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MODEL OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP (MOGP): ENGAGING YOUTH AROUND THE WORLD ON OPENNESS

Yanuar Nugroho |

The majority, if not more than half, of the world’s population is under the age of 27. These are youths who predominantly live in urban areas and mostly in developing countries. They are not only millennial children, or students and young professionals; they are also innovators, digital natives, entrepreneurs, and change-makers spread around the globe. However, despite being the biggest stakeholders of this planet, youths around the globe are grossly under-represented in global affairs and in the pursuit of solution for global challenges, not least on the issue of openness and transparency.

And yet too, despite being the biggest in numbers to be affected by the impacts of any policy decisions in global or national level, youths are also significantly ignored in the process of policymaking or consultation of policy changes. This seemingly systematic marginalization of the youth in a global level and many countries could lead to dismal reality and unintended consequences, especially when it comes to the issue of openness. Furthermore, youths today – the so-called “Millennial generation” – are somewhat operating in the parallel universe against their older generations who “run the world.” Youths’ passions, dynamism, and entrepreneurial spirits are generally ignored across the globe, mostly by their governments. Nevertheless, they continue to invent, innovate, and challenge the status quo. And again, these phenomena would be counterproductive and dangerous if the global community on openness, particularly Open Government Partnership, would like to see a sustainable progress of openness around the globe. What goes wrong really? Simply speaking, youths are not meaningfully engaged.

Meaningful Engagement with the Youths

Not to ignore several anecdotes, many may claim that governments around the world have already engaged the voices of their youths, but are these existing engagements effective? The word “engagement” at its roots “engage” connotes the basic meaning of continual process, a constant status of involvement, interaction, and participation. Engagement implies that there is an ongoing process of dialogue and involvement between two or more parties. Engagement is a process that can engender many outcomes, from partnership to mere mutual understanding to even a contention. Engagement is, thus, only a tool that is used to achieve certain purposes with varying level of seriousness, either in depth and meaningful or misleading and meaningless. What have happened so far in many disheartening realities of governance around the world are the meaningless engagements between government and their citizens, not least with the youths. Meaningless engagements in general result in distrust and apathy. Whereas meaningful engagement leads to responsiveness, trust building, and an encouraging spirit of reform.

Meaningful engagement with the youth would evidently then be imperative, but why do so particularly on the issue of openness and transparency?

On top of the aforementioned facts of youth’s position in the world, youths are historically heralded as the emblem of creativity and novelty. They are the engines of innovation in many societies and they challenge the status quo to come up with new approaches to do things. Educated youths especially, are even endowed with bright and curious minds that bring new ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and new approaches to various challenges that we face today in this planet. The global challenge of lack of openness is not an exception. We have frequently heard how youths around the world are driving changes in the Arab Spring, Brazil, and other countries or even how historically they have orchestrated revolutions in the past. Yet, we seldom hear how they are meaningfully involved in the formal and global efforts to promote openness, not least in OGP. These strengths that youth bring to the table, from creativity to innovation, get ignored. In fact, these strengths could actually bring sustainability to the global efforts to bring openness in “myriad spots of darkness” embedded in many governments and other entities around the world.

Thus, if openness is of a crucial importance to ensure a better world where accountability is the norm, meaningful engagement with youth is undeniably necessary.  But, how do we meaningfully engage the youth on the issue of openness?

Model Open Government Partnership: Youth Engagement on Global Openness

Meaningful engagement with the youth is undoubtedly a big undertaking that requires patience, strategic thinking, and innovation. Specifically speaking within the context of global openness and the formal structure of OGP, Indonesia takes up the challenges to take this engagement in small meaningful steps possible. We decided that although meaningful engagement with youth should be done in a grander and fuller scale where they are part of the decision-making process, such engagement could start in a more innovative way and less budget heavy. We facilitated an internship program for college students but we want to do more. With Indonesia’s impending leadership as the Lead Chair of OGP, we introduce Model Open Government Partnership (MOGP) as part of our meaningful engagement with youth on global openness.

MOGP is a replication of OGP meetings and operations. It is the first simulation of its kind, arguably the first in the world – given OGP’s very recent establishment, and fully organized by Open Government Indonesia (OGI) Secretariat. As the organizer, OGI Secretariat aims to introduce youth, in Indonesia and beyond, to the intent and purpose of open government initiative in general, while introducing a new game-changing model of international cooperation.  It is part of our mission to let youth understand the significance of and get engaged in Open Government, as they will be the next generations to succeed the government in the future. We would like to know how the youths perceive this new model of multilateral partnership where governments and CSOs are in the same equal footings to find effective solutions in making governments more open, accountable, and responsive. Through this mechanism, youths, particularly in Indonesia, will know the role, position, and potential of Indonesia inside and abroad in order to improve the quality of Indonesia’s and other countries’ governments to be more accountable, innovative, transparent, responsive and participatory. Further technical, logistical, and more procedural information is available on the MOGP website (http://www.modelogp.org).

But the essences here are global openness, meaningful youth engagement, and innovation. Through MOGP, we would be able to meaningfully engage the youths in getting their creative thinking, new perspectives and approaches, as well as constructive feedback on various issues of the way OGP operates. From critical discussion on the OGP eligibility criteria to Indonesia’s and other countries’ action plans on open government to creative approaches in getting new countries join OGP, the participating youth will be able to meaningfully engage the issue of global openness through MOGP. Focus Group Discussions, Presentations, Simulative Steering Committee Meetings and Country Engagements are the core activities that MOGP would facilitate. With these activities, the youth in Indonesia and hopefully later around the world will be able to critically understand and ingrain the importance of open government nationally and globally. And with their passion, dynamism, entrepreneurial, and innovative spirit, Indonesia through MOGP seeks to provide OGP with new ideas and novel approaches on accelerating the collective efforts to bring openness globally.

So if Indonesia is asked of how we would meaningfully engage our youths on openness in Indonesia and other countries, you know what to answer: Model Open Government Partnership!