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The Right Tools for the Right Job: OGP’s Civic Space Paper

Open Government Partnership (OGP) was founded on the idea that public policy reform is better when government officials engage with civil society actors. So the Partnership’s collective promise of opening governments cannot succeed without the ability of people to freely organize, participate, and communicate about policy. Civic space is important, not only for professional civil society organizations to function, but as a critical space for dialogue, innovation, and cross-sector collaboration to work on the most pressing challenges in a country. Therefore, the challenges of closing space affect the ability of civil society more specifically, but citizens more broadly, to participate in and engage with processes that matter to the daily lives and deliver on the most basic needs of all citizens.

During Open Gov Week 2018, OGP launched a new civic space series, anchored by the OGP paper The Right Tools for the Right Job: How OGP can help win the fight for civic space.  The paper lays out some key touchpoints related to OGP and civic space:

  • The most common problems among OGP countries are restrictions on freedom of assembly and peaceful protest, and lack of protection against human rights violations.
  • The mechanics driving the OGP platform comprises multiple channels to help strengthen civic space, and drive collective action against the negative civic space trends in OGP countries.
  • Of these, one most critical tools is the biennial action plan that OGP members need to submit.

OGP has 100 commitments tagged by the IRM under civic space. However, very few of them are related to the most pressing challenges – for example, there are no OGP commitments related to freedom of assembly.

In order to inform targeted and proactive action against civil society restrictions, two of OGP’s key partner organizations on this issue have authored papers as part of this new civic space series.

  • Civicus’ paper, “Closing Space, Opening Government?” is an important resource to map the landscape of civic space in OGP countries, in particular to understand the drivers and targets of restrictions imposed on civil society. It is within this global context that CIVICUS also chalks out potential responses that could be pursued by the international community more generally, and by OGP.
  • OGP’s action plans remain an under-utilized platform for pushing on civic space reforms. ICNL’s paper serves as a resource for civil society and governments in OGP – in particular those working on the 76 action plans due this year – who are keen to drive action to strengthen civic space in their jurisdictions.

We invite you to share OGP’s paper – and if you are reading this in an OGP country, we encourage you to test the OGP action plan dialogue process – and the action plans themselves to strengthen the enabling environment for civic society to operate and continue to advance the global open government movement.

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