New Direct Country Support Program from the OGP Support Unit
My name is Alonso Cerdán and I recently joined the OGP Support Unit as Program Manager for Direct Country Support. I want to take this opportunity to introduce myself and talk a little bit about the work that I will be doing.
One of the things that makes OGP unique is its approach to bringing about the desired changes. While other initiatives –like the anticorruption conventions– focus on getting their member countries to comply with a series of established rules; OGP has a more flexible approach in which every country has to write their own action plan with specific commitments that are national priorities. Commitments must, though, be relevant to transparency, accountability or participation and compatible with the Open Government Declaration that all participating countries sign. There are precise requirements regarding the structure and process in which the Action Plan is co-created with civil society, as well as on the design of the commitments. The OGP’s accountability mechanism then comes into play, assessing the quality of consultation and level of implementation of the Action Plan. This is a two-fold system that includes the publication of a government self-assessment report, and an external progress report written by a local researcher overseen by the Independent reporting Mechanism team.
Therefore, one of the key elements in OGP’s strategy to foster transparency, accountability and public participation amongst its members, are National Action Plans that are ambitious, relevant, co-created with civil society and fully implemented. The evaluation and accountability process will then help with recommendations to improve the next Action Plan cycle.
Although this might seem like a straightforward process in theory, each country has different circumstances and challenges. In order to help participating countries travel this road, the Support Unit started in January a new Direct Country Support program. In this new scheme, every country will have a single point of contact in the Support Unit to offer support in all OGP related matters. With this, we hope to establish a closer working relationship with government and civil society of participating countries and henceforth help foster the drafting and implementation of innovative and ambitious action plans.
The Direct Country Support Program will include seven activities:
- New country orientation – Welcome new countries and provide both government and civil society contacts with an orientation to OGP process, timelines, and guidelines (particularly on the public consultation process).
- Regular check-ins with OGP member countries – At least once a quarter, OGP staff will aim to schedule a check-in call with each government point of contact to explain OGP guidelines, track progress regularly, provide reminders of upcoming deadlines, address questions or concerns, and serve as a resource person to government and civil society points of contact.
- Develop OGP Guidance Documents – Draft and update written Guidance Documents on key OGP processes like building strong OGP Action Plans, effective public consultation models, OGP working groups, multilateral partners and drafting self-assessment reports.
- Support in the development of new Action Plans – The Support Unit will give closer attention to countries that are drafting new Action Plans, including a review process for draft action plans to ensure they meet OGP format guidelines, contain specific, measureable and time-bound commitments, and have access to peer exchange opportunities.
- Support in the development of self-assessment reports – This is the second critical moment that the SU will give close attention to by drafting guides and fostering exchange of good practices.
- Broker referrals and technical support – Respond to requests for technical support through referrals and/or brokering direct support from outside experts, working groups or multilateral partners.
- Multilateral partnerships – Manage relationships with OGP’s multilateral partners to coordinate support to OGP countries.
I am one of three new members of the Support Unit. This increase will allow us to effectively carry out the activities that I have described. Although my main responsibility will be in Direct Country Support activities, I will rely on the support of my fellow colleagues to cover our 63 participating countries.
During the next 4 months, we will focus on cohort 2 and 4 countries that are currently developing their new National Action Plans. With the release of IRM reports and consultation processes well under way in several countries, this is a key moment for OGP and we will strive to provide as much support as possible. We have already started making contact with these countries and the response has been very positive.
As soon as the Action Plans are delivered, we will shift focus to Cohort 3 countries, which have to turn in their Self-assessment reports by the end of September. As I said, this is an important moment for the OGP accountability system, so we will do everything in our power to ensure that member countries develop a complete report.
We will keep you posted on the results.