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Time to Focus: 10 Years of IRM Recommendations

Since 2011, OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) has provided independent, evidence-based reporting to hold OGP members accountable and support their open government efforts. For each action plan, the IRM offered “five key recommendations” to help members: 

  1.  make their co-creation processes more inclusive and participatory and 
  2. improve the ambition of their future action plans.

After 10 years, the IRM is adapting the target and timing of recommendations. Let’s look at how IRM recommendations have evolved over time, what to expect from new IRM products, and what the data tells us about the effect of IRM recommendations on OGP action plans.

How have IRM recommendations evolved over time?

Early action plans were often novel learning experiences for OGP members. IRM recommendations originally focused on improving the OGP process itself,  like how to establish multi-stakeholder forums, structure national OGP processes, or consult stakeholders when developing and implementing commitments. As members gained experience, IRM recommendations became targeted to address specific gaps in open government policies or increase the potential of reforms based on previous or ongoing efforts. For example, in recent design reports for the Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden), the IRM recommended lobbying transparency measures to address possible political corruption between lobbyists and government or political officials. The four countries’ action plan cycles all started in 2019, so the recommendations had the additional potential of fostering synergies and peer learning.

Recent IRM recommendations also link action plans more directly to their national contexts. For example, in France, the IRM recommended linking OGP commitments to the Great National Debate, and in the Republic of Korea the IRM suggested aligning priorities as an incoming OGP Steering Committee Co-Chair to the action plan. Finally, throughout its history, the IRM has used its recommendations to ensure that members are able to meet OGP’s co-creation and participation requirements.

What do IRM recommendations look like now?

In 2021, the IRM underwent a refresh to provide stakeholders (both in and outside of government) more timely and strategic input during key moments in the action plan cycle. This changed the way the IRM provides recommendations to OGP members. Previously, the IRM provided five general recommendations on all facets of an action plan (co-creation, commitment design, and implementation) in one report, which was often published deep into the action plan’s cycle. Starting in 2021, the IRM has broken up recommendations across two of its three new products, offered at two separate times with two distinct focuses:

  • Co-creation briefs are produced three months before the co-creation process begins. They use comparative country experiences and previous IRM reports to recommend ways to strengthen the quality, inclusivity, and transparency of the co-creation process. Briefs also identify opportunities for new policy areas and how previous commitments can be expanded to be more impactful. The brief’s timing and focus make it a key tool when developing the action plan.
  • Action plan reviews are produced within four months after submission of the action plan to OGP. The reviews identify the most promising commitments and provide targeted recommendations to inform their implementation. The reviews draw on the IRM’s knowledge of good practices and effective results achieved through other OGP action plans. For example, recently published reviews have provided examples of global good practices for beneficial ownership registers for Albania, whistleblower protections for the Czech Republic, and participatory budgeting for Côte d’Ivoire.

The third new product, Results Report, is conceived primarily for accountability purposes and will not include IRM recommendations. However, they are also designed to understand the main drivers or constraints of results during implementation. Results Reports will inform how recommendations from other IRM products contribute to the OGP process and the outcomes of commitments.

How have IRM recommendations influenced action plans?

In an analysis of 67 action plans submitted between 2017 and 2019, analysis from IRM data found that implementing IRM recommendations is associated with higher-quality action plans. An action plan that implements all Key IRM Recommendations is, on average, about 25% more ambitious than an action plan that does not implement any recommendations. OGP members who implemented procedural recommendations also saw more collaborative co-creation processes. 

One goal that emerged from the IRM Refresh was to improve the timeliness of IRM recommendations. Indeed, 61 percent of 25 recently submitted action plans reference IRM reports, recommendations, or guidance as a resource used to design processes and commitments. Therefore, it is important that the IRM provides timely and actionable findings and recommendations during the co-creation process.

The next decade of OGP is the IRM’s time to focus on results and the new IRM products are a step in that direction. After publishing the first batch of action plan reviews in July 2021, government points of contact complimented the timeliness of the reviews and identification of policy areas that were promising or potentially problematic. Timely, actionable recommendations can give governments targeted guidance on where to focus efforts, provide best practices used in other countries, and suggest how to use resources to achieve tangible results.

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