Liberia’s OGP Validation Forum
On June 12, 2015 the Republic of Liberia convened a Stakeholders’ Interactive Forum to Validate the Open Government Partnership Action Plan at the Ministry of Information (MICAT). Participants included members of the OGP Steering Committee who came from various counties, as well as representatives from various civil society organizations and government ministries. The Honorable Andrew G. Temeh, Deputy Minister of Administration at MICAT and the OGP Focal Person, gave an overview of the OGP’s 2015-2016 Action Plan. After the overview, participants were able to ask questions and offer feedback concerning the Plan.
OGP action plans have four thematic areas: transparency, citizen participation, accountability and integrity, and technology and innovation. Under each of the four thematic areas there were several specific goals and suggestions for 17 specific commitments.
Regarding transparency, a key component of the Action Plan is to appoint twenty additional Public Information Officers and popularize the Freedom of Information Act. The plan will expand the Open Budget Initiative through an SMS platform and disseminate information through a town crier. The Plan also seeks to make information about proposed land reforms, commercial land use rights, and natural resources available to the general public.
In the area of citizen participation the Action Plan sought to implement the new Jury Law by teaching citizens about the their role as jurors. The plan also aims to establish the Know Your Rights policing campaign, which will publish information on the powers of law enforcement personnel, teach citizens how to file a complaint via SMS, and empower citizens to promote good law enforcement.
ACCOUNTABILITY AND INTEGRITY
The third thematic area focused on the passage of the Whistleblower Protection Act. President Sirleaf has already started this process and the OGP Action Plan aims to raise awareness and educate citizens about this legislation. In addition, the Action Plan aims to improve integrity within government systems by providing ethics training sessions for current government employees and officials. These trainings will also provide an opportunity for dialogue within these organizations as well as with citizens.
TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
The OGP Action Plan is heavily committed to increasing the use of technology and innovation as tools to promote open government. The Plan encourages citizens to provide feedback on national development outcomes through an SMS platform. The Action Plan seeks to establish an Open Data portal through which various sectors of government can share information with the citizenry. This will include digitizing community policing by sharing crime statistics and mapping. The Open Data portal will build upon information already collected by various international organizations, and the first wave will focus on data about the healthcare system. The portal will be hosted in Liberia and run by the government with support from IBM, the World Bank, and local NGO iLab Liberia.
THE VALIDATION PROCESS
Despite the Ebola crisis, the Government of Liberia has embarked on a comprehensive plan to consult a wide cross-section of society in the formulation of its second OGP Action Plan. National consultations were held with participation from all 15 Liberia counties, drawing representatives from local government, and civil society organizations representing youth, gender, and disabled groups. A special intra-government consultation was also held with the judicial branch of government. Under the direction of MICAT, Monrovia-based NGOs and a variety of government ministries have exercised leadership of the Government of Liberia’s OGP Action Plan through regular gatherings of a Steering Committee that have drawn the outlines of the partnership that government and civil society will constitute to meet Liberia’s OGP commitments.
Photo credit: Carter Draper