What’s ahead for OGP in 2018
The Open Government Partnership is a naturally optimistic organization. We are made up of thousands of reformers inside and outside of government who believe in more open and responsive democracies that put citizens first. This made 2017 a particularly tough year. According to independent watchdog Freedom House, democracy faced its most serious crisis in decades, as fundamental human rights, the rule of law, and civil society came under attack around the world. Civicus reported serious violations of the freedoms of association, expression, and peaceful assembly in over 100 countries, and Edelman’s Trust Barometer showed trust in government continuing to fall. It is precisely at this moment that we believe OGP, with a growing membership of 75 countries, 15 local governments, and thousands of civil society organizations, needs to step up and serve as a positive global movement for deepening democracy and openness, and a countervailing force against the rise of closed government.
So how can OGP advance this ambitious goal in 2018? First, and most practically, there is an opportunity in 56 national and 20 local OGP participants to get involved in co-creating an open government plan. These plans are what keep OGP grounded in real action, and not just rhetoric, and each will be informed by upcoming releases of our Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) reports on their previous action plan cycle. Every government is required to organise a public engagement process, adhering to the OGP Participation and Co-creation Standards, to listen to citizens and civil society groups, and to prioritise a set of reforms that are ambitious but achievable. The deadline for these 2018-2020 plans is August 31st, meaning most are ramping up consultation activities in the coming weeks. To give these activities more profile and encourage real-time learning internationally, OGP will coordinate the first ever Global Open Government Week starting May 7th. We encourage all OGP participants to organise activities in their country or region to promote citizen engagement and encourage citizen feedback. We are also kick-starting the expansion of the OGP Local program (formerly known as the OGP Subnational Pilot) in 2018, with an additional five local participants being invited to apply by March 9th, and plans to recruit up to 20 more participants in 2019. The OGP Local program has been a great success, and we hope to continue building on that in the next year.
OGP action plans are also great opportunities to advance emerging global open government standards. In 2018 we hope to see OGP being used to advance policy areas like citizen feedback on public service delivery, public registers of who owns and controls companies, and opening up procurement systems so that more businesses can compete and corruption risks are reduced. OGP is a ready-made platform for officials in government working on these topics to learn from other countries, adapt to a local context, and commit to implementing the types of reforms that really make a difference in citizens’ lives. In support of this work, the OGP’s new Thematic Leadership Subcommittee and Support Unit will implement a new framework for strategic thematic partnerships in 2018. These partnerships will build on the communities that the OGP Working Groups and other thematic partners have mobilized in previous years. Through this framework, OGP will leverage partners who have the capacity, expertise, and drive to support to countries in a focused set of shared thematic priorities
2018 will also be the year in which we launch a Feminist Open Government project, with the collaboration of the incoming lead OGP Steering Committee co-chairs, the Government of Canada and Nathaniel Heller from Results for Development. This will seek to increase the number of OGP members who are using open government approaches to advance gender equality and inclusion. And we will lay the groundwork for a new State of Open Government campaign to launch in early 2019, that will allow much easier comparison of how different OGP participants are performing and where the greatest needs are for progress.
One of the learnings from the first six years of OGP is that co-creation and committing to reforms in OGP action plans must be complemented by effective implementation. The latest statistics from the IRM show that around 32 percent of OGP commitments are not sufficiently implemented at the end of the two year action plan cycle, for various political and technical reasons. One new tool to help participants overcome some of these challenges will be the launch of an OGP Trust Fund in 2018. This will give support to government and civil society organizations working on co-creating and implementing open government reforms, as well as research and partnerships on specific OGP thematic priorities. A soft launch will take place in mid-February for proposals to support the co-creation of the 2018 action plans, with the overall launch taking place later in the year.
The fifth OGP Global Summit will be one of the highlights of 2018, taking place from July 17th-19th in Tbilisi, Georgia. Georgia is the current co-chair of the OGP Steering Committee, and has made major strides on opening up government since the Rose Revolution in 2003. The summit will be a chance for Georgia to showcase its achievements to the world, and to double down on the next generation of reforms in the country. It will also be an important moment for the global open government community to come together and strategize how to keep making progress in the current geopolitical climate, in particular around the summit’s three main themes of anti-corruption, public service delivery and citizen engagement. There will be also be an OGP regional meeting in South Korea – a new OGP Steering Committee member which has embraced citizen engagement under the current government – in late 2018.
This makes for a critical year for OGP. Throughout we are looking at ways to strengthen the global political coalition for open government, including through the election of new OGP Steering Committee members and convening a gathering in April of ministers, senior civil servants, and civil society leaders who can be future leaders of OGP and open government champions. At the same time, OGP will continue to remain vigilant for deteriorating civic space even within our participants and take appropriate actions when needed.
OGP is just six years old, yet in many ways, today feels like a different era than the one in which OGP was founded in 2011. We live in more challenging times for democracy and openness, and yet, that makes the work of the partnership even more vital. In 2018, the inspiring community of reformers that constitutes OGP has the chance to tip the balance towards openness, and make a real difference in people’s lives.