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Closer to the People: OGP Local Results

Mayor cercanía a la gente: Resultados de OGP Local

Mia Katan|

This blog is part of a series of thematic blogs produced by the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) during Open Gov Week. Find other blogs in the series here.

Over the last decade, members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) have implemented ambitious open government reforms across levels of government – from the national to county to municipal level. Local level reforms took on a new focus when 20 local jurisdictions joined the Partnership in 2016 and 2018. This past year, OGP Local grew significantly with 56 new members.

The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) has assessed 152 commitments made by the 20 pioneer OGP Local members over the last five years. Overall, IRM analysis has found that local commitments are, on average, significantly more likely to be ambitious and achieve strong early results than commitments made by national governments. Initiatives where local governments leverage their proximity to citizens to create participatory channels have shown particularly good early results. Below is a snapshot of commitments that have increased citizens’ ability to participate and hold their local government to account.

 

Participatory policymaking

Many local governments in OGP have created online and offline spaces for citizens to propose and vote on policies and programs. Some governments have established channels to gather public feedback on specific projects while others have created platforms to collect fresh ideas from the public.

  • In 2018, Buenos Aires, Argentina committed to informing and consulting the public on the city’s plans to significantly expand its bike infrastructure. The government held consultations with neighborhoods and civil society organizations and conducted surveys to collect citizen input. Conversations with neighborhood associations led to the relocation of public bike stations, for example. The city’s improved cycling lanes and public bike option proved timely with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Basque Country, Spain created an innovation lab (“I-lab”) to foster innovative civic participation. Through the I-lab, a partnership of organizations piloted four initiatives that fostered the participation of migrants and enhanced participatory budgeting. These pilot projects informed a best practices guide and set of principles to inform future civic participation efforts in Basque Country.
  • Also in 2018, La Libertad, Peru expanded its “Decide La Libertad” portal to enable citizens to suggest, discuss, and vote on legislative proposals at the regional level. Implementation particularly focused on equal participation of women and rural citizens through a complementary commitment to close the digital divide.

 

Participatory Budgeting

Many OGP members have used successive action plans to build transparent and participatory budget processes so that budgets better reflect citizen priorities.

  • Batumi Municipality successfully implemented participatory budgeting through Georgia’s 2018-2020 action plan. In 2019, citizens logged on to a dedicated website to suggest and vote on citizen proposals, resulting in three projects being funded by the municipality. In 2020, eight citizen-driven projects were selected through popular vote, including organic waste composting and painting apartment yards to make them more child-friendly.
  • Citizens in Elgeyo Marakwet, Kenya already play a significant role in the county’s budget formulation process. In its first action plan, Elgeyo Marakwet partnered with civil society to release simplified budget information and templates and establish sector working groups to facilitate participation. In the county’s most recent OGP action plan, Elgeyo Marakwet committed to publishing appropriation-in-aid data and creating a policy to ensure donors adhere to the county’s public disclosure requirements.

 

Local infrastructure monitoring

A number of OGP members have partnered with civil society and the public to ensure that public resources allocated for vital local infrastructure projects are used efficiently. Local governments’ proximity to citizens has made participatory infrastructure monitoring more feasible.

  • Communities in Afghanistan now have greater influence over road construction in their area as a result of Afghanistan’s 2017-2019 action plan. The Ministry of Transportation worked with civil society, communities, and local officials to collaboratively establish a citizens engagement framework. This framework enables citizens to participate in the planning and implementation of road projects.
  • In 2018, Sekondi Takoradi, Ghana began to open up public infrastructure projects to greater civic input and oversight. The Metropolitan Assembly committed to publishing contract and project information while citizen monitoring groups visit project sites to compare disclosed data with developments on the ground. As a result of this commitment, Sekondi Takoradi joined the Infrastructure Transparency Initiative (CoST), established a CoST multi-stakeholder group, and published its first Assurance Report on stakeholder engagement and information disclosure across five infrastructure projects in 2020.

 

Recommendations

Across the globe, 56 new members of OGP Local are co-creating their first open government action plans. But there’s no need to start from scratch. Open government champions can draw lessons from pioneer members’ experience as they embark on their OGP journey and consider:

  • Aligning commitment timelines with the local administration’s election cycles and budget to limit possible disruption.
  • Partnering closely with civil society from the very beginning to build public participation and engagement channels. This can help ensure continuity of initiatives beyond election cycles.
  • Leveraging intimate knowledge and proximity to citizens to focus participatory initiatives on local priority policy areas and include the right actors in the discussion
  • Ensuring there is a continuity plan, ownership and strong support from local administration officials and civil society for when donor funds are no longer available.
  • Breaking down reforms that require more than two years to implement into feasible commitments that build towards longlasting open government reforms.
  • Taking into account the level of cross-government coordination and amount of time required to implement each commitment.
  • Establishing an OGP Local monitoring mechanism to assess action plan implementation using IRM guidance to achieve a comprehensive and contextualized approach
  • Documenting success stories to build public, civil society, and international support for the local open government agenda.

Local jurisdictions are closer to citizens than national governments and as result, local members are uniquely positioned to improve public services and citizens’ interactions with government. Local governments are also often more nimble, presenting the opportunity to experiment with open government reforms in partnership with civil society.

We look forward to seeing even more ambitious and transformative commitments in future OGP Local action plans. 

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