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Faces of Open Government: Malick Lingani

Rostros del gobierno abierto: Malick Lingani

Malick Lingani|

Francophone countries and local governments in Africa are joining OGP at a fast pace, creating an opportunity to join efforts and advance open government reforms in the region. Malick Lingani tells us how organizations and international partners are helping French-speaking OGP members strengthen their open government efforts and other countries in the region get closer to joining OGP. 

1. Recently, PAGOF launched a call for proposals for civil society organizations in Francophone Africa to receive support in creating more open and inclusive governments. What opportunities do you see for Francophone Africa to advance the open government agenda regionally, especially around issues like a transparent recovery from COVID-19, civic space, and tackling inequalities?

The Francophone Open Government Support Program (PAGOF in French) is a commitment by the Government of France to support public action at the international level, in particular, to support Francophone countries to join OGP and support current OGP members implement their action plans.

In addition to supporting Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Tunisia in their OGP journeys, PAGOF hosts several webinars and activities like the Seminaire-PAGOF where actors from government and civil society in French-speaking countries share their experiences to stimulate regional dynamics to advance open government principles.

The recent call for projects of PAGOF is an opportunity for civil society actors to address the common challenges identified during these various activities, fulfill the eligibility criteria for OGP and ensure safe, responsible and inclusive citizen participation. This is reflected by the subdivision of the call for projects into two lots:

  • Lot 1: “Towards membership in OGP: support for initiatives working to contribute to the accession of a non-member country to the OGP by strengthening one of the eligibility criteria for OGP ”; and
  • Lot 2: “Towards an inclusive open government: support for initiatives working to increase the role and voice of women in open government”.

This call for projects, intended only for civil society organizations (CSOs) in Francophone Africa countries, is no small feat. Indeed, it is an advantage that relieves the difficulties of mobilizing CSO resources, especially now.

It also reinforces the idea of ​​organizing CSOs in the region to work better together, which is why my team and I are working to create the Network of Francophone African CSOs for Open Government. Currently, only five countries (Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Morocco, Senegal) and three local governments (Tangier-Tétouan-Al-Hoceima, Morocco, and El Kef and Regueb, Tunisia) from French-speaking Africa are members of OGP. Combined, they’ve submitted nine action plans with 131 commitments that address civic space, transparency in the extractive industries, open public procurement, gender equality, access to justice, services delivery, and more.

But only 34% of these commitments are considered ambitious and 11% have achieved solid preliminary results. Which is well below the global average.

The CSO Network could be a platform that can help boost OGP membership but also lead to more inclusive co-creation processes and more transformative commitments.

OGP regional leaders sharing their country  experience at the Seminaire-PAGOF, Tunis, November 2018

OGP regional leaders sharing their country  experience at the Seminaire-PAGOF, Tunis, November 2018PHOTO: By Beog Neere

2. International Open Data Day was held earlier this month to celebrate open data, to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society. Why is open data so important in ensuring an open response and open recovery from COVID-19 and what can OGP members do to contribute to that?

Open Data Day is even more important now as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic. African CSOs have been hard at work  monitoring response efforts from governments across the region. CSOs in Burkina Faso, for example, worked with activists and the media to reorganize the response, changing the national response management team and co-creating an open response plan. This unprecedented monitoring work was carried out because the data on the new and active COVID-19 cases was made available on a daily basis, prompting all stakeholders to act quickly. 

The pandemic has shown us that opacity, in all its forms, could have irreversible consequences. The fight against corruption and ensuring transparency  in the management of public funds, procurement, and decision-making processes are just as urgent as responding to COVID-9. To do this, open data, access to information and a free civic space are the entry points to foster transparency and more constructive citizen participation.

We can only reach a post-COVID era if vaccine management, data, and strategies  are open by default. OGP countries that are currently in their co-creation process must seize the opportunity to advance open data initiatives on COVID-19 vaccines, co-create post-COVID-19 economic recovery plans and implement these reforms with transparency.

3. Africa has one of the youngest populations in the world. What do you think governments and civil society organizations can do to include more voices in open government processes, especially those of underrepresented groups like the youth, women, people with disabilities and more?

This is a crucial question, especially at a time when the rule of law is being challenged in Africa and older democracies. For me, OGP  can be leveraged to challenge the current crises and others crises to come. The future of OGP is bound to the future of young people because sustainability matters and we have not done enough yet. Organizations in the open government community have decided to grab the bull by the horns and Accountability Lab is one of them. In fact, I salute their OpenGov Youth Collective initiative, which is creating local and regional champions who are the future of OGP.

These young champions have defined a charter for inclusion, accountability and sustainability that should inspire all member countries. As the Youth Collective has pointed out in the charter, young people must be stakeholders from beginning to end and not just as a token. The key to this is building coalitions with reputable youth organizations.

In Burkina Faso, with the support of the OGP Multi-Donor Trust Fund and PAGOF, we were able to implement these recommendations and included two youth organizations in our Multi-Stakeholder Forum, including a women’s organization.

Youth empowerment workshop in Burkina Faso, March 2020

Youth empowerment workshop in Burkina Faso, March 2020PHOTO: Photo by Beog Neere

All these experiences are to be shared in the future CSOs Network and beyond. I firmly believe that it is through our shared collective efforts that we will achieve our ambitious goals, renew democracy, and rebuild a better world.

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