OGP in the News – Week of February 19, 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.
This week’s OGP news highlighted #opengov innovation at the local level, OGP progress in Spain and Argentina, New Zealand’s record on corruption, and much more.
Since launching in September 2015, Madrid’s online citizen participation platform, Decide Madrid, has been replicated and/or adapted in over 50 cities and institutions around the world. Powered by an open source software called Consul, the Decide Madrid platform “went global” in 2016 after Madrid joined the pioneer tier of the OGP Local program, according to El Confidencial. Madrid City Council member Pablo Soto Bravo explained that, through OGP, the Spanish capital was able to connect with fourteen other governments involved in the OGP Local program, making cities “such as Paris, Buenos Aires or the state of Jalisco, aware of the existence of Consul and incorporate it into their projects.” Part of Decide Madrid’s international success stems from Consul’s AGPLv3 license, which allows anyone to use, copy, and modify its code. Paris has used Consul to launch participatory budgets on social housing, Turin began conducting public debates, and Buenos Aires developed a massive public works program. According to Soto, this is just the beginning of a trend toward greater citizen participation. Because government officials are sometimes reluctant to consult citizens, he “advocates a change of mentality” to involve people in public decisions.
Also in Spain, El Confidencial reported that the Ministry of Finance approved the creation of an Open Government Forum. One of 20 commitments in Spain’s 2017-2019 OGP Action Plan, the forum will be a “space for dialogue and collaboration” between representatives of government, civil society, and business as they work to strengthen the core open government principles of citizen participation, transparency, and accountability.
Publicized in The Business Journals, Canada joined six other “leading digital nations” in signing the Digital (D7) charter. With Canada and Uruguay as the newest additions, the D7 charter (formerly known as the D5) commits the governments of Estonia, Canada, Israel, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Uruguay to promoting the “core principles of digital development,” one of which includes open government. In fact, noted the article, all D7 members must also be participants of OGP.
Elsewhere in the Americas, Argentina is making progress on its OGP commitments. Covered by MDZ Online, the National Prison Service (PPN) invited Argentine citizens to participate in a public consultation on prisoners’ rights. In line with commitment 16 of Argentina’s current OGP action plan, the consultation will help shape the database of recommendations—to be published in open format—made by the PPN regarding Argentine prisons. As underscored in the article, this OGP commitment aims to increase accountability within the PPN by involving civil society in the follow-up of its recommendations.
Moving on to the Asia-Pacific, the latest Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index ranked New Zealand as the least corrupt country of the 180 assessed. But how accurate is this title? Writing for The New Zealand Herald, lecturer in Politics at the University of Otago Bryce Edwards, explored this question. Aside from pointing out that corruption is hard to measure, he qualified that the TI results do not mean New Zealand is free from corruption, but rather that the “situation [there] isn’t as bad as elsewhere.” Analyzing ways in which the country has improved on issues of corruption and transparency, the author pointed to New Zealand’s high-standing in The Economist’s 2017 Democracy Index, as well as the positive feedback in the progress report of the country’s 2016-2018 OGP commitments. Highlighting areas for further improvement, the author encouraged greater scrutiny of potential conflicts of interest regarding lobbyists, political appointments, and government spending.
AllAfrica.com ran an article on Nigeria’s “poor” performance in natural resource management, according to the 2017 Benchmarking Exercise Report conducted by the Nigeria Natural Resource Charter (NNRC). While the piece documented improvements on legal frameworks concerning ownership thanks to the Petroleum Act, operational problems continue to hinder “translating resource strategy into tangible benefits.” And while the country has committed to greater transparency by joining OGP and even launching the open contracting portal as one of its commitments, the report also noted that companies have “yet to prioritise proactive disclosure of information on their operations.” On a similar note, Minister of Finance Kemi Adeosun was quoted describing some of the challenges of preventing illicit financial flows in a piece for Vanguard. She nonetheless emphasized Nigeria’s ongoing efforts to end these trends, including via a commitment in the country’s current OGP action plan to “establish a public register of beneficial owners.”
Finally, OGP was represented at the World Urban Forum (WUF). Speaking at a session dedicated to “Innovative Governance for Open and Inclusive Cities,” OGP Local Program Manager Brittany Lane used examples from three OGP Local participants – Austin, United States; Kigoma, Tanzania; and Madrid, Spain – to illustrate how “local politics present an opportunity to rebuild trust while simultaneously improving quality of life for local citizens.” Featured in the WUF Bulletin, Lane was joined by high-level representatives from UN-Habitat, the London School of Economics, Malaysia’s Ministry of Urban Wellbeing, Housing and Local Government, Belgium’s Ministry Mobility and Public Works, and ActionAid India, among others.
Last but not least, in partnership with the World Bank, OGP launched the new OGP Trust Fund, designed to provide support to government and civil society reformers in OGP participating countries – learn more 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 email@example.com.