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Faces of Open Government: Anabel Cruz

Rostros del Gobierno Abierto: Anabel Cruz

Anabel Cruz|

Anabel Cruz, Founder and Director of the Communications and Development Institute in Uruguay, became the civil society co-chair of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee on October 1, 2022. She is joined in her new role by government co-chair Estonia. 

Anabel, from Uruguay, has three decades of experience working with civil society in Latin America and globally. She sat down with OGP to share her vision of the Partnership, the role she and Estonia will play in leading OGP into a second decade of open government work, and the challenges reformers across the Partnership need to address.

1. You recently became co-chair of the OGP Steering Committee, representing civil society organizations working to open up their governments. Now that the Partnership looks at you and your counterpart, the Government of Estonia, for leadership, what are you and Estonia focusing on this year?

Let me first tell you that I am really honored and grateful to have been elected as the 2022-2023 civil society OGP Steering Committee co-chair, and to be able to cooperate with Estonia, the government co-chair, a vibrant and tech-savvy democracy. The preparatory process of our co-chair agenda has been a first step in realizing co-creation is core to policy-making, which we aim to achieve as a crosscutting characteristic of our co-chair year.

When I was elected as co-chair, I proposed to focus on three intertwined strategic dimensions of open government: defending civic space; localizing  OGP actions;  and promoting an accountable and resourced civil society. The co-chair agenda that we have agreed with the Government of Estonia has indeed incorporated these priorities, and given them an integrated perspective with other crucial open government topics. We aim to support OGP Local and the joint work of local leaders to develop recommendations on action, governance, and innovation. At the same time, our co-chair agenda includes supporting civil society organizations in their efforts to promote their resourcing, accountability, and functioning. It is crucial to find opportunities for the community and civil society leaders that support efforts around sustaining leadership, innovation, and resilience, particularly in moments of crisis.

2. You will lead the development and begin the implementation of the 2023-2028 OGP Strategy. Why is this important and what do you think will come out of it?

The OGP strategy is indeed a global action plan, and the co-chair agenda is explicit in its goal to mobilize and energize the global open government community and strengthen political support for the strategy. On the one hand, OGP needs to respond to opportunities and challenges in a fast-evolving context at the local, national, and global levels.. OGP needs and wants to be extremely relevant after its first decade:  open government values and approaches remain current and vital, but OGP should have a more strategic focus in its second decade to achieve greater impact. If we co-create that focus  with -and receive feedback from – diverse stakeholders, the strategy will respond to the needs of those that OGP wants to serve.

As co-chairs, we will support community consultations and dialogues around the strategy and also harness political support for the strategy before the strategy is submitted for the Steering Committee’s consideration. We also aim to leverage a high level OGP summit in Tallinn, Estonia in 2023, which will be nurtured by a fresh strategy.

3. An important part of your co-chair agenda is elevating the voices of civil society and supporting their efforts for greater sustainability and resiliency to meaningfully engage in open government efforts. Why is it important and what can the open government community do to support those efforts?

Civil society participation is basic in the theory of change of OGP, and it is part of its DNA. We should be reminded that one of the initial and foundational postulates of OGP was to create space for civil society leaders to work on an equal footing with reformers inside government and to make government work better for and with the people. OGP aimed from its very beginning to give civil society a seat at the table, not only to monitor public policies but also to listen to, submit and debate  proposals, and advocate for their priorities.

Even in its first decade, civil society voices in OGP have become stronger and more influential, there is still a long way to go. Civil society organizations engage in the OGP process in different fora, participate in its governance, and help to co-create, implement, and monitor action plans. To play a relevant role, and to make sure that citizens’ voices are heard and taken seriously by decision-makers, civil society organizations must be strong, have access to resources, and practice what they preach in terms of transparency and accountability. To monitor public policies and hold the government accountable, civil society is expected to lead by example. An open state also includes civil society, and we need to start talking about “open civil society”. OGP and all stakeholders involved in open government should identify ways and mechanisms for civil society organizations to increase their resources without compromising their autonomy. Likewise, it is time to acknowledge and support voluntary civil society efforts to build on existing good practices and standards in civil society-led self-regulation, transparency, and accountability mechanisms, to enable their active and independent participation in open government reforms.

4. You are a fierce advocate for broader and stronger civic space worldwide. We see it eroding in many countries around the world, including OGP countries. What can we do to stop this worrying trend and what aspect of civic space should we focus on?

It is clear that if civic space is not open and enabling, the work that OGP wants to promote cannot be realized. Civil liberties – basic freedoms of expression, association, and assembly – are under threat across the world, and some governments used the pandemic as an opportunity to introduce or implement additional restrictions on civic freedoms. Those conditions are essential to accomplish OGP’s mission.

Shrinking civic space is often a direct result of authoritarian regimes’ inability to accept dissent and civil society’s important role to hold power to account. OGP has the opportunity to work with international, national and local actors, from both the public and private sector, and counteract shrinking space at different levels and modalities. Even OGP national members do not show good civic space performance, but national plans have included few civic space commitments. More robust plans in terms of civic space and protection of human rights and human rights defenders can help to revert these negative trends.

Comments (2)

Gladys Estela Riveros Rojas Reply

Objetivo de movilizar y energizar a la comunidad mundial de gobierno abierto y fortalecer el apoyo político a la estrategia.
Como copresidente es acompañar a los lideres de las comunidades, sumar bienestar para todos y sobre todo su presencia activa.

Anabel Cruz Reply

Hola Estela. Estoy muy de acuerdo contigo. Como copresidenta espero poder apoyar ciudadanas y ciudadanos, organizaciones, movimientos y redes, a las personas líderes de todas esas organizaciones de la comunidad, para que puedan abrirse espacios para su participación activa. Una sociedad abierta es un lema que espero se vaya haciendo realidad: una sociedad civil fuerte, responsable, dotada de recursos, que pueda sumar bienestar a la vida de sus ciudades, países, regiones. Muchas gracias

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