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Opening Government, Opening Minds: Star Reforms of the Open Government Partnership

Abriendo o Gobernadores, Abriendo Mentes: Compromisos Estelares de la Alianza para el Gobierno Abierto

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OGP is a global movement of reformers, trying to catalyze innovative ideas to create meaningful reforms. An integral part of this movement is the learning process, where governments, civil society actors, and citizens can collaborate to improve service delivery to citizens and amplify their voices. The best examples – starred commitments – can serve as models for other governments. These star commitments encourage a “race to the top,” drawing attention to ambitious and creative approaches to open government.

The Open Government Partnership’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) has announced the starred commitments from the latest round of National Action Plans (NAP). In connection with this, the OGP Support Unit has published a compilation of these initiatives, entitled Star Reforms in the Open Government Partnership.

The starred commitments featured in the compilation are impressive, covering a wide range of issues and country contexts. Mongolia’s starred commitment – a pledge to improve natural resource governance – has been used to put data on industrial activity that could be potentially harmful to human health and the environment online. So far, at least 22 datasets have been put online, giving citizens the opportunity to understand the impact of the extractives industry. Should Mongolia complete the commitment, its  citizens will be able to find out which companies are responsible.

In Europe, Ukraine’s starred commitment highlights efforts to increase public access to Soviet-era archives – an issue throughout the former Soviet Union. These archives span over seventy years of Ukrainian history. The Ukrainian parliament passed a law mandating that the records from this period of time – 1917-1991 – be moved to a central state archive where ordinary Ukrainians can examine the records and history of seventy years of state repression – in many cases, a highly personal experience. This commitment “clearly embodies Ukraine’s renewed commitment to greater openness,” as the archives allow ordinary citizens a previously impossible opportunity to look into the history of their country, as well as investigate the fates of relatives and friends during the Soviet period.

Elsewhere in Europe, starred commitments are shedding light on financial and economic activity by governments. In Italy, the government has built a website to publish expenditure information from all central and local governments. This allows Italian citizens to “follow the money” in a country historically characterized by a lack of fiscal transparency. Ireland’s public lobbying registry shows who is lobbying the government – and why. Ireland was hit hard in the 2008 financial crisis, a fact partially blamed on backroom dealings and opaque relationships that had characterized the relationship between lobbyists and the Irish government prior to the crisis.

The Americas – which just held an OGP Regional Summit – also have a fair number of starred commitments. Despite an “ambition gap” (which we discussed here during the summit), several Americas countries have made potentially transformative commitments. Chile is developing a citizen-centered environmental policy framework, which could strengthen national resource governance initiatives and raise public trust. Paraguay has established Municipal Development Councils, which enables  citizens  to participate in decision making at the local level. This kind of direct governance could be a model for both the Americas and the rapidly urbanizing areas of the globe. Canada has made a commitment to scale up open data through all levels of government, allowing citizens to access information on public services from the municipal level upward.

You can see details of all of these starred commitments, as well as more information on intended uses and audiences, in the Star Reforms in the Open Government Partnership materials available on the OGP website. If you have questions on the starred commitments, the monitoring process, or the IRM in general, please email irm@opengovpartnership.org.

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