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The Future of OGP: Competition or Cooperation with SDG #16?

Vinay Bhargava|

This is the first in a six blog series written by winners of the IDRC grant for research on OGP.

Just a few weeks ago, 193 countries of the UN General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Members of the OGP Steering Committee also endorsed the Joint Declaration on Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which has since been endorsed by several others including the Partnership for Transparency Fund.

Our paper exploring the similarities and differences between the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #16 is a contribution to the discussion on how OGP can be complementary to the 2030 Agenda.

Our modest research reveals that OGP and SDG #16 objectives and target areas have many areas of overlap. A substantial volume of commitments made under OGP national action plans can inform at least 5 of the 10 proposed SDG#16 targets (i.e. reduction in bribery and corruption, access to information, public participation, and the rule of law). Moreover, the proposed means of implementation for SDG #16 are almost identical with the OGP national action planning and monitoring processes. Our conclusion is that UN member countries could gain substantive insights from the planning and implementation experiences of OGP and reap significant savings in time and resources (human and financial) by using OGP processes as starting point for SDG #16 action planning and advocacy.

While this potential exists, it’s not inevitable. The similarities present several opportunities and risks for OGP as SDG planning and follow-up processes are launched. The major risk is that OGP and SDG #16 exist in competition of one another. Disjointed and overlapping action plans could lead to competition for scarce human and financial resources to advocate, implement and monitor reforms both internationally and on an individual country level. Incentives and political will for OGP activities may weaken in competition with the weighty political and financial commitments of the SDG agenda.

The major opportunity, on the other hand, is for the OGP and SDG to support each other with unique value added towards the larger goal of good governance. The limited resources leveraged to support OGP and SDG#16 agendas can be amplified by learning from and leaning on one another. Good practices from OGP experiences can be identified and used for SDG #16 action plans. OGP commitment rating systems can be applied to SDG#16 action plans. OGP champions and coalitions can build on their momentum to support the SDG#16 agenda and prevent its marginalization in a crowded field of 17 SDGs and 169 targets. The new influx of political support availed through the SDGs can be leveraged to create a wider space for engagement between government and civil society in all open government commitments.

The benefits of cooperation are clear, however, the ways and means of building effective cooperation between OGP and the SDG would need to be defined and supported to take full advantage of the opportunity. The upcoming 2015 OGP Summit is a great opportunity to explore further questions stemming from our initial exploration, including:

  • What impact (positive and negative) will SDGs have on OGP?
  • Should OGP members seek one unified or separate action plan for OGP and SDG#16?
  • How to coordinate SDG #16 and OGP action plans at country level?
  • What incentives exist or are needed to motivate SDG action planners to learn from OGP?
  • How can CSOs in OGP contribute to the crafting of ambitious SDG #16 actions and targets?
  • Which OGP innovations may be carried into SDG #16 planning and monitoring frameworks?
  • Are there OGP frameworks for cross-country comparisons that can be applied to SDG #16?
  • How can the OGP peer learning be expanded to include non-member countries?
  • How can OGP stakeholders be integrated into SDG planning and monitoring mechanisms?

The many discussions surrounding the SDG agenda at the upcoming 2015 OGP Global Summit will hopefully shed further light and define a way forward.

If you’re planning to be at the Summit, we invite you join us at 2:00 pm on Oct 29th for a panel discussion on Lessons from OGP Initiatives For Operationalizing SDG #16 where a variety of stakeholders will offer their perspectives based on their OGP experiences for successful on-the-ground implementation of SDG #16.

Those not able to attend in person are requested to contribute via email (vbhargava@ptfund.org), Facebook and Twitter.

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