The Open Government Partnership has an ambitious agenda to advance transparency and accountability in government, which it seeks to advance through voluntary commitments, citizen engagement, and progress monitoring reports. It has garnered many adherents since it was launched by eight countries in 2011, and its members have already implemented numerous practical reforms.
At the OGP Americas Regional Meeting in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and learn from practitioners about what makes the partnership work and how to sustain it. I was struck by the scale of the effort in several countries despite their resource constraints, as well as the concerns voiced by civil society for the integrity of overall reform.
“Open” has become one of the biggest buzzwords in governance. But what does openness really mean? And does it mean the same thing to governments, civil society groups, the media, and the private sector?
As part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) — Deputy Director Andrew Wilson serves as co-chair of the Council for Engaging the Private Sector — CIPE is also interested in the answer to this question. OGP is a multinational partnership, currently made up of 63 countries and a number of civil society organizations, that aims to make government more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to citizens.
One way that governments have tried to become more open is through open data — making data about government operations such as budgets, spending, and voting freely available for anyone to use.
But simply releasing some data does not necessarily make a government more transparent or accountable. “So if open data doesn’t produce benefits by itself, how does it work?” asked Emily Shaw in a recent post on the Sunlight Foundation’s blog.
Michael Putra, Shell, discusses open policymaking at the OGP Asia Pacific Regional Conference, May 6. Seated to his left are Y. W. Junardy, President, Indonesia Global Compact Network, and Ahmad Yuniarto, Chairman, Schlumberger Indonesia.
At a tender three years of age, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is growing toward maturity. It has reached a stage where it can reflect on progress made to date and learn from early attempts to inspire action by government and civil society. While enthusiasm remains fresh – palpable in the youth contingent at the Asia Regional Conference in Bali – champions within OGP are thinking seriously about how to ensure the credibility of national commitments and deliver the fruits of open government to the people.
Yet as an observer in Bali, I was mostly struck by the moments of discovery, the “aha” moments that occurred as new and veteran participants encountered one another. OGP is entirely new to many countries in Asia (Papua New Guinea and Burma, for instance) and equally new to certain segments of society, especially the private sector.
At the session hosted by Indonesia Global Compact Network on “Building Trust between Private and Public Sectors for a Competitive and Sustainable Economy,” prominent business people were amazed to know that there is such a partnership for transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. They immediately grasped the potential of OGP to address issues of concern to them, including innovation policy, education, health, and local development. The light bulb really came on when they expressed that corporate social responsibility is not sufficient, that companies must become active citizens and engage with civil society and government alike to build trust.