil society is now calling for an “urgent, serious, exhaustive, impartial and transparent investigation.”
The OGP Steering Committee met in Washington, D.C. to discuss important opengov and OGP questions. Among other decisions, the Steering Committee decided to extend Azerbaijan’s inactivity status in the Partnership, which pleased several civil society organizations who called the decision as a “positive step and an indication of the OGP’s strong commitment to protecting civic space as an essential part of promoting open government” in a joint statement published by Human Rights Watch.
While new OGP action plans are not often featured in local media, we were pleased to see that both El Confidencial and 20 Minutos.es covered the Spanish Ministry of Finance and Public Administration’s presentation of the Spain’s third OGP National Action Plan (NAP), which includes 20 commitments structured around five themes: collaboration, participation, transparency, accountability, and training. Along with commitments to improve the country’s national transparency portal and increase transparency surrounding judicial proceedings, the new NAP includes a participatory budgetary commitment, largely inspired by the successful participatory budgeting practices pioneered by the region of Murcia.
On to Africa, an article in AllAfrica.com reported that the G20 group of twenty countries with leading global economies met with African delegates in Berlin to discuss Africa’s fast growing youth population. Co-Founder of ONE and the article’s author, Jamie Drummond, called on the G20 to invest in Africa’s youth. Emphasizing the importance of empowering this burgeoning cohort through citizen-centric government, Drummond also called on more African partners to join OGP.
Zooming in on the continent, several of this month’s top OGP stories came out of Nigeria. Penning an opinion piece for Naij.com, Executive Director and co-founder of Connected Development, Hamzat Lawal, explained how Connected Development’s ‘Follow the Money’ initiative furthers the principles of open government by giving rural communities in Nigeria access to financial information that directly affects their lives. He also highlighted the role of OGP in bolstering democracy throughout Africa, saying, “It is in the interest of democracy that African governments hold on to their commitments regarding the OGP to mainstream access to information, civic engagement, and fiscal transparency in the management of public affairs and resources.” Also in Nigeria, journalist Jonathan Nda-Isaiah appraised the Buhari administration’s first two years in office in a piece for AllAfrica.com, counting Nigeria’s participation in OGP among Buhari’s major accomplishments to date.
OGP continues to make news in a few non-OGP countries, highlighting the impact the partnership has beyond national-level work. In Taiwan for example, Yahoo! News Taiwan and Truthout ran articles about an open-source community known as “Gov” whose projects, code, hackathons, and forums are posted online for all to access and use. Gov representatives reported participating in the 2016 OGP Global Summit where they met with other digital revolutionaries to share tools and experience around open government. And in Kyrgyzstan, President Almazbek Atambayev expressed interest in joining OGP during a speech delivered at the International High-Level Forum, “Taza Koom,” which was published on both the presidential website and Kabar.kg. In a similar vein, Executive Director of the Research and Education Center of Constitutionalism and Local Government Law at Moscow State University, Stanislav Sheverdyaev, encouraged the government of Kazakhstan to join OGP in order to reform its legal and institutional open government framework in an interview for Zakon.kz.
Last but not least, the deadline to submit research proposals for both the Academic Conference on Open Government (#OGPAcademy17) and the 2017-18 OGP Research Agenda are fast approaching – don’t forget to share your ideas!
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 email@example.com.