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Six Facts for your Next Open Gov Gathering: A Nifty Guide to OGP Policy Areas

Seis datos para tu próxima reunión de gobierno abierto: Una guía sobre las áreas de política de OGP

Jessica Hickle|

With nearly 4,000 OGP commitments from almost 100 governments, it’s a little hard to keep up with the successes of open government and the challenges the community faces. If you are like me, then you probably find yourself – more often than you care to admit – wondering what the biggest trends in OGP action plans are.

If that is indeed the case, here are six nifty findings on OGP policy areas – drawn from data from reports by OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) – that can come in handy in your efforts to open government, whether you are advocating for stronger action, designing new action plans, assessing reports, innovating reforms, or implementing current commitments. So, did you know:

1. Gender is one of the fastest growing policy areas in OGP. Countries made nearly as many gender commitments in 2018 alone as they did between 2011 and 2017 combined. Still, there is room for growth – only about one third of OGP members have included a gender commitment in at least one of their action plans. The number of commitments have been made to include people with disabilities, the LGBTQI+ community, and other underrepresented groups also remain low. In 2019, we encourage 30 percent of OGP members to take meaningful action on gender and inclusion through our Break the Roles campaign.

Gender & Inclusion Commitments in Action: In 2018, Canada conducted a Gender-BasedAnalysis Plus review of all draft commitments to ensure the full plan took into consideration the needs of women and other equity-seeking groups.

Incoming OGP Civil Society Co-Chair Robin Hodess launches the Beneficial Ownership Coalition at the OGP Global Summit in Ottawa, Canada.

2. Beneficial ownership commitments are among the most ambitious commitments, but implementation is weak. Beneficial ownership commitments are five times more likely to be ambitious and complete than the average commitment. Yet, on average, these commitments are less likely to improve transparency, civic participation, and government accountability than other commitments.

Beneficial Ownership Commitments in Action: According to the National Crime Agency, as much as $120 billion a year is laundered through the City of London alone. In response, the UK government introduced a public register of beneficial owners of British companies to increase transparency around who really owns, controls, and benefits from companies.

3. Commitments about the right to information (RTI) have become less popular since 2014. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of OGP members implementing RTI commitments dropped 15 percent and fewer OGP members made RTI commitments in 2018 than in 2012.  It is the only policy area for which this is the case as most areas have grown with OGP membership. While most OGP members have an RTI law in place, countries should consider commitments to improve RTI legal frameworks and ensure information requests are serviced quickly and effectively.

Right to Information Commitments in Action: In March 2019, Ghana passed the Right to Information law, which they had worked to achieve through their OGP action plans since 2013. The law will allow citizens, journalists and civil society organizations to more easily access government data.

In Mongolia, citizens and government work together to improve schools and outcomes.

4. Education is the most popular policy area among public service delivery commitments. Yet, commitments about education don’t perform as well as commitments in other public service areas. According to IRM data, commitments about education are less ambitious and less frequently completed than health and water and sanitation commitments. OGP members should consider using their action plans to re-dedicate themselves to building more accountable education systems that are responsive to public needs.

Education Commitments in Action: A new online platform in Buenos Aires, Argentina will allow citizens to access information and monitor the development of ongoing education infrastructure projects. Using the platform, citizens can submit feedback and receive direct responses.

5. Open contracting and fiscal openness commitments are hot topics in OGP, but most commitments are limited to initiatives on transparency. Roughly 70 percent of OGP members have made at least one open contracting commitment and more than three-quarters have made at least one commitment about fiscal openness. However, in both areas, a minority of commitments go beyond improvements to data and system transparency to improve public participation and inclusivity in budget and open contracting processes. Even fewer attempt to ensure government accountability in these areas. While transparency is an important aspect of open government, Open Contracting Partnership’s new strategy emphasizes the importance of making public contracting processes more “responsive and accountable”. Similarly, the OGP Global Report finds that contract transparency initiatives have greater impact when they include participatory element.

Open Contracting Commitments in Action: In 2015, France added an open data clause in public contracts to increase the transparency of calls for procurement. All municipalities must now provide free access to data regarding public contracts and up-to-date information on the buyer and the details of the contract during the contract’s implementation.

Liberia conducted public consultations in six counties to better inform citizens on land use policy and their land rights.

6. Natural resources commitments most frequently create meaningful improvements to transparency, civic participation, and accountability. One in every three OGP natural resource commitments – including those about extractives transparency, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and land management – made significant improvements to government openness. Comparatively, less than one in five of non-resource related commitments had such substantial results.

Natural Resources Commitments in Action: Mongolia is developing comprehensive policies and systems to disclose information on licenses, contracts, and environmental information in the extractives sector. For example, the government publishes information on actions taken by companies and other legal entities that might harm the environment and people’s health.

Open government covers more than just the six take-aways in this short blog, of course – from ensuring a safe civic space to guaranteeing access to justice. But it’s also important to take a step back, look at what is working, what needs more attention, and what tools we have to create more open, accountable, and inclusive governments that respond to the needs of everyone. For more quick insights in OGP’s priority policy areas, check out our fact sheets here.

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