This blog post is a summary of a $25,000 grant from Omidyar Network to the Mexican Institute for Competitiveness to support the convening of Latin American transparency networks in Mexico City on March 20, 2012 to discuss the opportunities, challenges, and consequences of participating in the Open Government Partnership. You can download this data in IATI-compliant XML format here.
Amount of grant: USD $25,000
Date that grant agreement was signed: March 12, 2012
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a new, multilateral multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from countries to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. The OGP was formally launched on September 20, 2011, when the eight founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States) endorsed an Open Government Declaration, and announced their country action plans.
The OGP envisions several roles for civil society. First, as a multi-stakeholder initiative, the OGP is overseen by a steering committee of governments and nine civil society organizations. Second, the OGP guidelines require all participating governments to consult with civil society and the broader public as they develop their action plans. Third, civil society practitioners that are active in the open government sphere and wish to share their expertise and experiences with implementing governments can join the OGP Networking Mechanism. Also, civil society can begin independently monitoring government implementation of OGP commitments to track progress and build public awareness. Finally, for countries that are not eligible to participate in the OGP, civil society can help identify those criteria that are not fulfilled and how they can be implemented.
Latin American civil society organizations are increasingly collaborating and advocating for transparency norms through regional networks. This program will contribute to knowledge exchange and help create synergies among existing regional networks in order to strengthen the role of civil society in the OGP. It will also make more information about the OGP available in Spanish and Portuguese.
Over the past two to five years, civil society organizations focused on transparency in Latin America have begun to organize around particular issues. Examples include:
- The Regional Alliance for the Freedom of Expression and Access to Information
- Latin American Network for Budget Transparency
- Transparency International Latin America and the Caribbean
- Transparency, Participation, Accountability in Supreme Auditing Institutions
- Technology and Transparency Community of Practice
- Latin America Network for Legislative Transparency
- Red Latinoamericana Sobre las Industrias Extractivas
The participating organizations in these networks share information with one another about relevant transparency indicators, advocacy strategies, and policy goals. They also share tactics to persuade governments to make substantial transparency commitments at the national level. But rarely is there a chance for representatives from across networks to learn from one another. The OGP has emerged as a network of networks in which leading civil society organizations focused on transparency can compare and consolidate their advocacy demands in a single space.
Several themes emerged from the discussions at the regional workshop in Mexico City, as well as at the OGP annual meeting in Brasília:
- There was healthy discussion about whether “Open Government” refers to demand-side anti-corruption and accountability activities or to supply-side filtering and visualizations of open data. This tension has been well articulated by Harlan Yu and David G. Robinson in their paper “The New Ambiguity of Open Government.” In the end, most participants agreed that it is beneficial to use the “open government” term to describe both kinds of activities, as it will help build a larger movement. Others, however, fear that the broad use of the term could water down how the public understands “accountability.”
- The verdict is still out as to whether the format of the OGP will bring about significantly greater transparency, access to public information, and accountability in member countries. The development of an “Independent review mechanism” to monitor the progress (or not) of the implementation of countries’ action plans was repeatedly called out as the most significant feature to ensure OGP’s credibility.
- Several participants stressed the importance of not ignoring advocacy work in other regional and international bodies were many countries have already made concrete commitments toward greater transparency such as the UN Convention against Corruption, OECD’s Anti-Bribery Convention, the G20 anti-corruption commitments, the Inter-American Convention against Corruption, as well as other declarations that contain sections related to transparency such as Principle 10 of the UN Global Compact.
- Finally, a few participants observed that while OGP is an excellent network of networks for transparency and accountability commitments at the federal level, there is not a similar initiative for cities where some of the most innovative advances are being made, and where the impact of transparency is more tangible to most citizens. Perhaps it is time to begin a parallel “Open Government Cities Alliance”?
- Development of an online platform to share information about the Open Government Partnership in Spanish.
- Convening of representatives of at least five Latin American transparency networks to discuss their participation and positions related to the Open Government Partnership.
- Participation of at least one representative of each Latin American transparency network in the Open Government Partnership annual meeting in Brasilia in April 2012.
All impact metrics were fulfilled with the exception of some visa issues that prevented a limited number of participants from attending the OGP annual event in Brasília.
Conclusions and findings:
An executive summary of conclusions and findings from the event has been posted on the Gobierno Abierto América Latina blog by Emilene Martinez. Jorge Soto of Citivox wrote a summary of the event on the Open Government Partnership blog.
If you have any questions about this grant, please let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to respond.