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OGP Steering Committee Ministerial & Working Level Meeting 
New York - September 2017
The OGP Steering Committee convened in New York on September 20, 2017. 

Table of Contents 

  1. State of the Partnership
  2. Call to Action
  3. OGP Co-Chairmanship Handover
  4. OGP Subnational Program
  5. Criteria & Standards
  6. OGP Country Performance Check-In
  7. Thematic Leadership
  8. Process Updates
  9. Wrap Up & Close
  10. Presentations & Background Documents
Full Meeting Notes
State of the Partnership
Sanjay Pradhan, OGP CEO, delivered the State of the Partnership (SoP) presentation to begin the Ministerial Steering Committee meeting. The SoP outlined critical global challenges that society is facing, such as unprecedented attacks on civic space, crises of trust and inequality, as well as exclusion, corruption and sustainability. These challenges underscore why this is a pivotal moment for leadership of OGP.
 
In its six years since being founded, OGP has become a global platform of more than 70 countries, 15 subnational pioneers, and thousands of civil society organizations. Together, OGP stakeholders have co-created 167 National Action Plans (NAPs) that include over 3,000 commitments, making OGP an action-oriented platform. OGP has also developed global partnerships, including with multilateral organizations, and a newly established multi-donor trust fund to help OGP countries co-create and implement ambitious action plans.
 
In these times of uncertainty, some OGP countries and subnational participants are implementing innovative and inspirational reforms that show a different way forward. However, these efforts need to be scaled up as part of a global campaign for openness and deeper democracy around the world.

 
Call to Action
Steering Committee members shared recent developments in their OGP processes and engagements, as well as future commitments to help take forward OGP’s priorities at the country, thematic and global levels. The three overarching themes that stand out from the various interventions from Steering Committee members were:
  1. A need for a refreshed narrative and improved awareness around OGP that goes beyond openness and focuses on rebuilding trust. The narrative that is adopted must resonate with the current geopolitical context, offer a hopeful alternative, and depict in a practical manner what OGP can do.
  2. A collective commitment from the Steering Committee to protecting the integrity of OGP, including true government-civil society co-creation, which is the foundation of OGP and what makes this Partnership distinct. Yet, as pointed out in the State of the Partnership presentation, there are thirty countries, including some Steering Committee members, who are not engaging in meaningful co-creation, or not doing it at all. Co-creation must be extended beyond National Action Plans so that there is a permanent dialogue in OGP countries. The Steering Committee asked the Support Unit to develop a proposal for how they as a group could show greater leadership on co-creation.
  3. There is increased focus on thematic leadership in OGP, and many Steering Committee members have shared exciting stories on what they are leading on. There is now a need to engage in more serious and in-depth exchanges on various themes being championed by Steering Committee members, and define the Steering Committee role in catalyzing the Partnership’s race to the top. This should be led by the new Thematic Leadership Subcommittee. 
OGP Co-Chairmanship Handover
The Government of France and Manish Bapna from the World Resources Institute officially handed over the Steering Committee co-chairmanship to the Government of Georgia and Mukelani Dimba from the International School for Transparency, who will serve as lead co-chairs until October 1, 2018.
 
The incoming co-chairs are the Government of Canada and Nathaniel Heller from Results for Development (R4D), who will serve as support co-chairs until their lead co-chairmanship term begins on October 1, 2018.


Read the joint vision statement by the Government of Georgia and Mukelani Dimba and the Co-Chairmanship Candidacy Notes from the Government of Canada and Nathaniel Heller (R4D).
 
OGP Subnational Program
An update on the OGP Subnational program was provided by Nathaniel Heller, one of several Steering Committee members leading the taskforce on subnational participation. The OGP Subnational program has been one of the most exciting and energizing initiatives taken forward since the Ministerial Steering Committee meeting on the sidelines of the UNGA in 2016, and has advanced the open government agenda in many cities and states. The fifteen pioneers of the program have demonstrated robust co-creation processes, which many of us can learn from.
 
Pablo Soto, Madrid City Council Member in charge of Citizen Participation, Transparency and Open Government delivered guest remarks on the experience of Madrid, one of the 15 pioneers of the OGP Subnational program. Madrid has made great strides in opening up decision making, and is now striving to share what has worked for Madrid in a way that other cities, and national governments, can replicate. The online platform developed by the City of Madrid which allows citizens to propose and vote on policy decisions, Decide Madrid, is now used by over 50 cities around the world, including other OGP Subnational pioneers such as Buenos Aires. Mr. Soto also highlighted that OGP’s role was instrumental for Madrid to achieve these results, and advised that if more subnational governments are able to participate in OGP, it would have tremendous potential for positive change thanks to the direct democracy mechanisms that subnational governments employ.
 
A resolution on the future of subnational participation in OGP was then presented for discussion and decision by the Steering Committee.   
Decision
The following resolution was unanimously adopted by the Steering Committee:


The Steering Committee welcomes the strong early results of the subnational pilot program and the 15 pioneer local governments. We recognise the crucial link between the emphasis in OGP’s overall strategic refresh on citizen-centric governance and the importance of further integrating local governments into OGP.
 
The Steering Committee recognises that the subnational pilot Pioneers model has worked well, and that OGP should build sustainably based on learning from the initial program (including from the IRM), while balancing the availability of resources and the opportunity costs associated with continued subnational expansion. We support maintaining the involvement of the current 15 Pioneers with new action plans in 2018, and we agree to recruit up to an additional 15 Pioneers to join the program in 2018. In addition, we agree to re-launch the OGP Leaders tier of subnational governments and civil society partners with an emphasis on lightweight peer learning and networking. 
Criteria & Standards
Rules of the Game Review
The Rules of the Game review that has taken place in 2017 marks the third and final part of OGP’s Strategic Refresh. This review was led by the Criteria and Standards subcommittee and aimed to address a broader set of concerns expressed by civil society and governments, including which countries get to participate in OGP; countries that undermine OGP principles; countries that do not adhere to the OGP process; countries who get away with not delivering ambitious commitments; and addressing lack of flexibility and burden associated with participation in OGP.
 
As indicated in the June 2017 Steering Committee meeting minutes, a first package of proposed changes were approved by the Steering Committee, including:
  • Eligibility Criteria. The SC endorsed the proposal of expanding the criteria and mandated C&S to work on a proposal.
  • National Action Plan. The calendar was adjusted to give more flexibility to countries.
  • Procedural Review. Changes to the Procedural Review which outlines the actions which will be considered acting contrary to OGP process;
  • Response Policy review. The proposed direction of travel for updating the Response Policy.
To facilitate the implementation of the changes approved in June, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee tabled the following resolutions which have been unanimously adopted by the full Steering Committee:
Values Check
Decision

At the June 2017 Steering Committee meeting, the Steering Committee endorsed the proposal of expanding the list of OGP Eligibility Criteria, particularly on civic space, to address concerns related to permitting countries to join OGP that, in practice, do not adhere to the democratic governance norms and values set forth in the Open Government Declaration. It is the recommendation of the Criteria and Standards subcommittee to include a “Values Check” assessment in addition to the current four Eligibility Criteria before new countries are admitted to OGP in the future. This Values Check would be measured by country scores on two Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) indicators, namely “12.2: CSO entry and exit - To what extent does the government achieve control over entry and exit by civil society organizations (CSOs) into public life?” and “12.3: CSO repression - Does the government attempt to repress civil society organizations (CSOs)?”. Countries who wish to join the Partnership in the future will need to be eligible according to the current four OGP eligibility criteria as well as pass the Values Check assessment by earning an ordinal score of “3” or higher on at least one of the two proposed V-Dem indicators. This additional Values Check would be applicable only to those countries who wish to join the OGP in the future and will not be applied retroactively to currently participating OGP countries. If approved, this resolution and the proposed Values Check process will be implemented immediately. 
Steering Committee Eligibility for Governments
Decision
To be eligible to run for election governments must have the following:
  1. Improved or maintained their eligibility score since submitting a letter of intent to join OGP;
  2. Published all OGP required documents (action plans, self-assessment reports, etc.) within four months of the agreed deadlines; and
  3. Acted in accordance with the Open Government Declaration
  4. Acted in accordance with OGP process for the most recent completed NAP cycle.
  5. Meet the minimum OGP Participation and Co-creation Standards  
In addition to the above requirements, current SC members running for reelection must have the following:
  1. Provided financial support to OGP (except in cases of extreme financial hardship); and
  2. Attended and participated actively in SC meetings and subcommittee meetings, with ministerial level participation in the required meetings. 
Commitment Cap
Decision
The Steering Committee continues to encourage action plans between 5 and 15 commitments according to current guidance to encourage specificity, relevance, ambition, and credible implementation. The Steering Committee strongly recommends that, beginning in 2018, countries cap the number of commitments per action plan to 20 with a suggested maximum of 5 milestones per commitment, with the aim of incentivizing more ambitious commitments in National Action Plans. The Steering Committee will review the effects of the commitment cap at the appropriate time, factoring in the costs associated with supporting and reviewing National Action Plans and the growth of OGP’s Subnational pilot program.
Response Policy
Decision
A final revised version of the Response Policy proposed during the June Steering Committee meeting has been approved by consensus. This finalized version will be published on the OGP website in the coming weeks.
Update on the Mexico Envoys Decision from June 2017  
On May 23rd, the Steering Committee received a letter from Mexican Civil Society Organizations announcing their decision to withdraw from the Tripartite Technical Secretariat that oversees the OGP process in their country. This issue was discussed during the Steering Committee meeting on June 28, 2017 in Washington, D.C. As indicated in the June 2017 Steering Committee meeting minutes, the Steering Committee resolved to appoint two representatives, one from government and one from civil society, to serve as OGP envoys to engage with Mexican stakeholders regarding the events that transpired in the lead up to, and since the May 23 letter was received.
 
A call for volunteers and Terms of Reference were circulated within the Steering Committee on 1 August 2017. A visit was planned for August 28-30 for a delegation conformed by the Government of South Africa, Maria Baron from Directorio Legislativo, and Support Unit staff. Unfortunately, the Government of South Africa informed the Support Unit at short notice that, due to extraordinary circumstances, it was no longer able to be part of the delegation. The terms of reference explicitly prescribed equal representation by the Steering Committee of a civil society leader and a government representative. After consulting with stakeholders from civil society and government involved in the proposed meetings, it was agreed that due to these circumstances, and in the interest of upholding the approved terms of reference, that the visit be postponed until a Steering Committee government representative can be included in the delegation.
 
In addition, in its June 2017 meeting, the Steering Committee also mandated the Support Unit to draft Terms of Reference for a task force on rapid response to situations that come up in OGP countries and require the Steering Committee to respond in a rapid and efficient manner.
Decision
To fulfill the decision agreed upon by the Steering Committee in its June 2017 meeting, the Steering Committee mandated that a new delegation be confirmed, and that the mission to Mexico be rescheduled to take place during fall of 2017. The Support Unit will announce the new members of the delegation once a government representative is confirmed to join Maria Baron from the Civil Society Steering Committee.
 
Further, the Steering Committee resolved that a Rapid Response Mechanism should rest within the Criteria and Standards subcommittee. The Steering Committee mandated the Support Unit to develop the corresponding Terms of Reference, and invite other Steering Committee members outside of the Criteria and Standards subcommittee to participate in the Rapid Response Mechanism. 
The Mexican civil society coalition requested that, through Steering Committee member Alejandro Gonzalez (GESOC), a copy of a letter addressed to the Steering Committee be shared. This letter, in English and Spanish versions, may be found in the Steering Committee communications page.
 
Alejandro Gonzalez further requested to go on the record, on behalf of the Mexican civil society coalition, with the following remarks:
 
As a sign of good will, and to protect the integrity of the OGP Steering Committee, we respectfully -but formally- request the Mexican Government to recuse itself from participating in the Steering Committee until this situation has been addressed and resolved to re-establish the basic conditions of trust that OGP demands to operate. Governments participating in the OGP Steering Committee should lead by example, and unfortunately, the Mexican Government at this moment is far from doing that.
Country Updates 
The Support Unit provided an update on the Azerbaijan Response Policy process, Tanzania’s withdrawal from OGP, and the participation status of Turkey.
  • Azerbaijan: As per the June 28 2017 Steering Committee resolution on the participation of Azerbaijan in OGP, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee, with support of the Support Unit, has developed an updated set of recommendations for the Government of Azerbaijan to improve the unresolved issues related to the operating environment for civil society in Azerbaijan. The Government of Azerbaijan will have 12 months, beginning on September 25, 2017, to address these recommendations.
  • Tanzania: On July 1, 2017, the OGP Support Unit received an unofficial copy of a letter from the Government of Tanzania addressed to the OGP co-chairs withdrawing the government from OGP. The Support Unit drafted a memo and proposed next steps which were shared with Governance and Leadership subcommittee. On September 12, 2017, the Support Unit sent a letter to the Government of Tanzania on behalf of the Steering Committee co-chairs in response to Tanzania’s withdrawal. The OGP co-chairs agreed that the Government of Kigoma, a subnational pioneer, will continue to participate in OGP.
  • Turkey: One year has passed since Turkey was designated inactive in OGP by decision of the Steering Committee on September 21, 2016. As per the current OGP rules, since Turkey remained inactive for a period of one year without re-engaging with the OGP Steering Committee and the Support Unit, the Criteria and Standards subcommittee informed the Steering Committee and recommended that the Support Unit removes the country from inactivity status, and is no longer listed as part of OGP. The Support Unit has sent a letter to the Government of Turkey informing them about this procedure. In light of failing to deliver a National Action Plan by the one-year inactivity anniversary, Turkey will no longer be listed as an OGP member, and its country page will be archived in the OGP website effective September 21, 2017.
OGP Country Performance Check-In
As part of an “early warning system” for the Steering Committee, the Support Unit presented an update on OGP countries where Steering Committee support or interventions are needed. This update is in response to the Steering Committee request to be regularly informed on where diplomatic or civil society interventions would be useful to support the OGP process. This update included a snapshot of countries that are inactive or under Criteria and Standards review (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Trinidad and Tobago), countries where civil society has walked away from the OGP process (Mexico and Guatemala), countries in which there are political leadership challenges, and countries where elections have recently taken place, or will be held in the near future.
 
In order to facilitate support for these countries, the Support Unit was requested to provide further guidance materials to the Steering Committee and indicate which countries are a priority for outreach.

 
Thematic Leadership
The mandate of the newly established Thematic Leadership Subcommittee (TLS) was presented to the Steering Committee. The TLS aims to:
  • Advance ambitious reforms at the country level across priority thematic areas set out in the Paris Declaration
  • Catalyze a global race-to-the-top by recognizing and showcasing leaders (SC and non-SC) and supporting peer countries on ambitious reforms 
  • Elevate a discussion on action plan content and issues among SC members
  • Identify frontier thematic priorities for OGP
  • Leverage events (e.g. Georgia Summit, G20, Commonwealth Summit) more strategically
The strategic and political work of the TLS will be complemented by a new model for peer exchange, which consists of replacing the working groups with flexible, strategic thematic partnerships. These thematic partnerships will be created to ensure greater responsiveness to emerging country priorities. Additionally, the new model will rely on a transparent and competitive process to leverage resources, including from the OGP Trust Fund, should some partners need funding.
 
The Steering Committee approved the TLS mandate and the decision to sunset the working groups as a component of the new model for peer exchange. The Steering Committee also encouraged the TLS and Support Unit to develop the the new partnerships and peer exchange model to follow up on Paris Declaration sign ups and pin down the more difficult aspects of the strategic refresh, including ambition and quality of commitments in action plans. 
Decision
The proposed mandate for the Thematic Leadership Subcommittee and the decision to sunset the working groups was approved by consensus.
Process Updates
This session provided a brief information update on elements discussed in the June 2017 Steering Committee meeting:

IRM Refresh Update 
A consultancy, Blomeyer and Sanz, has been commissioned to undertake the IRM Refresh. Data collection for the refresh included desk research, interviews and surveys. These surveys collected comparable feedback on IRM relevance and effectiveness from government and civil society stakeholders, as well as efficiency feedback from IRM researchers. The interviews provided more in-depth views from stakeholders aiming to provide illustrative example for the review questions. Interview feedback was collected from a total of 78 individuals (29% from government stakeholder, 28% civil society, and 36% OGP stakeholders, which includes International Expert Panel members, Support Unit staff and IRM researchers.


Early findings indicate that the use of IRM products is rather positive, with over half of users utilizing the OGP Explorer and IRM technical papers. The timing and length of IRM findings was mentioned as an obstacle, therefore the Refresh will explore how reports and communication around them can be enhanced.  

OGP’s proposed “State of Open Government” flagship publication
In its June 2017 meeting, the Steering Committee discussed options for a “State of Open Government” report, including what kind of data and evidence would be most useful for OGP members, and what value would this flagship publication would bring to OGP. There is generally widespread agreement that a State of Open Government report would be helpful to help enable learning and comparison between countries. 

During the September 2017 Steering Committee meeting, Joseph Foti from the Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), presented a concept of the report. Such a report will cover (1) major trends; (2) innovations in policy reform and delivery; and (3) country-by-country comparison. The country-by-country reporting will show major achievements, co-creation, as well as need, ambition, and completion across policies of strategic priority. The next step for this proposed report is to convene experts about the availability of third-party data in key policy areas, and to fundraise accordingly to support a broad campaign and multi-year commitment around this project. 
 
Wrap Up & Close
Steering Committee members and the OGP Support Unit took the opportunity to extend sincere gratitude to the outgoing co-chairs, the Government of France, and Manish Bapna and Mark Robinson, for their leadership, dedication and exceptional chairing role over the past year. Together, they have led OGP through a critical stage, including a strategic refresh, the Paris Summit and the expansion of the subnational program.
 
Similarly, heartfelt thanks were extended to the outgoing Steering Committee members, the governments of Brazil, United Kingdom, United States, and Alejandro Gonzalez who together have helped OGP take great strides since its foundation six years ago, including through chairing the Steering Committee and its subcommittees, hosting global summits and exchanges, leveraging their diplomatic networks and political influence, and leading in key thematic areas to achieve ambitious reforms for open government.
 
Finally, a warm welcome was extended to the new lead co-chairs, the Government of Georgia and Mukelani Dimba, and the new incoming co-chairs, the Government of Canada and Nathaniel Heller. 

 
Presentations & Background Documents

State of the Partnership Presentation (September 2017)

State of Open Government Report Presentation (September 2017)

Meeting Agenda and Pre-packet
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