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OGP in the News – Week of May 29, 2017

Jacqueline McGraw|

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.

This week’s global OGP coverage saw even more #opengov updates from Mexico, freedom of information controversies in Nigeria and Scotland, progress in Pakistan, and more.  

Last week, ten Mexican civil society organizations withdrew from OGP after the Mexican government failed to respond to a Citizen Lab report revealing it had spied on several health activists, two of whom had contributed to Mexico’s third National Action Plan (NAP). Coverage of this development continued this week with several pieces appearing in El Universal. Professor and researcher Jacqueline Peschard pointed to the gravity of the organizations’ departure, noting that collaboration between government and civil society is a “core pillar” of open government and the OGP platform. Professor and journalist Augusín Basave authored another opinion piece underscoring the seminal role of civil society in counteracting the current “democratic crisis,” citing the involvement of several CSOs in creating Mexico’s National Anti-Corruption System (SNA). Basave noted that it is important to “acknowledge the dignity and courage of all the CSOs that stood up.” And in yet another opinion piece, Professor Mauricio Merino said that the decision to withdraw was also a reaction to attempts by various federal agencies to narrow the scope or substantially modify several commitments of Mexico’s third NAP that were agreed upon last year by Mexico’s OGP working group. Grupo Milenio reported that a number of CSOs issued a petition requesting a public response from the government, while El Economista ran an article in which current National Digital Strategy Coordinator of the Presidency Alejandra Lagunes denied having any knowledge of the government’s purchase of the Pegasus surveillance software used to spy on civil society activists.  

Across the Atlantic in Nigeria, journalist Jonathan Nda-Isaiah appraised the Buhari administration’s first two years in office for an article in pan-African news aggregator While the author called Nigeria’s stagnant economy the current government’s “Achilles heel,” he noted Buhari’s considerable success in quelling attacks by Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram. Furthermore, along with improved transportation infrastructure, a crackdown on corruption, and budget reform, the author counted Nigeria’s participation in OGP as one Buhari’s major accomplishments to-date.   

Another article discussed the headway made by Nigeria’s Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and Paradigm Leadership Support Initiative (PLSI) in their attempt to obtain 1999-2015 government audit reports. A federal high court in Lagos granted SERAP and PLSI permission to apply for judicial review and carry out a hearing, during which the government will have to make a case for not releasing the reports. SERAP deputy director Timothy Adewale said the government’s refusal to hand over and publish the requested information not only violates Nigeria’s Freedom of Information Act but also “negates the principle of Open Government Partnership (OGP) to which Nigeria is a signatory.”   

More freedom of information (FOI) news came out of Scotland, where journalists have accused the government of widespread noncompliance with the country’s FOI procedures. Scottish news site CommonSpace reported that many of Scotland’s leading journalists signed their names to an open letter voicing their FOI grievances to the panel of Parliament in charge of appointing a new Scottish Information Commissioner. Invoking the principles of OGP, they wrote, ““The Scottish Government has described itself as a beacon of transparency under the Open Government Partnership and says it is committed to becoming more open, accountable and responsive. We believe our experiences put that commitment under great doubt.”

In Ghana, meanwhile, Modern Ghana announced that the country will host the 2017 Africa Open Data Conference (AODC) in July. This will be the second global conference organized by Africa Open Data Collaboratives (the first took place in Tanzania in 2015) and is expected to attract some 600 delegates hailing from across Africa and beyond. The event also reflects Ghana’s commitment to opening up government data. In other news, as part of its “French Solidarity Program,” France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Development has invited Ghanaian civil society organizations to apply for project grants. According to the eligibility criteria listed on Funds for NGOs, special emphasis will be given to projects supporting OGP!  

Over in Asia, Pakistan’s Finance Minister Ishaq Dar delivered a speech, reproduced in Pakistani news source The Nation, presenting the current government’s fifth consecutive budget. Outlining the “key reforms” undertaken by the government on its “journey towards structural reforms with stabilisation measures,” Minister Dar cited the fact that Pakistan met the eligibility criteria to join OGP, “which itself speaks of the major improvements that Pakistan has made in transparency and openness in its governance.”

Last but not least, have you been searching for a way to see (literally) what OGP is up to? Follow the OGP Instagram account!

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