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Challenges and Aspirations of the Subnational Pilot Program in Buenos Aires

Retos y aspiraciones del programa piloto subnacional de Buenos Aires

Alvaro Herrero|

The Regional Meeting in Montevideo marked a milestone in the history of the Open Government Partnership: for the first time four local governments from Latin America officially participated – Buenos Aires, Argentina; Jalisco, Mexico; La Libertad, Peru; and San Paulo, Brazil (all of which form part of OGP’s new Subnational Pilot Program).

Subnational governments represent an ideal platform for open government practices as it is they who are in direct contact with citizens. Because of this their incorporation constitutes a relevant and fundamental advance in OGP’s process of maturation. Widening its focus was a step that OGP needed to take: not as some fickle means of increasing the number of participants, but rather because including subnational governments multiplies the possibilities for real impact in the lives of the people. At the end of the day, this is what the open government paradigm is all about: improving the quality of life of citizens through the strengthening of democracy and the defense of human rights.

The Government of the City of Buenos Aires is starting from a solid foundation with regard to transparency. It was one of the first cities to have an Access to Public Information Law, which was enacted in 1998. It also innovated in 2012, with its open data policy – leading not just Argentina but the entire region. And while the City was already informally participating in OGP meetings and benefitting from the exchange of shared knowledge, officially joining the Partnership constituted a unique opportunity to formalize and strengthen these efforts.

The challenge, of course, recently began. We are developing the work methodology which – in collaboration with civil society – will guide the creation of our first Plan of Action. We already had our first meeting, during which we agreed to the formation of a working group composed of organizations with experience in the Partnership and a government committee that will bring together three key bodies: the General Secretary, the Ministry of Modernization, and the Ministry of Government. We are seeking to in this way create a solid alliance between government offices which are vital to the successful management of this process and organizations with more experience in relation to open government. This working group will be responsible for defining not only the methodology of co-creation but also the terms for the wider call to the rest of civil society. Right now we are working of the development of this methodology. Once we finalize this process, we will make a wider call in order to create sector-based groups of key public and private actors that will work on commitments relevant to each sector (health, education, etc.).

We enter this process of co-creation with an open attitude and many hopes. We are taking many ideas to the working group, and these must of course be approved by the social organizations. We wish for the plan of action to include sector elements that will have a real impact on quality of public services (education, health, transport, housing). This is for a number of reasons. On the one hand, it is in accord with the recommendation of experts and the experience gained through National Action Plans. On the other, we believe that it is the best way to generate ambitious and relevant commitments – especially for subnational governments where the administration is closer to citizens and commitments with concrete goals can have a more direct impact on the lives of neighbors.

We also wish for Buenos Aires to serve as a space for spreading open government practices to the rest of the country. This is an idea to which we committed when we applied to the subnational pilot program and which especially excites us. It means sharing experiences and bolstering the work of other municipalities and provinces that are starting to develop open government practices. It is also important to us that our first plan of action include the participation of the legislature and the judiciary. We believe that the open government paradigm should be applied to all three powers of the state, thereby going beyond the current bounds of open government and leading to an integrated notion of an “Open State.” We hope to be able share at the next regional meeting the results of this arduous process of co-creation, which no doubt will enrich government and civil society equally.

The Regional Meeting came at just the right time for us – at the beginning of a challenging path. It allowed us to meet our peers from the other participating subnational governments and to exchange ideas about how to implement this process. It also served to strengthen our bonds with experts and representatives from civil society organizations. It was an experience that embodied all the good that OGP presents for governments and civil society, in terms of participation, the exchange of experiences and mutual learning. Feeling that one is part of a global movement destined to create a better democracy produces both excitement and a strong sense of responsibility in all the actors involved – two key conditions for creating the changes necessary for such a democracy.

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