What the agenda of #OGPArgentina left us
The agenda of the Open Government Partnership Americas Regional Meeting was designed in a collaborative manner. The organizing committee (Argentina’s Ministry for Modernization, eight civil society organizations and OGP’s Support Unit) identified an overall structure of seven themes (citizen participation and protection of civic space, anticorruption and accountability, open state, civic technology and open data, subnational open government, OGP and co-creation) and then announced a call for proposals. We received and reviewed roughly 650 proposals, which contributed to a strong agenda comprised by 65 sessions and 43 lightning talks.
We used an innovative model, the “open or empty chair”. Several moderators and session leaders decided to have an empty chair in their panels to allow participants from the audience to come to the stage and share their opinions and experiences. This model confirmed the collaborative nature that should characterize the open government agenda.
Building on this base agenda, we had a series of discussions to broaden the dialogue and engage new voices and stakeholders, especially the most vulnerable ones. Here, we highlight some key sessions:
- Without civic space, there is no open government: this session provided an overview of the condition of the civic space in the region from the CIVICUS Monitor’s perspective, as well as participation challenges in an era of social media. Participants reaffirmed the need to assess the space for participation and collaboration between the government and civil society in social media. Here, we need to guarantee the same safeguards than in the traditional space. Participants also discussed the unintended negative consequences of over-regulating consultation forums and the relationship between the government and civil society around freedom of association. One speaker proposed to develop human rights-focused action plans. Finally, the audience was challenged to think about how to integrate organizations advocating for the freedom of association, expression and gathering, which are key to the civic space and currently largely absent from the OGP process.
- Vulnerable populations and open government: In this session, we discussed that OGP, as a platform that promotes participation, must be more inclusive. For this, it must better understand the needs of the vulnerable populations. Participants emphasized the fact that there are populations that have not even been integrated into the citizenry or whose identities are outlawed by local regulations. There is also a lack of disaggregated data to allow us to understand the complexity of each problem. Making progress in addressing these situations will require us to rethink the formats and processes necessary to close the technological gap and levels of specialization. It requires us to emphasize the interoperability of the participating stakeholders, analyze practices and to identify new ways of making public policies.
- Electoral transitions and open government: Next year, there will be elections in seven countries of Latin America. Meanwhile, 14 countries will start co-creating action plans. This session focused on identifying strategies to strengthen these processes, not just for sustainability of the open government agenda, but also to increase the level of ambition of commitments.
- Anticorruption: This panel brought together speakers from different perspectives, such as Delia Ferreyra Rubio, President of Transparency International, and Matias Lammens, President of Club San Lorenzo de Almagro. The discussion went beyond the usual dialogues around corruption, as it focused on the link between the necessary reforms and the practices each sector, such as football, should adopt.
- Building memory – human rights archiving and documentation: This panel identified the need to deepen policies and processes related to access to information, and document management, and eliminate opacity norms and criteria. Based on the experience of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala, and some reflection on Argentina, the discussion focused on how the open government framework can support these processes and serve as a coordination instrument to strengthen these policies.
We also hosted sessions around security policies with an open government perspective, legal and illegal surveillance and civil rights, openness of prison systems, environmental issues, gender equality, and others.
The event also allowed for learning among countries and national governments: 17 countries and 6 subnational pilot governments participated in sessions where they exchanged lessons learned and experience with regard to their OGP processes. Dominican Republic, Panama and El Salvador discussed challenges and best practices about design and implementation of public service-delivery commitments. Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica talked about building coalitions for monitoring and implementation of action plans. Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay shared practices that have allowed them to make progress in the implementation of their action plans. Mexico, Peru and Spain reflected on the challenges around co-creation and how to strengthen the dialogue between government and civil society. The US, Brazil, Ontario and Austin discussed strategies to bring together stakeholder and the design of open government policies at the federal and local levels. Buenos Aires, Jalisco, La Libertad and San Pablo reflected on lessons they learned after their first co-creation process and challenges around implementation of their action plans. Colombia, Argentina and Canada exchanged ideas on how to increase the level of ambition and success of action plans.
Overall, the ideas expressed by government points of contact, civil society representatives and IRM researchers suggested that we are about to begin a new era. The coming years and action plans must have a greater reach and must take into account the local context. We should also establish sustainable partnerships to lead the design and implementation of the action plan. Finally, need to integrate more ideas and more stakeholders to increase the level of ambition.