On March 15th, 2017 we were joined by Open Government Partnership (OGP) to discuss how to use collective action to bring together reformers inside and outside government. We explored how members of the network could use OGP to leverage their advocacy work on legal and community empowerment and access to justice issues.
Founded in 2011, OGP provides a platform for civil society to work with their governments to draft and implement policy commitments on their priority advocacy issues. Over the last five years, the OGP has grown from its founding 8 countries and 9 civil society leaders to over 70 participating countries and thousands of civil society organizations, who have together made 2,700 commitments on making government functioning more transparent, accountable, and responsive to citizens.
Paul Maassen, Director for the Civil Society Engagement at OGP, stressed that OGP is not about adopting a universal standard, but instead about identifying each country’s individual starting point. The success of an OGP action plan relies more on the priorities and accountability of the civil society within a country. Policy commitments should be supplemented by activists that challenge and support each other to implement more meaningful reforms and have a high level of political backing.
Tonu Bassu, Program Officer at OGP, expanded on the Open Government Partnership as a catalyst and discussed specific examples of successful national action plans. She explored both Costa Rica’s indigenous population and the local law enforcement in Indonesia as examples of concrete outcomes of transparency, accountability, and public responsiveness.
Maha Jweied, the Acting Director for the Office for Access to Justice at the United States Department of Justice, discussed how the U.S. is connecting domestic access to justice with OGP. The U.S’s third national action plan was released in October 2015, which included a commitment on access to justice was included for the first time. This resulted in the Legal Aid Interagency Roundtable (LAIR), a federal interagency effort that supports legal aid to engage with civil society and make its resources available to the public. LAIR is tasked with aiding the U.S. implementation of SDG Goal 16 and works to improve federal programs by providing a legal aid component to the populations it serves. The September 2016 national action plan update includes a commitment to measure the access of justice. This resulted in a collaborative working group between the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the DOJ created to identify access to justice indicators.
During the webinar, participants had the opportunity to ask questions to our panelists. Summary of full Q&A below:
What are the repercussions for states that do not implement the commitments in their action plan?
Tonu: OGP is not a punitive mechanism. Repercussions are more with a peer-to-peer shaming mechanism to whether something has been implemented or not. OGP has an independent reporting mechanism, where autonomous monitoring works with in country researchers to see what extent the action plan is being implemented and it is up to country how they use those results. If a country has not done anything within a year or two, or there are complaints, then the OGP response policy can be triggered to start an investigation to the country be made inactive.
Were you surprised over the last year with the expression of citizen frustration with the status-quo in democracies? What lesson might we, as OpenGov advocates, learn about how NOT to be surprised by populist feelings until too late.
Paul: The rise in populism and distrust in leaders is a new phenomenon. The civic space is deteriorating but the intensity is rising, so as an open government community, we must set up our response as well. Transparency is an important first step but to address the populism you must have an open government agenda. The dialogue element of OGP is important in that truly understanding where the other side is coming from would solve more than purely autocratic responses.
How can i get more materials on open Budget as well training opportunities?
Paul: Material on their website and individuals should reach out to budget transparency specialists in the country.
So how do we activate the OGP “Response Policy”, in light of the weakness being in the OGP IRM itself?
Paul: These are the worst cases around the world, where the civil societies feel that the government is not living up to OGP standards. The OGP Response Policy is a discussion for a country’s national civil society.
How can we involve a new country? Is India involved in OGP? Is some Civil Society group doing something in India with OGP?
Tonu: Countries must be scored on the four criteria that OGP outlines and a letter must be sent from their government that they would like to join OGP. Civil societies or governments have taken role to push for national action plans with OGP. In India, the civil society is very active but the government has not expressed interest in joining.
Paul Maassen Director for Civil Society Engagement Open Government Partnership @maassenpaul
Tonu Basu Program Officer Open Government Partnership @tonubasu
Maha Jweied Acting Director Office for Access to Justice United States Department of Justice @Maha_Jweied
Don’t forget to check out Part I and III of our SDG Webinar series! Links to their descriptions and recordings below:
Part III: Advocacy, Justice, and the SDGs