OGP Turns Three, Celebrates Success and Looks to the Future

Next week Heads of State and civil society leaders from across the Open Government Partnership’s 64 countries will come together to celebrate three years of one of the world’s most innovative international organisations. As is always the case at OGP events the stage will be shared by political and civic leaders, signifying the cultural shift from business-as-usual government practices that participation in OGP requires. Countries have now made over 2,000 individual open government reform commitments under the OGP umbrella, so a degree of celebration is warranted, but the event is much more than a birthday party.

Building Political Support

First, high level political support is a crucial ingredient in OGP’s theory of change. It serves to motivate and empower mid-level reformers to try new ideas and take the necessary risks to truly open up government. It also raises awareness of the opportunity civil society has with OGP to advocate for specific commitments, to use the platform to engage with government, and to hold leaders accountable for their promises. The objective of bringing Heads of State and senior ministers together at the United Nations is to galvanise support in OGP countries around the world, giving reformers the clear mandate they need to turn high-minded commitments into concrete action.

Open Government Awards

The event will also host the first Open Government Awards, which are being presented to countries that have pioneered new approaches to citizen engagement in public policy and services. Thirty-three OGP countries nominated projects for the awards, which were assessed by an independent panel of judges. The winners that will be honoured on stage will serve as an inspiration to governments looking for new ideas to improve their own levels of public participation. The best new OGP commitments on citizen engagement from the most recent National Action Plans will also be celebrated at the event.

New Pledges

OGP events are important action-forcing moments. They focus attention on results and the actual implementation of the political commitments countries have made through OGP. They also provide an opportunity for members to help each other cross the threshold from commitment to action. To that end, each OGP country has been asked to make a specific pledge to assist at least one other country with a policy issue they face in common.  This is in the spirit of every country having something to offer, and something to learn. Civil society organisations have also been asked to contribute to the momentum by pledging their support to strengthening the OGP platform, and multilateral organisations to commit technical and financial resources to help governments with tricky reforms.

Closing Space

As every speaker will be aware, this high-level meeting is taking place in the shadow of a worrying global trend toward closing civic space. There can be no complacency. In far too many parts of the world it is becoming increasingly difficult for independent civil society to operate, due to constraints on access to funding, the rolling back of freedoms of expression and assembly, and intimidation of activists. The Economist recently called for OGP to step up and “help to stop the trend spreading”. As people look for answers to this urgent challenge these calls for OGP to play more of a leadership role will only continue.

This gathering in New York marks an important moment for those using the OGP platform to push for more open, accountable and transparent governance. Over 30 countries have now begun implementing their second OGP National Action Plan, a remarkable re-commitment to a voluntary initiative still in its infancy. Early indications are that in many countries these plans are more ambitious, relevant and collaborative than the first efforts. If this continues, and civil society sees real change for citizens as a result, then OGP will have many more birthdays in the future.

 

Authors: Joe Powell
Filed Under: OGP News