OGP in the News - Week of April 24, 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.

This week’s OGP coverage included stories on the value of public information, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto’s not so transparent judicial appointments, OGP potential in Australia, e-government in Tunisia and more!  

In 2013, Domitila Rosario Piche managed to obtain a copy of the historic 1992 El Salvador Peace Accords from former president Alfredo Cristiani by appealing to the Institute for Access to Information (IAIP). In an opinion piece for the international Spanish-language newspaper, El País, senior technician in Democratic Governance, Borja Díaz Rivillas, extrapolated a deeper message from Domitila’s pursuit of information: “[P]ublic documents are the property of citizens and should always be at your disposal.” The author noted that thanks to initiatives like OGP and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), recognition of public information as a tool for ensuring accountable governance and citizen-centric decision-making is growing both internationally and in Latin America where OGP membership is particularly strong. However, he also emphasized that transparency laws must be accompanied by trust in public institutions: “[I]n order to keep the integrity of transparency laws, it is necessary to establish a renewed relationship between the State and the citizens that is based on trust and reciprocity.”

Controversy over government transparency came to head in Mexico when President Enrique Peña Nieto put forth the names of 18 judges to join the Third Section of the Federal Court of Fiscal and Administrative Justice (TFJFA)—the judicial branch responsible for punishing acts of corruption. Made without any public consultation, El Economista reported that several Mexican civil society organizations contested the decision, claiming it violates one of Mexico’s key OGP commitments that mandates substantive citizen participation in National Anti-Corruption System (ANS) processes.

In Colombia, President of the Senate Mauricio Lizcano found fault with the 2015-2016 results presented by Transparency Corporation for Colombia. In an article on the Senate website, Lizcano claims that the results reflect 2015 and only two months of 2016 and therefore do not take into account measures implemented later on in 2016, including Colombia’s first Open Senate Action Plan, which was created as part of the country’s larger OGP commitments. He is calling for a more up-to-date study to be conducted.

Straddling the Indian and Pacific Oceans, meanwhile, Australia’s open government horizons seem to be brightening. An opinion piece by three former justices of the Supreme Court of Victoria that appeared in both the Sydney Morning Herald and the WAtoday.com.au highlighted current Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s commitment to OGP—a move that “offers a real prospect of restoring the integrity of our democracies.” Authors Tim Smith, Stephen Charles and David Harper welcome this transition away from precedents established under the former Abbott administration, which failed to deliver Australia’s first NAP and cut funding to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. The Turnbull government, in contrast, successfully drafted a 2016-2018 NAP in partnership with civil society and has promised to restore FOI statutory functions to the Information Office.

Shifting the lens to Europe, Springer für Professionals concluded that, following several weeks of OGP workshops, the German government has a whopping 270 commitment proposals from which to develop its first ever OGP NAP. The next step? Members of both government and civil society will review the proposals and submit a draft action plan before OGP’s Steering Committee in June 2017.  

And in Georgia, a piece on EurasiaNet.org encouraged the government to extend its OGP commitment to “collecting and publishing policy-relevant data in a timely manner” to include municipal-level data. Citing several  successful examples, the author illustrated how publishing municipal data allows citizens to compare the quality of services in various municipalities, assure efficient public spending, and evaluate the successes and failures of local government.

On to Africa. La Presse News Tunisie announced that Tunisia’s Association of Management Sciences (TMSS) is to host the 2017 E-Gov Tunisia conference from April 28-30. With a focus on governance in “smart cities” using Information and Communication Technology (ICT), topics addressed will include robotics, the Internet of things, and OGP. The TMSS explained how governments must adapt to and capitalize on these new and innovative technological developments:

The concept of ‘smart’ government is becoming essential. Smart government can be viewed as the use of number of operational processes created with advanced technology to process information in a transparent fashion so as to provide high-quality services to citizens. Smart government therefore establishes a more efficient, transparent and accountable government.

Last but not least, OGP’s newest Government Point of Contact Manual is out and better than ever. How is it different from the previous iterations you ask? You’ll just have to read on to find out!

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