Results, Challenges, and Next Steps for the City of Buenos Aires
Launch Event: A Space of Encounter
On April 11, 2018, the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) launched the first #OGPLocal program report assessing the performance of the City of Buenos Aires in OGP during 2017. Local government representatives and civil society organizations (CSO) shared their experiences and challenges, while I presented the results of the assessment and recommendations for the upcoming action plan. The event brought closure and debate; at the same time, it was an event with one eye on the future.
From the IRM perspective, we analyze the different commitments of the action plan and evaluate the content, its relevance to the context in which the commitments were proposed, and the potential impact that commitments could have in the event of completion. We also look at the process by which these commitments were written, how they were co-created, who had voice and vote in proposing and drafting them, and if there was dialogue and feedback between the different actors. We pay particular attention to how the commitments were implemented, how implementation was monitored by civil society organizations, and what results the commitments have produced. In sum, we look at what has changed and what is new that was not there before, prior to the implementation of the action plan. With that information, we recommend and guide the process.
Co-creation and Consultation Process
Within the framework of the Subnational Pioneers Program (now the OGP Local Program), the City of Buenos Aires’ action plan was co-created in collaboration with the Undersecretariat of Strategic Management and Institutional Quality and the following CSOs: Directorio Legislativo Foundation, the Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ), Open Knowledge Foundation and the Association for Civil Rights (ADC). Through the debate and establishment of a specific methodology and a multi-stakeholder working table, those involved conducted different phases of public consultation and thematic roundtables. Representatives from different parts of government participated in the roundtables, along with academics, journalists, and civil society activists that work on specific topics (like education, sexual and reproductive rights, and others).
During the process of action plan co-creation and the roundtables, the Undersecretariat shared all the information and minutes of the meetings through a virtual repository. Subsequently, during the implementation of the commitments, different actors used tracking boards to comment on, follow up with, and monitor the process.
The first action plan prioritized commitments in the following areas: access to public information in the three branches of government; opening of data on transportation, infrastructure in education, and access to sexual and reproductive health services; and the implementation of citizen reporting mechanisms.
The most important thing to highlight from the Buenos Aires’ action plan is that the five commitments that were implemented were evaluated as significantly opening government. Through their implementation, more participation channels were opened than existed previously, more information was disclosed, and accountability channels that connect government and citizens were improved.
Four of the five commitments were substantially or totally completed. Two of the five commitments were starred commitments: that is, commitments that are relevant to OGP values, have a potentially transformative impact, and are substantially or totally completed.
What Has Actually Changed?
One of the most visible results of the Action Plan is the number of government databases published and disclosed. These databases ranged from Judiciary information, to the publication of public bus databases, to data maps with infrastructure works carried out in schools, and even data related to places where condoms can be obtained or HIV tests can be carried out.
Which commitments were more successful? Those that included the participation of CSOs as executing partners, and those that were strictly monitored by CSOs: for example, the platform #DÓNDE, developed by the Huesped Foundation, which includes evaluating and qualifying service received in health centers in matters of sexual and reproductive rights, thus preventing discretional treatment.
Another point to highlight was the opening of new channels for citizen participation through roundtables, including discussion on rental legislation organized by the Undersecretariat together with the Housing Institute (IVC) and CSO representatives.
One upcoming challenge is to broaden participation and institutionalize the multi-stakeholder forum (the current working group). With an eye on the next action plan, it is important that the City of Buenos Aires carries out reforms that promote public accountability and include the participation of interest groups such as trade unions, the private sector, LGBTBIQ communities, women’s organizations, and unorganized citizens. Expanding the consultation process means leaving the comfort zone and strengthening the debate process, something that is essential for a successful co-creation process.
Another challenge will be to move from simply publishing data to publishing data with purpose, to strengthen the reporting mechanisms and to disseminate the data platforms in collaboration with those sectors that can use and benefit from the available data.
Finally, perhaps the most important challenge is to align the priorities of the plan with the priorities of the citizens.
What’s Next: In the Citizen’s Shoes
Before the launch event came to an end, I proposed a small exercise: that everyone there would reflect on the reasons why he/she was in that launch event. As a representative of an area of government, of a CSO, of an academic entity, each of us had a specific role and objective that we wanted to pursue in that meeting. I proposed to those attending that, taking their role in mind, they would think and propose what topics they wanted to see reflected in the next action plan. The results of the collaborative work were reflected in this word cloud:
Then, I proposed that they forget that purpose and their institution and, instead, step into the shoes of citizens. From this new perspective, I asked them to think again about what issues and priorities they wanted to see in the next action plan. The word cloud changed considerably:
Although the sample of participants was not sufficiently representative to draw conclusions, the difference between the two clouds left us all in a reflective state: to achieve commitments that really impact citizens’ lives, it is essential to put on their shoes – which are also our shoes; to change perspective from time to time and close that distance. That is the real challenge that the City of Buenos Aires will have to face in the next action plan.