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October 28, 2014

OGP Steering Committee Agrees New Response Policy

One of the most significant decisions taken by the OGP Steering Committee at their September 24th meeting in New York was to adopt a new policy to deal with concerns raised about civic space in participating countries. This has been debated for several months in the Steering Committee, and will now be implemented. The policy is titled “Upholding the Values and Principles of OGP, as articulated in the Open Government Declaration” and it has two tightly defined objectives:
a) Assist a country in question to overcome difficulties and to help re-establish an environment for government and civil society collaboration, and
b) Safeguard the Open Government Declaration and mitigate reputational risks to OGP.
The new policy acknowledges that there may be issues outside the scope of National Action Plans that have a major impact on successful participation in OGP, and creates an opportunity to address them. This may include restrictions on basic freedoms, access to information and the overall enabling environment for civil society. To maintain the OGP’s credibility – and safeguard its long-term future – it is important that participating countries uphold these values and principles, as expressed in the Open Government Declaration and in the Articles of Governance (all countries endorse the Open Government Declaration on joining OGP, albeit in a non-binding, voluntary manner). In addition, OGP’s theory of change in the 2015-18 strategy document highlights the importance of having an engaged civil society with the space to participate and influence National Action Plans.

What happens now? The OGP Steering Committee and Support Unit will begin implementing this policy immediately. At the end of one year of implementation there will be a review of whether or not the policy is delivering on its objectives, including an opportunity for public comment. There are three main ways in which an inquiry can be triggered in the Criteria and Standards subcommittee under this response policy:

1) A Steering Committee member – government or civil society – brings a concern to the attention of the chair of Criteria and Standards, including details on which country and why.
2) One of the official OGP multilateral partners or Working Group co-anchors brings a concern to the attention of the OGP Steering Committee or Support Unit, including details on which country and why.
3) The OGP Steering Committee or Support Unit receives a letter of concern from a civil society, not-for-profit organization, or media organization involved in OGP at the national or international level, including details on which country and why (the Civil Society Engagement team in the Support Unit can advise organizations on how to do this). Continue reading here.
Fruitful outreach to CSOs and governments in Asia Pacific

Two OGP outreach meetings were organized this month in the Asia Pacific region - three more will follow. Nanda Sihombing from the CSO OGP Indonesia secretariat reports on the events in Cambodia and Malaysia.

Building on the interest of around 650 government and civil society delegates attending the OGP Asia Pacific Regional Conference in Bali last May 2014, the first Open Government Partnership Asia Pacific in-country outreach trip has just taken place. Malaysia and Cambodia were the first two countries where in-country outreach to a broader network was organized on October 13 and October 16-17, 2014 respectively. Key actors from  government, civil society, the private sector, academics, and youth attended the events to learn more about the values and principles of OGP and to discuss if it would be an interesting opportunity for their country to join.

After a strong Civil Society Day in Bali, where the participants issued a joint-communiqué, there is a growing demand from civil society side in the region to learn more about OGP. Civil society and the government of Indonesia decided to collaboratively organize a series of events in the region – supported by OGP’s civil society engagement team -  to answer the interest from the participants of the OGP Bali Conference. The objective of the events is to share the practices, values, and principles of OGP across the Asia Pacific region. Although Indonesian actors took the lead, the government and civil society organizations from the Philippines soon joined...Continue reading here.
Faces of Open Government
Vitus Adaboo Azeem is the Executive Director of Ghana Integrity Initiative, a local chapter of Transparency International. He is also a Member of the Ghana OGP Steering Committee.

How does open government make a difference in people’s lives?

Open government enables citizens to be aware of their rights and responsibilities and to demand these rights, especially for service delivery and, hence change their lives. Open government also enables citizens to know budgetary resource allocation and enables them to demand accountability and helps to reduce corruption which steals the resources that could have been used to provide basic social services and better their lives.

How have you benefited from exchanging ideas with your government?

I have worked on advocacy on budgets and pro-poor policies and drawn the attention of government to under-served areas through Memoranda, Press Releases, face-to-face meetings and workshops. Sometimes we have succeeded getting them on our side although not in all cases and not immediately...continue reading here.

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For Your Calendar
November 17, 2014: OGP Civil Society Day prior to Americas Meeting. San José, Costa Rica.

November 18-19, 2014: OGP Regional Meeting Americas. San José, Costa Rica.

November 27-28, 2014: Workshop Introducing OGP, Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea (TBC).
October 29, 2014, 10-11 AM EST: ICT innovations for transparency, accountability and anti-corruption: Incentives and key features for implementation. More information and registration here

November 5, 2014, 8:30-9:30 AM EST 
OGP Openness in Natural Resources Working Group. More information and registration here.

November 12, 2014, 10-11 AM EST  (Webinar in Spanish): Uso de plataformas electrónicas de tramitación de  solicitudes de información en América Latina. More information and registration here.
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