OGP in the News - May 2017

A series providing a round-up of media attention received by Open Government Partnership throughout the world. Want to receive OGP in the News directly in your email inbox every Monday morning? Subscribe here.

April’s showers certainly led to a flowering of OGP news in the month of May, particularly in the Americas, where major news outlets covered important open government developments in the United States, Mexico, and Argentina.

In an opinion piece for The Washington Post, John Podesta, the 2016 presidential campaign chair of former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and counselor to former President Barack Obama, called the Trump administration’s approach to issues of international aid, development, and governance a “historic step — backward.” Speaking of OGP and other multilateral initiatives seeking to promote increased government transparency, Podesta said that “Trump seems to be making the case that sunlight is to be feared.” He noted that the Trump administration has yet to publically acknowledge OGP, and has not made any announcements about the upcoming United States National Action Plan (NAP), which is supposed to be submitted before the OGP Steering Committee holds one of its annual meetings in June.  

Significant OGP developments occurred in neighboring Mexico. Ten Mexican civil society organizations, including Fundar, Transparencia Mexicana, IMCO, GESOC, Mexico Evaluate, and Article 19, decided to withdraw from Mexico’s Tripartite OGP Secretariat, originally composed of the government, the National Institute for Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI), and a core group of civil society organizations. Covered by national news outlets El Universal, Grupo Milenio, and El Economista, among others, the decision came after the government failed to address issues raised in a Citizen Lab report released in February 2017, revealing various offices of the Mexican government had used digital surveillance software to spy on three Mexican researchers and health advocates, two of whom had worked on developing a commitment on obesity for Mexico’s third National Action Plan (NAP). The OGP Support Unit responded to a letter submitted by the CSOs formerly belonging to Mexico’s OGP Secretariat with a statement expressing “hope that the Mexican government and civil society will be able to re-establish a working relationship in the future built on trust, transparency and accountability.”  

Elsewhere in the Americas, exciting open government news came out of Argentina where La Nacion announced a new crowdsourced initiative that promises to help fulfill the country’s OGP commitments on making congressional information more readily accessible to the public. By logging onto La Nacion’s VozData platform via a Facebook, Google, or La Nacion account, ordinary citizens can review, monitor, and classify Senate spending and payment documents, which will then be published in an open format. La Nación also reported that Argentina is making important strides toward openness with the launch of two new open data portals for the Ministry of Science and Technology and national telecommunications company ARSAT.  Argentina became a member of OGP in 2012 and jumped from 54th place in the Global Open Data Index in 2015 to 20th place in 2016.

Another open government victory came out of Australia, where OGP champion Peter Timmins received one of the 2017 Press Freedom Medals awarded by the Australian Press Council. Announced in a press release, the news was picked up by several major Australian news publications, including News.com.au and The Australian. Timmins called the award a “tribute to the many individuals and organisations, including the Press Council, that believe strongly in open, transparent and accountable government and joined the network to seek to ensure the government lives up to its Open Government Partnership commitments.”

In the Philippines, Philstar.com reported that 66 civil society organizations participating in OGP are pushing for the passage of the “long-overdue” Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, which, they argue, would “complement initiatives for transparent and participatory governance.”  

And from Pakistan, national news sources Samaa TV and ARY News covered Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s meeting with OGP Chief Executive Officer Sanjay Pradhan in Yokohama, Japan. During the meeting, Dar discussed new open procurement processes for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) projects and increased consultation with the private sector to facilitate business. He used these examples as evidence of concrete measures the Pakistani government is taking to “ensure transparency in national budget preparation, government procurement and service delivery.”  

British High Commissioner to Nigeria Paul Thomas Arkwright delivered a speech highlighting the role of OGP in Nigeria’s commendable anti-corruption efforts, one year after the 2016 London Anti-Corruption conference. Announcing a new study commissioned and funded by DFID Nigeria to identify the deeper social causes of corruption in Nigeria, Arkwright said that both the U.K. and Nigeria “recognise the value of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in advancing transparency and good governance reform.”

Finally, while discussing ways to more effectively communicate the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in a piece for Medium, Felix Zimmermann of the OECD Development Communications Network emphasized the importance of building trust and dialogue between governments and citizens. He went on to say that countries like Indonesia, Georgia, Peru, and Tanzania are “leading the way” on this front by joining OGP, while still others are employing ever more creative ways to engage with citizens: via online platforms like the Mitmachen portal in Austria, and via public consultations such as those conducted in Canada to establish new development policies.

Last but not least, what do Silicon Valley celebrity and co-founder of Crowdpac, Steve Hilton, and France’s new Secretary of State in charge of Digital Affairs, Mounir Mahjoubi, have in common? They were both, at one point or another, involved in OGP! Learn more from technology news site Recode and French news site Numerama.

Of course, we can’t catch everything in our news round-ups, so if you see we’ve missed something or think a particular story ought to be featured, please send it to jacqueline.mcgraw@opengovpartnership.org.

Filed Under: OGP News