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Launching the NAP Review: Conclusions

Tim Hughes|

18 months ago we set out to develop a tool for civil society in OGP countries to assess how open and ambitious their governments were being in developing their National Action Plans. After countless drafts of questions and two rounds of pilots, we’re pleased to be able to share with you what we’ve come up with. In this three part blog post series, we will 1) introduce the tool, 2) share the results from the latest round of pilots, and 3) draw some overarching conclusions from the pilots.

Today we look at what conclusions we can draw for OGP.

As we saw in the previous post, results across the countries were very mixed, with overall scores ranging from 28% to 77% of the available score. While some countries scored consistently across the three parts of the review (e.g. Liberia), others did significantly better or worse on one set of criteria (e.g. Colombia).

The sample is much too small to draw a meaningful conclusion, but the results from these seven countries certainly fit with what’s becoming known as a the “OGP bell curve”: A few countries doing well, and a few countries poorly, but most in the middle doing fine. As if to underscore this point, the average score across the countries was a middle of the road 50%.

As often seems to be the case, more interesting than the differences are the similarities.

It’s a commonly heard criticism that governments are meeting the letter but not the spirit of OGP, and this review certainly seems to support it. Countries tended to do better on technical criteria (e.g. publishing timelines, developing SMART commitments, etc), than those judging the relationship between government and civil society or the sincerity of government’s commitment to openness. Perhaps most worryingly, all but one country scored poorly on the extent to which the broader plans and activities of government are consistent with the principles of open government.

Opportunities for civil society to be involved in creating or implementing action plans also often don’t appear to be spilling over into genuine collaboration or empowerment. Civil society in a number of the countries scored their governments highly on criteria linked to opportunities to feed-in (e.g. the presence of a consultation, frequent meetings, etc.), but poorly on those linked to influence and collaboration (e.g. involvement in the development of commitments, influence over which commitments are included, etc.).

This feeling of disempowerment is perhaps partly explained by the fact all governments were poor at outlining why inputs were or were not taken into account. Creating feedback loops to participants so they can see the impact and benefit of their involvement is a fundamental ingredient of good engagement.

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom – a number of the countries scored some very respectable scores – and all of these conclusions will need to be tested as new countries complete the review. However, these two common issues of building genuine partnerships between government and civil society, and ensuring there are feedback loops to civil society must be important areas of focus for OGP countries.

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