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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rebuilding Trust in OGP

Commentary@ITRealms

It is a pleasure to share my first blog post as civil society co-chair of Open Government Partnership.  Together with the Government of Georgia, my co-chair this coming year, I look forward to supporting the OGP community as we build on our success to date.  
In September, the OGP Steering Committee held an in-person meeting on the margins of the opening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.  Full coverage of the decisions taken at this meeting is available in the minutes.  With this blog, I wish to highlight some of the key points of interest for our civil society community.  
Strengthening the OGP process and platform
Throughout OGP’s 2016 Strategy Dialogues, the civil society community raised concerns around OGP’s eligibility criteria.  In the face of shrinking civic space around the globe, there was a real and growing concern that these criteria failed to properly capture civil liberties and civic space realities the ground, opening OGP membership to countries that failed to live up to OGP’s core values.  The two decisions highlighted below were developed to address those concerns, and to ensure OGP remains a strong and credible partnership.    
The Value Check   
Following an extensive consultation process, the Steering Committee has now endorsed an additional requirement for countries joining the Partnership: the ‘Value Check’.  In the future, countries looking to be admitted to OGP will have to earn a score of 3 or higher on two Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) indicators (details on the selection of these indicators are available here).  This an important step in addressing the critical civic space concerns raised by our civil society partners, and we trust this will help raise the eligibility bar.  
Steering Committee eligibility criteria
OGP countries must lead by example and respect the principles that they signed up to as part of the Open Government Declaration. They need to be ambassadors for open government at international fora, but even more so at home.  
This is especially so for those looking to join the Steering Committee.  To ensure that those with a seat at the table practice what we preach, the Steering Committee endorsed strengthened eligibility criteria (details here).  These break no new ground, but simply seek to ensure that those at the table model OGP’s values and principles and live up to the highest standards on civic participation - not just in their OGP process, but across government.
In addition to this, a final revised version of the Response Policy proposed during the June Steering Committee meeting was approved by consensus.  The full policy will be published on shortly.   
Our vision  
With these milestones under our belt, I would like to now look ahead and share some of the priorities the Government of Georgia and I will be pursuing as co-chairs, that also help further the priorities we collectively set for ourselves under OGP’s strategic refresh.  
As I outlined in my remarks at UNGA, open governance is not only good in and of itself.  It finds real meaning in how it fundamentally changes the nature and process of service delivery to those most in need of government support for their survival and dignity.  In doing so, it can claim back some of the trust that has been lost to corruption, poor use of public resources, and a shrinking civic space.
Firstly, we hope to strengthen co-creation and citizen engagement.  Putting citizens back at the heart of government is what OGP is all about.  It is our express aim to further tailor and tweak our engagement across the Partnership to ensure this remains front and center.  
Secondly, we will direct our attention towards transparency and anti-corruption.  When public funds are siphoned off to line private pockets, citizens get fewer roads, fewer schools, and fewer doctors than they deserve. Or pay for.  Corruption also adds up to 10% to the total cost of doing business globally, with over 1 trillion dollar paid in bribes each year.  Sunlight is said to be the best disinfectant - through transparency, citizens will be become powerful players in stopping corruption in its tracks.  
Thirdly, we will look to generate innovation in public service delivery.  States will be better placed to cater for their citizens in health, education and public infrastructure - to name a few - when those citizens can have a say and share feedback.  This is an exciting area with a growing number of commitments and success stories in OGP.  I look forward to sharing them with you as we build on this in the months to come.   
In this effort we look forward to working with partners and countries - and help strengthen platforms looking for implementation and delivery around the 2030 agenda and other global norms. 
Further food for thought 
The above are just some of the highlights of this year’s UNGA meeting.  The Steering Committee endorsed the expansion of the highly successful sub-national pilot as well as the mandate for the new thematic leadership subcommittee.  Country discussions centered on Mexico, Tanzania, Azerbaijan and Turkey, all of which offer much food for thought as the Partnership grows.  For details on these rich discussions, I once again invite you to look at the minutes for this meeting.  
The OGP event on the margins of UNGA focused on rebuilding trust, which included the launch of the flagship publication that shares ideas from leaders from different sectors as to how we can do this better.  
To rebuild trust, all of us - in our governments, our organisations, and our work in general - must practice what we preach.  OGP has raised the bar.  I invite you all to join us.  
Authors: Mukelani Dimba

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