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Faces of Open Government: Cesar Nicandro Cruz-Rubio

Rostros del gobierno abierto: César Nicandro Cruz-Rubio

Cesar Nicandro Cruz-Rubio at the 5th OGP Global Summit in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Cesar Nicandro Cruz-Rubio|

OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) is applying changes to the way it operates to make the IRM more simple, fit for purpose, results-oriented, and prioritized. Cesar Nicandro Cruz-Rubio, member of the Independent Experts Panel of the IRM, explains what these changes mean for the open gov community and provides an update on how the IRM is adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic.

1. As OGP approaches its ten year anniversary, we’ve seen commitments tackle a range of issues at different levels of government, some more ambitious than others. Where have you seen progress made in open government?

Over the years, OGP members have found ways to strengthen their co-creation processes by integrating effective participation and cross-sector collaboration with the active use of open data and public information. As a result, better commitments have been proposed and implemented. Members like the Basque Country, Chile and Argentina have also strengthened their interaction and collaboration with civil society organizations, finding in OGP an effective and unique platform to do it. 

OGP members have also strengthened deliberative democracy in their countries through national action plans and multi-stakeholder forums (MSF), institutionalizing the open government agenda in the process. In some countries like Spain this democratic innovation is the only operational and participatory space at the national level. OGP MSFs have proven to have the power to invigorate democratic institutions in OGP participant countries and local governments to actually go “beyond the ballot box“. This model could even be used as a way to conduct or improve global priority agendas like the Sustainable Development Goals. 

To effectively run the open government “equation”, we must go beyond single-action and short-run strategies to include several medium-run innovative designs and open policy strategies. The case of the Buenos Aires “open government ecosystem”  – is in my view – a clear example of this. 

2. Following the OGP Steering Committee endorsement of the IRM Refresh in early 2020 and given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, how is the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) adapting and responding to support countries and open government reforms? And what are some of the changes in the IRM you are most excited about and how will they contribute to OGP’s three year vision?

The endorsement of the IRM refresh is aimed at increasing the relevance of the IRM and making the assessment process more agile. The work of the IRM is a priority for OGP and needs to be reoriented to 

  • maintain its functions of accountability and learning through quality, evidence-based reporting, 
  • offer timely findings and recommendations to increase the opportunities to promote high-value policy reforms and effect change, and 
  • make the reporting process more accurate to keep its relevance and to increase the use of IRM findings to influence changes in policy. In sum, to make it simpler and more usable for key audiences. As a colleague from the International Experts Panel (IEP) says: the right information, at the right time, in the right way.

The implementation of the IRM Refresh is on track despite COVID-19 disruptions. The IRM is preparing to begin a phase of targeted outreach to validate and get some user-feedback on specific refresh products and indicators. The IRM will continue to assess the evolving scenarios affecting OGP processes to inform refresh products, roll-out plans and the transition process into the new products.

The effective use of open government principles can not only help us save lives during the pandemic, but can also help us improve public spending, spaces for participation, accountability in public procurement, and transparency measures to ensure effective and early responses. Adapting commitments in a COVID-19 context can potentially increase the impact and importance of commitments.

3. What opportunities, challenges, and recommendations do you see for OGP members in using an open gov lens in their response and recovery efforts to the COVID-19 pandemic?   

Now is the best time to demonstrate the power of openness. There is a clear and valid opportunity to incorporate open government principles in key actions and policies to fight the COVID-19 crisis, and in doing so, revamp democracy and protect civic liberties that are currently at risk. These could include: 

  • Open strategies for urgent public procurement procedures (e.g. citizen oversight mechanisms such as the one in Dominican Republic
  • Transparency policy around key decision-making processes
  • Promote horizontal accountability and overseeing mechanisms
  • Crowdsource talent, capacity, and citizen knowledge (such as Frenalacurva.net, used by several OGP members)
  • Policies to protect those in vulnerable situations during confinement (including gender-based violence, poverty risk, small business bankruptcy, etc.)

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