OGP in the News – Week of September 11, 2017
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, OGP news spotlighted the Partnership’s participation at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly, with a few other updates out of Liberia, Brazil, and Nepal.
On Tuesday, September 19, 2017, OGP will be organizing an event at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (#UNGA72) titled “Rebuilding Trust in Government.” Hosted by the current and incoming OGP Co-Chairs, this event will bring together an international coalition of Heads of State and Government, civil society organizations, and civic tech entrepreneurs to promote transparency in public action, citizen participation, and democratic innovation for rebuilding trust in government. Follow this exciting event via livestream from wherever you are in the world. OGP will also be launching “Trust – the Fight to Win it Back,” an exciting publication on the role of open government in rebuilding trust in public institutions, with essays authored by some of the world’s leading thinkers and doers. Help spread the word using the hashtag #RenewTrust.
More on the topic of OGP at the United Nations General Assembly came from incoming OGP Steering Committee co-chair Mukelani Dimba, who authored a powerful piece for the South African newspaper Daily Maverick. Reflecting on his experiences as a “Zulu-speaking South African born in the apartheid era,” Dimba described the government, or “uHulumeni,” of his youth as a “mysterious, feared and savage being, all-seeing, omnipotent and which determined the course of our lives unseen and unspoken of.” At 17 years old, however, Dimba saw a new, democratic government—one that would “enjoy the trust of the people”—unfold under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. This in turn informed Dimba’s long career advocating for transparency and accountability as a reformer working to implement freedom of information and whistleblower protection laws. Outlining how he plans to uphold his vision of citizen-centric governance during his tenure as OGP’s new civil society co-chair, Dimba said he hopes to align the OGP agenda more closely with the Sustainable Development Goals and encourage more OGP commitments around socio-economic justice, development, and protection of civil liberties.
An article in Agenda.ge highlighted OGP’s other incoming Steering Committee co-chair, the government of Georgia, which will be represented by the country’s Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili. Like Mukelani Dimba, Prime Minister Kvirikashvili will participate in OGP’s #UNGA72 event on September 19, 2017.
What does power look like in the digital age? An editorial in Livemint draws a map of the modern world as one populated by “nodes,” representing individuals on various social networks, connected by “edges,” or relationships to other nodes. While early web engineers often conceived of the internet as a kind of equalizing playground to the deeply hierarchical, pre-digital political and economic landscape, the editorial points out that “giant social networks by nature are deeply inegalitarian because as networks expand, nodes gain edges exponentially based on the ones they already have.” And so we have seen a rise in power and influence among tech giants like Facebook and Whatsapp, which to use Livemint’s metaphor, have become “central nodes in globe-spanning networks.” In a similar way, Livemint claims, governments often fall short of their commitment to equality via open data initiatives. The article mentions India’s United Progressive Alliance, which played a major role in founding OGP in 2011 only to withdraw before the Partnership officially launched. Furthermore, while governments have access to more citizen data than ever before, many high-value datasets remain hidden from the public.
During a government-civil society OGP roundtable discussion held in Abuja and covered by AllAfrica.com, Nigerian Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami (represented by an aide) listed prosecution of financial crimes and lack of coordination among government agencies as major challenges to Nigeria’s anti-corruption crusade. Discussing the country’s OGP commitments, Malami encouraged civil society organizations to push for the “speedy passage” of the pending Whistleblower Bill. Members of government and civil society present at the meeting also began writing a review of nation’s existing anti-corruption, transparency, and accountability laws in order to make recommendations to the National Assembly about how best to implement Nigeria’s OGP commitments.
“Africa is not poor but has only been looted.” In an opinion piece for Premium Times and Naij.com, communications adviser to the Nigerian OGP Secretariat Uche Igwe reflects on this quote in the lead-up to Liberia’s fast-approaching 2017 Presidential Election. Noting that many analysts have attributed Liberia’s “under-development” (high poverty rate, low adult literacy, limited health infrastructure) to years of conflict and rampant corruption, the author concludes that transparency initiatives like OGP and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) are of great “potential benefit” to the resource-rich country. Looking forward to the upcoming election, Igwe speculates “whether the incoming government, like the outgoing one, will leverage on the Open Government Partnership to continue to implement policy changes in favour of good governance and accountability and how this could contribute to the country’s recovery from fragility.”
Also in Liberia, an AllAfrica.com article covered a meeting during which Cabinet members reviewed the country’s draft 2017-2019 OGP National Action Plan. Upholding OGP’s key pillars of transparency, citizen participation, accountability, and technological innovation, the new action plan reportedly contains commitments on public procurement, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and Liberia’s General Auditing Commission Act, among others.
Moving on to the Americas, the Official Gazette for the State of São Paulo (one of OGP’s subnational pioneers) contained updates on a recent meeting convened by the city’s OGP team in partnership with the Municipal Secretariat of International Relations. According to one of the coordinators, though the meeting was designed to be an open dialogue between members of the Participatory Council, cross-sectoral councils, civil society and government representatives, the meeting didn’t offer much in the way of dialogue on São Paulo’s action plan or budget. The coordinator also expressed frustration that all speeches were limited to three minutes with little follow-up on previous recommendations made by the Participatory Council.
Coming back to the topic of trust, OGP Steering Committee member Nathaniel Heller penned an opinion piece for My República in which he spoke of the challenge of rebuilding trust in Nepal’s public institutions. Applauding the non-OGP country’s current decentralization efforts, Heller said, “This is Nepal’s open government moment.” He went on to recommend that Nepal carry out spending oversight measures at the local level, as well as join OGP at the national level, in order to rewrite the country’s long history of corruption and become an example of how “principles of transparency and citizen engagement can be the default mode for governing in the 21st century, even in resource constrained contexts.”
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.