Statement by OGP’s Criteria and Standards Subcommittee regarding the Government of Hungary’s Participation in OGP
Washington DC, June 22, 2016
On July 8, 2015, four civil society organizations submitted a Letter of Concern to the Open Government Partnership (OGP), under the OGP Response Policy, regarding the climate for civil society to operate in Hungary. The OGP Response Policy aims to safeguard the Open Government Declaration and mitigate reputational risks to OGP by addressing challenges for government and civil society collaboration and by helping countries to re-establish an effective and positive environment for civil society. The government of Hungary is a participant in OGP and, as such, has endorsed the Open Government Declaration.
Under the mandate of the Response Policy, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee of the OGP Steering Committee conducted a review of the evidence presented in the letter. The subcommittee drafted a report that involved extensive desk research, interviews with experts familiar with the ongoing situation in Hungary, and formal communication with the government of Hungary.
The Criteria and Standards subcommittee agreed to adopt a report which found the concerns expressed in the letter to be relevant to the government of Hungary’s participation in OGP and to the text of the Open Government Declaration. The subcommittee also agreed that the evidence presented to support the concerns was credible.
The report acknowledges that the Norway Fund case—the focus of this particular complaint—was resolved in December 2015. However, the long-term trends regarding constraints on civic space persist, at least to some degree, and the environment for civil society actors remains precarious. These conditions are especially worrisome in the context of eroded checks and balances, lessened transparency, and pressures against journalistic independence.
Following adoption of the report the following Stage 1 actions under the Response Policy will now be undertaken by the OGP Steering Committee:
Engage in or broker diplomatic outreach with the government of Hungary at the official and/or political level.
Offer to broker technical assistance to work on the issues raised in the letter of concern. This includes contacting multilateral partners active in Hungary to help address the issues raised in the concern.
Invite the government of Hungary to work with the Criteria and Standards subcommittee to develop a work plan with regular check-ins and a timeline for Hungary to address the situation.
Under the last item outlined in Stage 1 actions, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee has drafted a document that outlines the actions to be taken by the government of Hungary to restore a positive operating environment for civil society.
If these Stage 1 actions fail to have the desired impact, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee will recommend further actions to the full OGP Steering Committee.