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OGP’s Approach to Peer Exchange: The Example of Beneficial Ownership

El método de intercambios de experiencias de OGP: El ejemplo de los beneficiarios reales

Sarah Dickson|

When members join the Open Government Partnership (OGP), they commit to co-creating and implementing concrete open government reforms. Thankfully OGP members are not alone in undertaking this process, rather they are part of a community of reformers from 78 countries and 76 local governments working on similar issues. In support of this community, the OGP Support Unit convenes OGP reformers for peer learning and exchange opportunities. 

Peer exchange is an essential component of the OGP model, as it can inspire reformers, provide a safe space for discussing common challenges, serve as a platform of joint problem solving, and strengthen the sense of community among reformers working to open their governments. For example, OGP has organized peer exchanges among countries moving their co-creation process online due to COVID-19 where government and civil society representatives shared challenges and innovative solutions for reaching citizens during a crisis.

In recent months, OGP has seen high levels of interest from countries across regions to learn from the experiences of their peers on the issue of beneficial ownership transparency, as this is a newly evolving area when it comes to the implementation of reforms. Reformers are working to require companies to disclose the beneficial owner who ultimately controls or profits from a business, in order to prevent anonymous companies from hiding corruption. Beneficial ownership transparency is a rapidly growing thematic area in OGP action plans – from one country, the United Kingdom, in 2013 to now over 25 countries. These commitments range from establishing registers of companies working in the extractives sector, working towards public and open central registers, and ensuring that data in beneficial ownership registers is verified. 

As interest in this issue grows, reformers are eager to hear how others have dealt with challenges such as how to define a beneficial owner, integrate a register with existing databases, and build sustainable coalitions among stakeholders. OGP has convened a number of peer exchanges for reformers supporting beneficial ownership transparency in their countries, each designed “fit for purpose” based on the needs and challenges of the participants and in collaboration with key thematic partners. This can take the form of narrowly focusing on a defined problem and brainstorming solutions, inviting international partners to share their expertise, or providing a venue for countries to update their peers on their latest work to build a broader community around beneficial ownership transparency. Bringing these stakeholders together provides an opportunity for timely matchmaking of international or regional advocates to advance country action.

Combatting common challenges

When reformers in the Philippines raised specific challenges in harmonizing data privacy concerns with beneficial ownership reform and building private sector buy-in, OGP and the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) organized a cross-regional peer exchange to discuss these issues. OGP identified and convened other peer countries and partners – including government, civil society and private sector participants from Nigeria, Indonesia, Armenia, Mongolia, and the Philippines – for a virtual exchange and discussion on some of the challenges to implementing beneficial ownership transparency reform in the Philippines. Learn more in this blog post.

Convening regional actors to share a state-of-play

With many countries in the Western Balkans working towards EU membership, the region faces common requirements in line with the EU’s Anti Money Laundering Directive, which requires a minimum level of beneficial ownership disclosure in EU member countries. In working with countries in the region to advance beneficial ownership transparency reform through their action plans, the OGP Support Unit identified opportunities for closer cooperation and information sharing. OGP convened government representatives from Western Balkans countries to share the current BOT “state-of-play” in their countries and discuss common challenges they are currently facing, to create a peer support network for reformers in the region.

Building community among reformers

Eastern Partnership countries are all at different stages of implementing beneficial ownership reform in their countries. This provided a unique opportunity for a regional peer exchange event where countries further along in the reform process could share lessons, mistakes and advice with countries who have successfully implemented a similar reform. The peer exchange convened civil society and private sector actors from Armenia, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine and explored entry points to reform, how BOT reform can align with the opening of procurement processes, privacy issues, BOT verification approaches and what strategies advocates are using throughout the region. International partners, including EITI, OpenOwnership, Open Contracting Partnership and OECD, spoke about international standards and regional trends in beneficial ownership, providing useful grounding information for the discussion and a global perspective on BOT reform.

Pairing the political with the technical

In response to growing interest in beneficial ownership disclosure in Africa, particularly in the extractives sector, OGP, EITI and OpenOwnership convened a two-day event with leaders from government, civil society, public sector and business from across the continent. Day one featured a high-level discussion with speakers from the region, including representatives from UNECA, AfDB and OECD, who made powerful value propositions for the need to accelerate and prioritize beneficial ownership transparency in tackling corruption in the areas of development, extractives, tax and business in Africa. Day two consisted of a technical workshop aimed at building the capacity of practitioners from government, civil society and business to effectively address legal barriers to beneficial ownership disclosure, improve quality data collection and enhance options of data usage by stakeholders. Reformers shared best practices and tools to directly inform the commitments being currently co-created and implemented. This event leveraged partnerships with thematic experts and was designed to garner political support for reforms and build the technical capacity of practitioners for implementation. 

Sustaining Peer Learning

In addition to peer learning events, OGP convenes networks of peer countries and partners to sustain conversations and connections among reformers working towards BOT. Co-convened by OGP and OpenOwnership, the Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group includes a core group of actors working to drive the global policy shift towards free, open beneficial ownership data. Members have shared valuable experiences at peer learning events. At a regional level, the Latin America Beneficial Ownership Community of Practice brings together government officials and civil society organizations from Latin American countries working to advance beneficial ownership transparency through commitments in their OGP action plans. These peer networks have grown out of successful peer exchange events.

The benefits of sustaining peer learning and engagement are not limited to beneficial ownership transparency. OGP also convenes reformers advancing initiatives in areas like algorithmic accountability and water and open government. OGP peer exchanges are a valuable tool for helping reformers build momentum both in-country and at the global level.  As reformers work to open government through concrete reforms, connection with peers across the world can help build a common sense of purpose in the larger fight against closed and corrupt government.

Comments (1)

Mauricio Cardenas Gonzalez Reply

Congratulations on this piece!!

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