The Next Phase of OGP: A Call to Collective Action

Remarks at the OGP Global Summit - Opening Plenary


This OGP Global Summit in Paris represents an absolutely pivotal moment to show a more hopeful vision of open government to the world.  It is an opportunity and imperative to reinvigorate and deepen democracy in the face of rising authoritarianism and growing citizen distrust in government.


But for our movement to truly serve as a countervailing force for democracy and openness, we must also be open with ourselves. And the truth is that even as we rightly celebrate shining OGP examples today, we also have a lot of work to do as a Partnership to fulfil our potential and lead by example - because the stakes just got higher.  As President Hollande has said, democracy itself is at stake.  So my message is one of hope, but more fundamentally, a call for concerted, collective action.


Today we launch a strategic vision for the next five years of OGP, co-created with all of you.  Our goal is achieve much greater transformative impact by raising our collective ambition and ensuring credible implementation of OGP commitments. So let us challenge each other. Only 5% of OGP commitments meet the Independent Reporting Mechanism’s (IRM’s) “starred” gold standard of being transformative and completed. In recently assessed action plans, 70% of countries had no starred commitments.  In the next phase of OGP, let us commit that each country will have at least two starred commitments.


But in the present geo-political context, we need to go much further to realize the original promise of OGP that, in the words of President Obama, governments exist to truly serve their citizens, rather than the other way around. For this, in its next phase, OGP will need to transform itself from being perceived as a transparency and open data movement alone - which will continue to be of foundational importance - to now also being a force for reinvigorating and deepening democracy - where government reaches out, listens and responds to the concerns of citizens.   


So our first strategic direction is to deepen citizen participation and help restore trust between citizens and government. This must begin with genuine creation in OGP.  But it needs to go much further to putting citizens at the heart of government. We have inspirational OGP practices which need to be scaled up - such as participatory budgeting in Brazil and right here in Paris, Canada’s open dialogue where hundreds of citizen consultations are taking place, or Costa Rica’s consultation mechanism with indigenous people - inclusion of the marginalized is vital in a world where minorities face growing oppression and exclusion.  In the next phase of OGP, let us commit that each OGP country will include commitments to scale up civic participation in policymaking.


We also need to make a big push on mobilizing citizen feedback on the delivery of services - through social audits, citizen report cards and ICT platforms - which government responds to. For example, the Philippines disclosed its flagship expenditures online, often geo-coded.  Citizens started social audits to see if the roads existed.  The Commission of Audit used these social audits to elicit government response, with potential savings of $300,000 per ghost road. In a refreshed OGP let us commit that all our national and subnational governments will include at least one such commitment where government invites and responds to citizen feedback on services that affect their lives. It is then that citizens will feel that open government is making a difference in their lives.  And for this, let us broaden our stakeholder base to include sector ministries in Cabinet and CSOs fighting for issues like health and education.


A precondition for all this is civic space, which is shrinking, including in several OGP countries. Let us recommit that all countries in the partnership will live up to their pledge to protect civic freedoms, with support, suasion or if necessary, sanction for those that don’t, even if the result is that a country unfortunately drops out of the partnership, as in Hungary last night.


Our second strategic direction is to raise our collective ambition to tackle the toughest challenges. Take elite capture and grand corruption, which is at the root of citizen distrust of government in developing and developed countries alike.  Here again, we have inspirational OGP examples, like lobbying reform in Ireland and Chile, or asset disclosure of top officials, including the Prime Minister and Cabinet, in Ukraine which revealed some glaring discrepancies with incomes for the anticorruption bureau to investigate, or publication of data on political party contributions by the Supreme Audit Institution in Georgia, which watchdog groups are using to track whether donors benefit from public contracts. In the next phase of OGP, let us commit for more countries to undertake such exciting, ambitious reforms, and join the Paris Declaration on anticorruption.


Our third strategic priority is credible implementation. A most tragic statistic in OGP is that 61 percent of potentially transformative commitments - already co-created and agreed between government and civil society - are not completed. In the next phase of OGP, we need Cabinets to include OGP commitments in the budget, and government and civil society to vigorously monitor implementation, leveraging IRM. And to support developing countries and civil society, we will launch an OGP trust fund in 2017.  


Our fourth strategic direction is to forge coalitions and movements for open government.  Our movement has never been more under threat - and yet our work have never been more vital for a more hopeful world.  As our founders transition, we call upon a new global coalition of world leaders to step up and take the baton of open government forward. We need civil society activists, journalists, parliamentarians, private sector and reformers in government to leverage the OGP platform to join forces, forge coalitions and find collective courage to fight vested interests. In this next phase of OGP, let us join forces to unleash a powerful, vibrant, inexorable movement for open government that prevails upon the dark, looming threats to democracy and instead realizes that precious vision - of governments truly serving their citizens.


Thank you.

Authors: Sanjay Pradhan
Topics: Subnational
Filed Under: OGP News