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Open Government Partnership (OGP): Linking openness to freedom of expression

What is the Open Government Partnership, and how can you engage with it to make your government more open, accountable, and transparent? Check out this 5-minute guide.

This is part of a series of IFEX explainers aimed at strengthening the ability of civil society to engage in global spaces for free expression advocacy. To visit the hub page and see the whole set, click here.

Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (L) delivers a speech during the Open Government Partnership Annual Conference in Brasilia, 17 April 2012
Former Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff (L) delivers a speech during the Open Government Partnership Annual Conference in Brasilia, 17 April 2012

EVARISTO SA/AFP/Getty Images


What is the Open Government Partnership?

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an intergovernmental partnership launched by eight governments in 2011 to promote government transparency, accountability and responsiveness. The founding states are Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. As of 2019, more than 70 members - representing one third of the world's population - have endorsed the OGP Declaration. See the full list here.

OGP members commit to:
• Increasing the availability of information about governmental activities, by collecting and publishing data in a timely manner and in easily accessible formats
• Implementing the highest standards of professional integrity throughout public administrations
• Supporting civic participation
• Increasing access to new technologies for openness and accountability.

OGP objectives are clearly linked to the right to freedom of expression and information. In 2016, the OGP Paris Declaration committed to "protect, consistent with international law, freedom of expression, including for the press and all media, defend the role of journalism as a crucial force for transparency and accountability, and stand up against attacks and detention of journalists".

Check out the OGP 2015-2018 Strategy.


Who can join OGP?

To join OGP, States should meet a set of criteria in four main areas: access to information, fiscal transparency, public official asset disclosure, and citizen engagement. In addition, they must also pass a 'Values Check' based on two indicators: ease of civil society organisation (CSO) entry and exit from the country, and/or CSO repression.

For countries that already meet the eligibility criteria, becoming part of OGP is a straightforward process. For those that do not yet meet the criteria, reforms must be made in order to qualify.

To become a member of OGP, participating countries must endorse a high-level Open Government Declaration, deliver a two-year National Action Plan (NAP), prepared with public consultation, and commit to independent reporting on their progress going forward.

Adherence to OGP's overall commitments is overseen by the Steering Committee, comprised of government and CSO representatives. It is led by four co-chairs that come from both government and civil society. Check the list of members here. You can also read about the specific mandate of the civil society members here. Minutes from the Steering Committee meetings can be found here.

The day-to-day OGP institutional work is implemented by the OGP Support Unit.

OGP also has so-called OGP Ambassadors, senior international figures committed to promote the work of the OGP.


So, how are National Action Plans (NAPs) developed?

Each OGP member has to define two-year National Action Plans (NAPs) containing specific and measurable commitments to enhance transparency, accountability and public participation in government. In some countries, regional and local NAPs have also been developed, but those are not mandatory.

NAPs have to be developed in cooperation with CSOs. Yes, you've heard right! Civil society has to be involved in this process, and a handy toolkit has been published to help facilitate this collaboration.

Your country's NAP can be viewed here.


And how is a NAP implementation monitored?

During the two-year NAP cycle, governments will produce yearly Self-Assessment Reports in consultation with civil society.

Moreover, there is an Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) to measure progress on the implementation of NAPs. At the national level, OGP hires independent researchers to carry out biennial independent progress reports for each participating country. In addition to publishing reports, all the data collected for the report is available in open format. For more information see the OGP Explorer and IRM Data.

The reports prepared by the IRM are overseen by an International Experts Panel (IEP) that oversees the IRM. This panel is made up of five steering members and five quality control advisors, all renowned experts in transparency, participation, and accountability.


So, I can engage at the national level, but what about at the global level?

While the core work of OGP is done at the national level via the National Action Plans, OGP also promotes global and regional cooperation.

OGP Steering Committee. Mentioned above, the Steering Committee oversees the overall strategic goals. It comprises 11 members of civil society, who serve in their individual capacity. Information on how to apply to be a member of the Steering Committee is available here.
Working groups. Civil society can also engage with OGP's working groups, created to promote thematic peer-to-peer exchange. Currently, there are six groups: open data, access to information, fiscal openness, openness in natural resources, legislative openness and anti-corruption.
OGP Global summit. Every other year, but sometimes every year, an OGP Global summit brings together hundreds of governments and civil society representatives to discuss progress, trends and challenges on the OGP's goals. CSOs can propose sessions and speakers, usually four to six months before the summit. Stay informed about opportunities to participate in the summit.

If you need more information on how to engage with OGP, you can contact the OGP Support Unit, which includes a Civil Society Engagement team.


What if states don't comply with OGP commitments?

Response policy. When a state takes measures that are contrary to OGP's principles, a so-called Response Policy can be triggered by a Steering Committee member, a working group, or other stakeholders, including civil society, involved in OGP at the national level. Response policies are handled by the Criteria and Standard Subcommittee, which provides a set of recommendations on how to redress the situation. For more information, click here.
Procedural review cases. If a participant state acts contrary to OGP processes, the Criteria and Standard Subcommittee can remove its membership. The criteria for activating this measure can be found here.
Rapid Response Mechanism. This mechanism is initiated if situations emerge in OGP countries that require a swift response, such as a violation of OGP core values, and its purpose is to communicate the position of the OGP Steering Committee. For more information on how to request a rapid response, click here.


Summarizing… how can I engage with OGP?

1. Advocate for your country to join OGP, if it is not yet part of it.

2. Be part of the NAP. Advocate to take part in the development of a National Action Plan in your country. Identify the OGP focal point in your government.

3. Engage in the implementation process. Work with your government to set up an ongoing mechanism for civil society to support and provide feedback on the implementation of OGP commitments.

4. Monitor the progress. Monitor the government's annual self-assessment report and comment on its strengths and weaknesses. You can also prepare an alternative report. The Independent Reporting Mechanism reports can also be used in your advocacy work.

5. Build coalitions in your country. Join other CSOs to ensure the NAP is implemented and civil society has a role to play.

6. Build thematic coalitions at the regional and global level. Join other CSOs to monitor progress on specific themes and organise joint sessions on the official agenda at OGP's global summit. You can also hold parallel side events.

7. Ensure that a gender dimension is integrated into your reports and contributions.

8. Stay informed! Join the civil society mailing list.


Resources

Open Government Partnership brochure

Open Government resources page

Check more ways to defend and promote the right to freedom of expression on the IFEX 5-minute explainers hub page.

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