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March 11, 2015

2015 Open Government Awards Launching Soon!

By Linda Frey & Munyema Hasan
On March 16, 2015 OGP will be launching its 2nd annual Open Government Awards. We are excited to announce this year’s theme, which will be “Improving Public Services through Open Government”. Our goal is to once again showcase and celebrate the reformers who work so hard behind the scenes to make their governments more open and accountable. The Awards competition aims to give these individuals well-deserved recognition on the global stage, with the goal of inspiring other reformers around the world to learn from their successes. 
Why the theme of Improving Public Services? Because we understand that open government is ultimately about making governments work better for people. Public services are the most direct way in which people interact with and experience their government. Education, health care, water, roads, public safety – if delivered well and accessible to all - form the foundation of inclusive development. Improving public services is therefore at the heart of the new Sustainable Development Goals, to be agreed later this year at the UN.
In today’s world, people have the potential to be active rather than passive users of public services, and governments can and should help to strengthen this role. That’s where ‘open government’ comes in.  The 2015 Awards will be honoring initiatives that find ways to solicit regular input and feedback from citizens in order to improve access, quality and/or accountability in public service delivery.

There are now 65 OGP participating countries, and each one no doubt will have a different model of engaging citizens in public service delivery to bring to the Awards. Our judges will therefore be asked to assess the boldness of each initiative relative to the unique challenges different countries are facing. We are confident that this will result in a diverse and inspiring group of reformers at the top of the recognition pool.
Last year we were inspired by the 33 countries that applied to the Open Government Awards, most of which were joint applications between governments and civil society. The partnerships and enthusiasm that animated last year’s applications clearly demonstrated that good ideas come from everywhere, and that there is a real desire to share the results of hard work.  That is what the Open Government Awards is all about.
So look out for the launch of the 2015 Awards, and rally your government to apply. We are anticipating an equally exciting Awards ceremony in the presence of world leaders at the OGP Global Summit in Mexico City this October!

Africa in the OGP: Why 2015 is a big year

 By Maureen Kariuki, Alvin Mosioma and Mukelani Dimba  

In 2011, South Africa joined 7 other countries to found the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Since then, it has been joined by Ghana, Liberia, Kenya, Tanzania, Sierra Leone, Malawi and most recently, Tunisia as African countries participating in the OGP.. For each of these countries, the motivation for joining the partnership was a desire to make their governments more accountable and responsive to their citizens.

The initial enthusiasm with which countries sought to use the OGP to advance open government reform in their countries seems to have waned, however. A worrying trend towards the closing of civic spaces in many African countries has been observed. In some countries reports are beginning to emerge alleging increasingly attempts by government to muzzle civil society and media in their countries through the passage of oppressive laws, regulations, and policies. The growing terrorist activities and threats of terrorist groups such as Boko Haram in West Africa and Al-Shabaab in East Africa presents another cause for concern for African states. The violence perpetrated by these groups has served to switch the narrative of governance in African states from democracy and openness to increased surveillance and homeland security. The pace of political change and growth; only a few years bursting with a thirst for openness and inclusivity; has become slow and in some countries the gear has been switched into reverse.

In 2015, however, the need to promote of transparent and accountable governance to address shared concerns in Africa is again set to take center stage.

Read the full blog

Faces of Open Government
Kety Tsanava is Legal Advisor at the Ministry of Justice of Georgia and
National Coordinator of the Open Government Partnership in Georgia
How does open government make a difference in people’s lives?

Open government principles denote that the governments declare themselves ready to open a dialogue with citizens, to listen to them and to build the transparency and accountability in response to their needs. This course leads to the benefit of each citizen through economic growth and innovation. Putting emphasis on citizens’ needs indeed breaks the walls and makes a difference in people’s lives. I have been participating in public consultations conducted throughout the whole county, in big cities and small villages of Georgia and I’ve been told how deeply and positively innovative solutions of public service delivery – one of the key tasks of open governments affected citizens’ everyday lives. Working for OGP at the national level showcases the gaps Government still needs to overcome and the limits transparency reforms could go beyond.

How have you benefited from exchanging ideas with civil society?

Tremendously. We pride ourselves with the second National Action Plan of Georgia that is a joint product of an intense cooperation of government, civil society and Georgian citizens. The Government and civil society sit together at regular meetings of the national coordination mechanism - Open Government Georgia’s Forum to discuss each and every commitment initiated by the public agencies or recommendations set out by the civil society.

c. Describe one OGP commitment from your country that you are proud of.

There are several commitments considered as the most ambitious ones of the second National Action Plan of Georgia, such as, creation of the e-petitions portal, elaboration of the effective mechanism to inform the public on budgetary processes, launching the open data portal, etc. However..continue reading here

Latest news on OGP    

Italy's National Action Plan now Available

Italy recently translated its second National Action Plan into English. Check out its interesting commitments here!

OGP releases 2014 Annual Report

Last week OGP released its 2014 Annual Report. Read the executive summary and full report here and click here to see some interesting facts and numbers from OGP's progress last year! 

Mexico and UK commit to work together on Open Government

To mark the occasion of the State Visit of President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico to the UK, the UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade Kuribreña met for discussions on open government among other issues. During their meeting, the ministers signed a Joint Declaration in which the Open Government Partnership was featured prominently.
Public Comment on OGP Articles of Governance

The OGP Articles of Governance require that the Articles are updated annually based on Steering Committee decisions from the last year. The changes have been made on this page and are open to public comment until April 10, 2015.

The buzz on Open Government

Engaging citizens, a game changer for development?

Government works best when citizens are directly engaged in policymaking and public service delivery. What conditions are necessary for inclusive and effective citizen engagement? Can it positively improve people's lives? The World Bank set up a free online course that provides an overview of citizen engagement, critically analyzing how it can be leveraged most effectively to achieve development results.
Results for Development launch the Social Accountability Atlas

The Social Accountability Atlas, developed by Results for Development  (R4D) is a new online platform aimed at improving development outcomes by driving an increase in the quality and effectiveness of civil-society led social accountability (SAc) work. The platform features a quick snapshot of who is doing what, and where in standardized, searchable format. 
Youth and Governance in a post-2015 world

Restless Development and Plan UK have recently launched a new short toolkit for young people called ‘Global agreements, Grassroots Advocacy; Youth and Governance in a Post 2015 world’. The toolkit supports a global task team of young people to advocate for effective youth participation in governance and accountability processes and mechanisms.
Upcoming Webinars and events
March 17, 2015

Ombudsman Innovations for Advancing Open Government.
More info and registration here 

March 25, 2015

Compromisos de OGP en Participacion Ciudadana.
More info coming soon.

Watch this space for registration links! In the meantime you can watch back the recorded webinar on Developing Stronger Action Plans. Click this link for past webinars.

May 28-29, Ottawa, Canada

Third International Open Data Conference. Click here for registration and more information.
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