2012 looks a lot like a convenient excuse for the Latin American diplomatic jet set to rack up their American Express rewards points while in Cartagena, Brasilia, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Rio de Janeiro and elsewhere. Looking through a less cynical filter, 2012 could also be an important opportunity to build strong, international coalitions that eventually establish standards and roadmaps for the nascent open government movement. (The goal being, as Beth Noveck clearly articulates, that what we call “open government” today is what we will simply call “government” in the future.)
Let’s start with April, which should afford most Latin American diplomats enough rewards points to buy their own private jets by May. On April 14th and 15th the 34 heads of state of the Americas will be in Cartagena for the Sixth Summit of the Americas. Most of the mainstream media coverage will focus on whether or not Chavez and Dilma give each other a hug, but for those interested substance, the themes of the conference are: security, access to and use of technologies, natural disasters, poverty reduction, supportive cooperation, and regional integration. Most of the panels and workshops related to “access to and use of technologies” will focus on access to public services like education and healthcare. Colombia, the host of this year’s summit, has been making significant strides toward open government. Last year the ICT Ministry published three related reports: an evaluation of eGovernment for the private sector, a 12-step road map toward constructing an open government, and an Online Government assessment for 2010 – 2011.
Just as the Summit of the Americas ends, the finance wonks will head to Puerto Vallarta for the 2012 World Economic Forum on Latin America while the good governance wonks will fly to Brasília for the annual Open Government Partnership (OGP), this year hosted by Brazil. At the OGP, Mexico and Brazil will be joined by ten of their neighbors: Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
While there are some basic eligibility requirements (that seem to be quite flexible), the fundamental idea of the Open Government Partnership is that, while each member country is at a distinct point along the long journey toward open government ideal, what is most important is that they all continue progressing. (Hence the concern over South Africa’s recently passed secrecy bill.) I have written more about the Open Government Partnership here; hopefully the April meeting will stimulate more healthy competition among new member governments to become more open.
The OGP will convene representatives from government, veteran transparency NGOs, and civic startup entrepreneurs. Shortly thereafter, many from the latter category will head to Washington DC for Sunlight Foundation’s Transparency Camp, an annual “unconference” for open government. Traditionally Transparency Camp has been a mostly domestic affair with some international participation sponsored by my former and current employers, OSF and ON. This year it seems that Transparency Camp is making considerable strides toward becoming a truly international event.
May affords the #opengovjetset a slight respite to, you know, get some work done. But come June and it’s back to the airport. First there is Personal Democracy Forum 2012 in New York City. Then, sometime in June (strangely, the specific dates have still not been announced), Mexico will host the G20 in Los Cabos. As in previous years, the G20 will focus on the global governance of finance (good luck there), but it will also bring together academics, transparency NGOs, the private sector, and youth.
By the third week of June it’s time to fly to Rio de Janeiro for “Rio+20,” the UN Conference on Sustainable Development. The “7 Critical Issues at Rio+20” (and what isn’t critical when you’re pitching to the media?) are: jobs, energy, cities, food, water, oceans, and disasters. Groups like the Ethos Institute, the Global Reporting Initiative, and the Access Initiative have long been campaigning to conceptualize transparency as an overlapping theme across all seven “critical issues.”
Finally, in September it’s back to Brazil for this year’s Global Forum for Media Development, which will convene 500 participants to discuss the changing nature of media development in a post-broadcast world. (In 2009 I wrote a three-part essay on the “new era of media development:” parts one, two and three.)
Update: Georg Neumann pointed out that I missed yet one more international anti-corruption event in Brazil, Transparency International’s 15th annual International Anti-Corruption Conference, which takes place in Brasília from November 7-10.
Electoral Transparency: In February Fundar will convene an international seminar on electoral transparency in the lead up to Mexico’s July election. In April the Voter Information Program in the US will hold a hackathon. Surely many more similar events will take place across the globe in a year heavy on elections.
Budget Transparency: A global movement for budget transparency has coalesced around GIFT, the Global Initiative on Fiscal Transparency, Engagement, and Accountability which launched in Washington DC last July and will convene again this spring in Brazil. Meanwhile the Open Knowledge Foundation is building an international network of civil society organizations and civic hackers who want to make budgetary data more accessible via the Open Spending platform. (Follow their new blog, a great resource.) On a related note, this year’s Int’l Conference for Participatory Budgeting will take place in New York city on March 30 & 31.
Legislative Transparency: It’s also a big year for legislative transparency. A regional declaration was already signed at a major event in Chile last month. Another event at the end of April in Washington DC will bring together parliamentary monitoring organizations to build greater momentum for global norms of what kind of information we should expect from our congresses. And Regards Citoyens will host the Open Legislative Data Conference in Paris on July 6th & 7th.
Natural Resource Governance: Last November the Transparency and Accountability Initiative brought together technologists and civil society organizations to establish a community of practice around innovative solutions to natural resource governance. The Transparency Policy Project produced a handy “ecosystem report.” The release of Google Earth Engine at COP 15, a series of “Water Hackathons,” and the focus on technology at this year’s Rio+20 all point to growing momentum around the use of technology to more intelligently govern and benefit from our natural resources.
At the very least, 2012 will be a great year to accumulate frequent flyer miles. But who knows, maybe some hard work and consensus-building will even help further the increasingly international movement for open government.