Chile’s Multistakeholder Forum and Political Dialogue
Since its first National Action Plan process in 2012, the Government of Chile has maintained a permanent dialogue with civil society stakeholders in open government reforms. Initially, a small group of organizations held conversations with the General Secretariat of Presidency in order to provide input for the NAP commitments. This was innovative at that time of OGP’s early days, but participation standards have been raised since then. For the second NAP process in 2014, the then-incoming Government of President Michelle Bachelet broadened the scope and number of participants in this dialogue mechanism, both from government and civil society, and maintained it on a permanent basis, with regular meetings for the co-creation process as well as for the monitoring of the NAP.
For the third NAP process in 2016, the civil society organizations went a step further, making an open call for any non-governmental actors to contribute to create a list of commitment proposals for the process, and to vote for the most important ones; the government made a better effort as well, by facilitating a series of dialogue sessions between government representatives from a variety of ministries and public bodies and civil society representatives. As a result, Chile’s 2016-2018 NAP is considerably more ambitious than the two previous ones in terms of scope and depth.
However, the permanent dialogue mechanism had never been formalized up to that point, and the Government was receptive to demands from civil society concerning the establishment of a formal mechanism in order to ensure public participation in the following NAP processes, both in the co-creation and implementation phases. The mechanism needed clear functioning rules as well, an aspect that had not been addressed before, despite the fluid existing dialogue between government and civil society. Stakeholders in open government reforms in Chile eventually found a way to channel a solution for this problem, by including a commitment in the NAP that consisted of establishing a formal dialogue mechanism.
After several months of meetings and exchange of proposals between civil society organizations and the government, on July 31st, 2017, the General Secretariat of Presidency issued Resolution No 852 which effectively creates a formal permanent dialogue mechanism, called the Open Government Working Group. It comprises a government representative (the General Undersecretary of Presidency), a representative from the Chilean Civil Society Open Government Network and a representative from the Chilean Academic Open Government Network; two international bodies (UNDP and ECLAC) also take part in this working group, as observers. Resolution No 852 also sets out the mandate and the procedural rules for the functioning of the group.
The current members of the Open Government Working Group believe that the continuity of this mechanism is essential for maintaining the country’s track record in open government reforms, as Chile faces a change of government starting on March 11, 2018. Chile has made tremendous progress in open government policies since joining OGP; the commitments of the current NAP have brought improvements in transparency, accountability and participation that potentially benefit millions of people. The Open Government Working Group allows for a serious dialogue between stakeholders that can facilitate the inclusion of open government reforms among the priorities of the Government’s agenda, as it will face a new NAP process during 2018. Improving public participation during the implementation phase of the NAP remains a challenge in Chile; taking into account OGP’s recently reviewed participation standards, the Working Group’s ability to bring together a diversity of actors will be critical for the legitimacy and success of any future efforts in openness from the government. The creation of the Open Government Working Group was the result of exhaustive work between stakeholders for more than a whole year; now, at the time of a major change in the political context of the country, it is time to build on that success.