How sustainable is OGP? - Al Kags
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How sustainable is OGP?

Having been involved in promoting the Open Government Partnership over the past couple of years in Africa, I have had a couple of experiences that have introduced a nagging worry at the back of my head that has continued to grow. Today, in conversation with colleagues at OpentheGovernment.org, where I am spending my days, the nagging worry codified into a coherent worry. Keep in mind that this is the beginning of the thought and I doubt that it is an original thought at all but I shall tag the gurus in this space – you know the likes of Alex HowardJohn Wonderlich of Sunlight Foundation, the integrilicious Nathaniel Heller and Martin Tisne as well as others.

Martin recently put up a blog where he reviewed the vast successes of OGP (and I have to agree, they are many). It is unprecedented to have so many countries voluntarily sign on to an international governance initiative without fear of sanctions and reprisals. There are global treaties that have taken literally decades to get ratified by the same number of countries as OGP, which grew in just 3-4 yers. From Brazil to Kenya and Senegal to Bali and Mongolia, it is encouraging to see many countries coming together voluntarily upon a great idea that can help change their citizens’ lives for the better. In the same way a parent worries about a well behaved teenager who wants to go out on her first rave, I am having this nagging worry about how we protect the gains and momentum that OGP has had in these past few years.

I am worried that the Open Government Partnership, while a laudable and useful tool to strengthen the position of the citizen in the general governance area, is too dependent on individual whim to be sustainable in the long term.

Take the US for example: today my distant cousin 🙂 Barack Obama stands at the forefront of the open agenda. He brought “Open By Default” back stronger and better than during the clinton days. He has pushed the Open Government Partnership agenda fairly strongly and consistently all through. It will be remembered that George W Bush didn’t much care for it and so the US government did not work too hard to go above and beyond the requirements of  the US Freedom Of Information Act (FOYA).

So here’s the hypothetical. Suppose the president that comes after Obama holds a policy inclination that Open Government is rather lower on her list of priorities than it currently is? Would the US be as proactive in opening up government? Of course, it helps a great deal that a lot of the tenets of open government are enshrined in law and therefore they would likely hold.

The situation in many other countries that are voluntarily participating in the Open Government initiative is that as governments change, so do their priorities and perspectives. On such matters as OGP where the participation is not enshrined in a treaty, governments participate (or don’t) based on the prevailing whim of their leadership. It is possible that whim may seem like a strong word such as it is, but a lot of government policy is whimsical in the beginning until it is protected in law by an Act of whatever National Assembly structure in the country.

In Africa for example, OGP is quietly viewed by some significantly influential leaders as a foreign agenda that is driven by the west (which in the face of the renewed Pan-African agenda 2063 is freshly relevant) and therefore Africans must define what Open might mean for them and its level of priority. “I have two views for you,” said a senior government official to me, “Officially, we support OGP wholeheartedly. Unofficially, we are not so sure it is for Africa.” I have heard this train of thought multiple times from at least 3 countries.

As I spend some time thinking through the participation of CSOs in government, I find that their position seems to be as fickle. “At least there is still funding for Open Government and so our work is likely to continue,” said a senior official of a CSO. I’m not so sure. A lot of the money for the work that CSOs do come from the global aid agencies and  international donor agencies. Often, the priorities for these organisations change radically based on their analysis of what they are likely to have impact on. If government loose interest, it is not inconcievable that funding for Open Government could easily dry up.

I suppose one solution to my worry is to work fast while governments have interest to enshrine such things as freedom of information, proactive disclosure and participatory budgeting in law as quickly as possible and try to make sure that “machine readable formats” are legislated. This way even if OGP is no longer sexy, its value remains.

But the ideal situation is to protect its longevity by sustaining the participation of governments inspite of the changes in electoral cycles.

Comments

comments

Al Kags
alkags@good.co.ke
34 Comments
  • How sustainable is OGP? | Open Institute
    Posted at 17:13h, 12 August

    […] This post is reblogged from Al Kags blog […]

    • Anne Jellema
      Posted at 12:16h, 13 August

      Al, this takes me back to the good points that Open Institute has made in the past (e.g. http://openinstitute.com/aprm-ogp-whats-the-plan/) about the importance of integrating regional processes such as the APRM into the OGP. Way back in 2003, well before the OGP came into being, the African Union launched the African Peer Review Mechanism to foster the adoption of reforms in areas such as political governance, corporate governance, economic governance and social development. Like the OGP it is voluntary, and like the OGP it depends on the preparation and scrutiny of national action plans. As such it shares some of the same strengths and weaknesses as the OGP, but it undoubtedly has strong political ownership among African leaders, and is seen as home-grown. There can be little question that both initiatives have a lot to gain from harmonising action plans and related processes, at least for the “democracy and good political governance” dimension of the APRM. And that it is a shame that trends in donor funding seem to be pushing most African CSOs to invest way more time and energy in the global mechanism (the OGP) than in the regional one (APRM). Ideally, African civil society should be able to make the most of both global and regional levers as different, but complementary, ways to enhance the momentum for change at a national level. Plus, lack of resources to enable CSOs to engage with the APRM will ultimately weaken it to the point that it becomes irrelevant, which would not be a good outcome for any of us.

    • Florencia Guerzovich
      Posted at 16:54h, 13 August

      Dear all,
      Thanks for a stimulating conversation. It’s interesting to get a glimpse at the calculations that different stakeholders make as they think about OGP’s potential. It’s great to see the exchange bring in two key, albeit more abstract, related issues to shake up the conversation: a) Stakeholders’ time horizons and b) Gaps between international institutions as designed and international institutions as they are used in practice.

      OGP is a few years old, as Joe reminds is. There is much in OGP’s nature that relies on short-term dynamics and voluntary agreement, as mentioned in the posts. Founders are still around so they keep reminding us what they designed the institution for or not (it’s a platform not a standard, it’s a race to the top, not a competition). But, if this is not a short-term project, we should probably do well remembering that institutions, domestic and international, do not always work as and when expected by their original designers (opposing views http://www.cambridge.org/zw/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/international-relations-and-international-organisations/rational-design-international-institutions).

      Institutions that appeared to be less than promising can survive (and deliver), poster children can reverse or even backfire (respectively, http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/cjil2&div=7&id=&page= and http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2364136). One reason may be that domestic and international cycles and politics do not work synchronically or in tandem, but there may be others such as constituencies that use or fail to use these agreements including civil servants, judges, and civil society groups or other international regimes interact with yours.

      An important question is what do we do with this information about the unintended/unexpected from the designers’ point of view? Do we ignore it or do we learn for change? The alternative political calculations and time horizons in this conversation are a welcome challenge to think outside the formal, short-term box of the global, foundational OGP conversation. In bridging gaps with local and regional politics we might be able to learn for change (agree with Anne on this point). Certainly, the challenge is welcome because I make the assumption, born by some evidence, that these factors are important to drive and sustain change on the ground in situations that could be analogous to OGP ( http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1599606). Not all share my assumption.

      More below, reacting to a very active exchange
      Best
      Florencia Guerzovich
      @guerzovich

    • Florencia Guerzovich
      Posted at 16:55h, 13 August

      Dear all,
      Thanks for a stimulating conversation. It’s interesting to get a glimpse at the calculations that different stakeholders make as they think about OGP’s potential. It’s great to see the exchange bring in two key, albeit more abstract, related issues to shake up the conversation: a) Stakeholders’ time horizons and b) Gaps between international institutions as designed and international institutions as they are used in practice.

      OGP is a few years old, as Joe reminds is. There is much in OGP’s nature that relies on short-term dynamics and voluntary agreement, as mentioned in the posts. Founders are still around so they keep reminding us what they designed the institution for or not (it’s a platform not a standard, it’s a race to the top, not a competition). But, if this is not a short-term project, we should probably do well remembering that institutions, domestic and international, do not always work as and when expected by their original designers (opposing views http://www.cambridge.org/zw/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/international-relations-and-international-organisations/rational-design-international-institutions).

      Institutions that appeared to be less than promising can survive (and deliver), poster children can reverse or even backfire (respectively, http://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals/cjil2&div=7&id=&page= and http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2364136). One reason may be that domestic and international cycles and politics do not work synchronically or in tandem, but there may be others such as constituencies that use or fail to use these agreements including civil servants, judges, and civil society groups or other international regimes interact with yours.

      An important question is what do we do with this information about the unintended/unexpected from the designers’ point of view? Do we ignore it or do we learn for change? The alternative political calculations and time horizons in this conversation are a welcome challenge to think outside the formal, short-term box of the global, foundational OGP conversation. In bridging gaps with local and regional politics we might be able to learn for change (agree with Anne on this point). Certainly, the challenge is welcome because I make the assumption, born by some evidence, that these factors are important to drive and sustain change on the ground in situations that could be analogous to OGP ( http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1599606). Not all share my assumption.

      More below, reacting to a very active exchange
      Best
      Florencia

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 17:19h, 12 August

    @digiphile @JohnWonderlich @OpenTheGov @martintisne @Integrilicious @maassenpaul @josephpowell You have been tagged. http://t.co/JkSpDtQ2oo

  • Top Kenyan Blogs (@Blogs_Kenya)
    Posted at 17:57h, 12 August

    [Al Kags Officially] How sustainable is OGP?: Having been involved in promoting the Open Governmen… http://t.co/dLKYmRWO8S via @alkags

  • Alfred PM
    Posted at 18:05h, 12 August

    Dear Al,

    This is the first time for me to comment on a blog, but I feel that I must make some contribution.

    As a government official, I have to say that you have given voice to concerns that some of us have quietly held even as we have continued to try and engage fruitfully with Civil Society Organisations. As a lawyer, I worry about taking a whole nation down a path that is not assured of lasting success. While OGP has some structure, my biggest concern has been that it is too loose a structure for me as a government official to defend. Countries ratify treaties and streamline them into their work so that it is not dependent on the political leader in power at the time. I wonder what would be the effect to my citizens if we signed up to OGP and then some years down the line the government changes its mind about the value of OGP to the citizens.

    There is a much greater concern in Africa that I share with many other people including our leaders. I am not convinced that OGP generally and Open Data specifically is in the interests of our people. Apart from you and one or two other Africans, we have not seen real warm support for OGP in our countries and where we have encountered it with other governments, it has been in the person of Ms. Dlodlo of South Africa, who supports it albeit with some visible reservation. This definitely has impacted the speed with which some of us move.

    To be clear, I support you when you say that governments must create spaces for citizens to contribute to governance. But I am not sure that majority of our citizens have the literacy or the capacity to digest governance information at any significant scale, for them to be effective. We must build that capacity first. The major concern is that the people who interpret the information for them are usually C.S.Os that are funded by the same foreign governments and they – in line with the piper who must call the tune – distort the information to cause trouble. Indeed accountability is important. But many CSOs have not built the capacity to be objective and to work in concert with us to build the citizen’s capacity.

    The same CSOs are often themselves not transparent. How many CSOs do you know have Open Data? They publish annual reports in PDFs and ask governments to publish excel sheets. Why the double standard?

    Now, each time I have voiced my concerns to people in your “open community” such as it may be, I am met with rolling eyes and exasperation – and no real responses. I appreciate that you and your colleagues have taken the time to explain again and again the values of OGP and of Open Data, but until you have dealt with the concerns of government people, you will not see sustainable movement.

    Warm regards,

    Alfred.

    • Nathaniel Heller
      Posted at 20:59h, 12 August

      Great thoughts and post, Al.

      Two quick thought experiments/reactions, partly in response to Alfred’s comments above:

      – Do we know what percentage of treaty-bound commitments governments around the world actually stick to and implement as opposed to compliance with voluntary “personality-led” processes like OGP? We assume treaties are more binding on governments, but I would take the time to unpack that a bit. The UN Convention Against Corruption, for example, is a great example of most of governments in the world signing up…with very little implementation or meaningful change occurring. Let’s be careful of equating “treaties” with “better.”

      – There are far, far more than “one or two” Africans that support open government and open data. Africans, in fact, place more importance on “an honest and responsive government” than they do on “access to clean water and sanitation” or “phone or internet access,” according to the UN myWorld Survey (http://data.myworld2015.org/). When Africans speak for themselves, the message is loud and clear.

      • Alfred PM
        Posted at 22:03h, 12 August

        Dear Mr. Heller,

        Thank you for your comments. Specifically in response to your thought experiments I wish to state the following.

        First, I would stand by my view that treaties are “better” than voluntary initiatives in the context of sustainability and also in the context of lasting effectiveness. If one separates the idea of effectiveness of initiatives from the commitment for a moment, one realises that treaties such as the one you cite have a much more lasting commitment and there exists a platform for evaluation of effectiveness a year (even a generation) down the line. If I were to review the treaty that you chose for an example: Only 7 countries in the world are not full state parties (meaning that they have signed and ratified) to the convention and only 5 that have not signed it at all. These include Suriname, Somalia and Chad. Signing and Ratification signifies lasting commitment to eradicate corruption by the states. The impact of initiatives that ensue from the treaty is not linear, i.e. we cannot say because of dealing with the police leadership, corruption has reduced. It would be a combination of sustained initiatives over time. But then the impact is visible and measurable.

        If you take the time to review most African countries’ performance on corruption, you can see sustained improvements over the years – especially as government service provision has improved. Indeed if you looked at countries like India, Malaysia, South Africa and even Kenya, where Mr. Al is from, you can see that as service provision has improved, coupled with strong commitment by the government on corruption and also importantly, public confidence in the state, corruption has reduced. There are numerous reports from the UN and Transparency international that bear me out on this one.

        I simply am saying that you cannot really gauge the impact of voluntary initiatives like OGP in the same way as you could a treaty. Also, as a government official working with government officials in other African countries, I can tell you that there is little connection (during implementation) between the work that civil servants are doing and the commitments made by member countries in OGP. Look at Kenya and South Africa for example. Kenya has a “draft” document on the OGP site as it first action plan (which draft has since been evaluated). If you speak to the people implementing the projects, you will not hear OGP mentioned anywhere. In South Africa they have committed to school connectivity (commitment number 6). In the ICT School Connectivity plan (2012), I dare you to find the words “open” “citizen participation” or “open government” anywhere. But they are doing what they have committed to because it is government policy – which would be effected whether or not OGP existed.

        If OGP was a TREATY that required action plans, you would never see a document treated so casually as to have a draft unsigned document for a year in public that is treated as a final document. You would see that globally (even in the US) civil servants mention the treaties that relate to major policy initiatives in their plans and show that the countries commitments in those treaties are also being fulfilled.

        Treaties are better than voluntary activities because they are public contracts and they are enforceable – even by the citizens of the country. I don’t think we shall see any protests on any of our streets soon relating directly to Open Government.

        In his blog, Mr. Al worries about the sustainability of the initiative because of its dependence on the pleasure of the politicians. I contend that he is right to worry. To be clear, I am not advocating for an Open Government Treaty. That is for greater minds than myself to advocate. But in the specific context of sustainability, then indeed OGP is founded on sand.

        On the second, with regard to support for OGP in Africa, I concede that there must be more than a handful of people who support it with fervour. I admit to having mis-spoke. Rosa Luxembourg said, “the masses are the decisive element.” On OGP, even among the intellectual elite in Africa who wield influence like Mr. Al, s

        (Incidentally, Mr. Al, you will notice that I am careful not to refer to my own country, as I am one of the people responsible for managing the sensitive process of the country’s movement into OGP – my president has committed to it and I a mere civil servant must actualise it. But even as I do, I hold the concerns that Mr. Al discusses here and I hope to be better educated by the end of this heartwarming debate. Alfred is a pseudonym that enables me to debate frankly and hopefully educate myself as I proceed to help my country be annexed to OGP.)

        My warmest regards,

        Alfred.

        • Nathaniel Heller
          Posted at 03:13h, 13 August

          Thanks for all of the thoughts Alfred. We could certainly debate the treaty vs. voluntary argument without coming to much of a consensus. To some extent I am playing devil’s advocate — I do agree treaties carry weight and can help to achieve some change at the country level. My main point is that they may only be marginally more effective than other modalities and, more importantly, as a community we have very little data by which to judge the effectiveness of either treaties or voluntary initiatives. It’s a faith-based argument 🙂

          One interesting case to consider: the OGP’s institutional model was the Nuclear Security Summit (https://www.nss2014.com/en). Like OGP, this summit brought together governments under a completely voluntary basis to make commitments to greater nuclear security and non-proliferation. Within two years of the summit, nearly 80% of country commitments had been implemented, including some historic milestones that for two generations had been difficult to achieve under treaty-based regimes such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (see http://www.armscontrol.org/files/ACA_NSS_Report_2012.pdf).This included securing all of Ukraine’s highly enriched uranium, which given was has transpired in the past 6 months there could have posed a grave threat to international security. My only point here is that one could argue that a voluntary initiative arguably “outperformed” a treaty in the Nuclear Security Summit case.

          Last point: I wouldn’t discount the importance of civil servants (speaking as a former civil servant myself) or over emphasize the importance of politicians in long-term policy making and implementation. Even in heavy handed, top-down systems civil servants still matter, and they can at times carry on initiatives (treaty or not) regardless of who their new boss might be.

          • Joe Powell
            Posted at 13:05h, 13 August

            Dear Alfred, Nathaniel,

            Thanks for all the thoughtful contributions. I am not contractually obliged to defend OGP – despite working for the OGP Support Unit (read secretariat) – but I hope the following is useful:

            – I think the experience across Africa varies – there is certainly no one ‘African OGP’ experience to date. In Tunisia and Sierra Leone there is huge energy from Government and CSOs to use it as a platform to make some really interesting ‘open’ commitments. In Tanzania the chances of a Freedom of Information law passing have I believe increased because of the international spotlight OGP puts on a country. In other countries interest may have waned and it is right that we analyse why and see what we can do to ensure OGP is not subject to the double-speak that Al refers to.

            – OGP is a platform, not a standard. This can’t be said often enough. There is no big bureaucracy behind it like an UNCAC or even a Community of Democracies. OGP works when government reformers and civil society at the national level see it as an opportunity to do things that would otherwise not have been done. I agree Alfred that some of the commitments countries are making would have happened anyway. I disagree that this is a problem, as long as some of the commitments in each plan are new, ambitious, innovative and reflect civil society demands.

            – I totally agree OGP has not reached the formality of other international initiatives – certainly treaties. Alfred is right to point out some Action Plans are poorly presented, not translated well etc. However, there is a big difference with other initiatives including – as I understand it – APRM: the evaluation of the action plan implementation is independent and not subject to government veto or redaction. This contrasts with OECD reviews and other forms of accountability reports which can be watered down. OGP has managed to convince most of its member countries that frank and credible evaluation is an important learning tool. I encourage Alfred and others to take a look at some of the Independent Reporting Mechanism reports. The challenge we clearly have is getting those reports more widely read and to ensure that civil servant use them.

            I could go on (!) but suffice to say OGP is less than 3 years old and we’re constantly looking at ways we can build a stronger platform so that national reformers to make the most of us. The hard work – from government ministers to civil servants to civil society – is to embrace a new culture of policy making and see opening up government as means to make a difference in people’s lives.

            Joe Powell

            P.S. Alfred – call me, let’s talk…

        • Nathaniel Heller
          Posted at 03:13h, 13 August

          Thanks for all of the thoughts Alfred. We could certainly debate the treaty vs. voluntary argument without coming to much of a consensus. To some extent I am playing devil’s advocate — I do agree treaties carry weight and can help to achieve some change at the country level. My main point is that they may only be marginally more effective than other modalities and, more importantly, as a community we have very little data by which to judge the effectiveness of either treaties or voluntary initiatives. It’s a faith-based argument 🙂

          One interesting case to consider: the OGP’s institutional model was the Nuclear Security Summit (https://www.nss2014.com/en). Like OGP, this summit brought together governments under a completely voluntary basis to make commitments to greater nuclear security and non-proliferation. Within two years of the summit, nearly 80% of country commitments had been implemented, including some historic milestones that for two generations had been difficult to achieve under treaty-based regimes such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (see http://www.armscontrol.org/files/ACA_NSS_Report_2012.pdf).This included securing all of Ukraine’s highly enriched uranium, which given was has transpired in the past 6 months there could have posed a grave threat to international security. My only point here is that one could argue that a voluntary initiative arguably “outperformed” a treaty in the Nuclear Security Summit case.

          Last point: I wouldn’t discount the importance of civil servants (speaking as a former civil servant myself) or over emphasize the importance of politicians in long-term policy making and implementation. Even in heavy handed, top-down systems civil servants still matter, and they can at times carry on initiatives (treaty or not) regardless of who their new boss might be.

          • Florencia Guerzovich
            Posted at 17:00h, 13 August

            Some quick musings on the direction the conversation: certainly, OGP reflects a broader bet for “soft-law” as a more effective (alternative) way of managing global governance and promoting effectiveness on-the ground (on the trend and model beyond open government, http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1693685). The debates between the role and potential of international hard and soft law are long-standing among international relations and international law experts and practitioners (but I won’t bore you with citations).
            The discussion seems to conflate different questions than are related but can have different empirical answers:
            1. Why do countries buy-into agreements? Under what conditions and in which direction does the hard/soft law nature of the agreement affect the decision? I suspect that while for Alfred the hard law nature of an agreement may increase the likelihood of buying into the agreement, in many other cases, hard law would have undermined membership. For instance, imagine where would we be if OGP had had to go through US Congressional ratification? Perhaps this is where many of the founding countries were coming from? In this context, I particularly value Alfred’s candidness because I presume is a calculation we’ve heard less forcefully and frequently in the OGP debate.
            2. What drives effectiveness? Buying into an agreement (hard or soft) does not mean compliance, let alone effectiveness. We know of many cases in which hard agreements do not trigger change in the direction intended by the agreement (or those who sign it), as Nathaniel points out. But there are a range of examples where soft law doesn’t work either, as Alfred suspects. In fact, many would argue that most treaties are not effective because they are not hard enough (i.e. no international court). There are mixes of hard and soft law that work – even in international anticorruption treaties and mechanisms. I doubt former President Alberto Fujimori intended international agreements to be used in cases against himself (see ch.8 https://www.rienner.com/uploads/4c2a0f3ceb98a.pdf). The trickier bit is to move towards understanding the conditions under which this happens in particular types of policies/geographies. The politics of open data in the health sector in country X are likely to be different to those of asset disclosure or money in politics in country A. What makes the nuclear regime a good comparison for open government? If we think learning/evidence can/should inform better decisions on this matter, we need to go beyond cherry picking examples or overgeneralizing to get at actionable and/or persuasive arguments. (http://www.transparency-initiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Think-Piece-Guerzovich-Shaw.pdf)
            3. Is any of this ratification / effectiveness related to sustainability? Perhaps. We have plenty of well documented examples of international organizations, projects and practices that go on, without linking their stated missions and on-the ground dynamics and results. Unintendedly/unexpectedly, efforts that survive for a long time contribute to reproducing status quo and draining resources from uses with a bigger potential. A larger membership could help survival, at the expense of deeper positive change. I imagine OGP advocates will say that this is precisely why they built something new, but as time goes by these issues can affect OGP as well…

            Best
            Florencia

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 19:16h, 12 August

    RT @josephpowell: .@alkags on sustainability of OGP – is it too dependent on ‘prevailing whim of their [member country] leadership’ http://…

  • @RRHunja
    Posted at 19:32h, 12 August

    RT @josephpowell: .@alkags on sustainability of OGP – is it too dependent on ‘prevailing whim of their [member country] leadership’ http://…

  • @michaelgurstein
    Posted at 23:29h, 12 August

    Very thoughtful discussion on #OGP and #sustainability in #Africa http://t.co/f9mKFR5iGP @alkags

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 04:05h, 13 August

    RT @michaelgurstein: Very thoughtful discussion on #OGP and #sustainability in #Africa http://t.co/f9mKFR5iGP @alkags

  • @TAInitiative
    Posted at 07:54h, 13 August

    RT @Halloran_B: Interesting post from @alkags and subsequent discussion from @Integrilicious and others on #OGP esp. in Africa http://t.co…

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 12:26h, 13 August

    @AFJellema has made some very important points on OGP concerns in Africa http://t.co/JkSpDtQ2oo

  • @josephpowell
    Posted at 15:21h, 13 August

    Great comments on @alkags blog from @Integrilicious @AFJellema and ‘Alfred’. I’ve tried to add something…http://t.co/nJHf4svL3G

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 15:46h, 13 August

    RT @josephpowell: Great comments on @alkags blog from @Integrilicious @AFJellema and ‘Alfred’. I’ve tried to add something…http://t.co/nJ…

  • @guerzovich
    Posted at 17:06h, 13 August

    Qs @opengovpart’s future via @alkags
    Binding=Effective=Sustainable?
    Will #OGP work as designed? Short & long term?
    http://t.co/cXxy9G6Lvt

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 18:56h, 13 August

    RT @guerzovich: Qs @opengovpart’s future via @alkags
    Binding=Effective=Sustainable?
    Will #OGP work as designed? Short & long term?
    http://…

  • @FTM_Network
    Posted at 19:54h, 13 August

    How sustainable is OGP? by @alkags with useful comments by @Integrilicious @josephpowell @AFJellema + covert “Alfred” http://t.co/x93yTg4Ni5

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 21:08h, 13 August

    RT @alanhudson1: How sustainable is OGP? by @alkags with useful comments by @Integrilicious @josephpowell @AFJellema + covert “Alfred” http…

  • @AFJellema
    Posted at 08:03h, 14 August

    RT @alanhudson1: How sustainable is OGP? by @alkags with useful comments by @Integrilicious @josephpowell @AFJellema + covert “Alfred” http…

  • Anne M
    Posted at 16:03h, 14 August

    Al,

    This is a very stimulating conversation that you have started and as a government official in Southern Africa, I echo both your concerns and those of Alfred. I like that this is a space that we can speak without being seen clearly so that we are able to be honest.

    I think that OGP has made some valuable contribution to get countries to think more keenly about involving citizens. I also think that in the way that it has built a community of nations globally, it has been useful. It has been helpful to see the initiatives in other countries that have led to great citizen participation – especially in South America and even in Kenya where I was particularly impressed to hear from the minister in Washington about the huduma centers. Many of these ideas, we are working on replicating in our countries.

    Even as we do, my country and a number of others are a little hesitant to join OGP because it looks like a fad that is driven by the west and the donors. Speaking for my country and for other countries in Africa that share this view, we share the general vision – of involving citizens in public affairs and empowering them to contribute to policy. But I am suspicious of the whole push for our countries to be open to the world – publish our budgets, procurement data, and other development data. Even the countries that are championing this idea are not quite that open. I would especially love to hear honest views about just how open the US and the UK is (forget even the notion of proactively open that I heard being peddled now in Washington DC during the US-Africa Summit)

    I think OGP advocates like you should study the emerging Africa and make sure that the thinking of OGP aligns well with Africa’s own goals. The time is here that Africans define their own destiny and this continued push of western ideologies (however noble) can get in the way.

    • Florencia Guerzovich
      Posted at 16:52h, 14 August

      As regions and Latin America have been mentioned as relevant inspirations.

      Here’s an evaluation Open Society commissioned a few years ago (before OGP) about how CSOs in Latin America were using (or not) the platform created by anticorruption mechanisms to bring about change at country level

      A few pointers that may be relevant for the conversation: the region has a history of state-society relationships build around international mechanisms.

      The regional platform added value for change because it is used by real stakeholders (public officials like Alfred or Anne more than others – so it is a big deal to listen).

      This shared experience is invaluable – Latin American stakeholders can build on much, but: what was useful to advocate in the 1990s, was not useful for the same stakeholders in the 2000s, and is unlikely to be helpful in the 2010s. The international and national ecosystems are bigger than yourself and your friends and, over time change. Sure, learning for change is not easy.

      Learn more about these issues here, especially chapter 6 http://www.opensocietyfoundations.org/reports/effectiveness-international-anticorruption-conventions-domestic-policy-changes-latin-america

      Regards
      Florencia

    • Nathaniel Heller
      Posted at 17:04h, 14 August

      Thanks Anne. Very good thoughts and questions.

      Two quick thoughts in response:

      1) If the US and UK were completely closed and authoritarian countries, would that be justification for, say, Malawi to not invite greater public participation and openness with its citizens? My point: it’s a bit of a thin reed to say that “Africa” should only do as much as the “West.” In my view, there’s no reason Africa shouldn’t seek to outperform the West on all things “open.” We should be setting the bar higher; why can’t Africa be the most open continent in the world regardless of what other countries do?

      2) An honest question: why the fear about “…the whole push for our countries to be open to the world – publish our budgets, procurement data, and other development data?” What’s the worst case scenario that keeps you up at night if Country X were to publish her budgets and procurement data? Is there something to hide, or do you worry that the information would be misrepresented by media or others? As much of an honest answer here would be very illuminating to me.

    • Patrice McDermott
      Posted at 18:46h, 14 August

      Anne,
      I cannot speak to OGP in Africa, but I can speak to the lever that OGP and the US National Action Plan(NAP) have provided to civil society in the United States. My organization coordinates the work of US civil society organizations (that work on transparency and accountability) with government officials responsible for implementing the commitments in the US NAP. Is the US government fully open? Of course not. But we are making real progress in making our budget and spending data more easily accessible — and usable — by the public. We are engaged in the IATI (intern’l aid transparency initiative) and still have a long way to go to make our aid as trackable (down to who in a recipient country is actually getting the aid to disburse) as it ideally should be — but OGP has given civil society — and committed people inside the government — the lever to pry more information & data loose. Similarly, we are engaged in EITI and are taking (initial) steps toward requiring the beneficial owners of companies to be identified. These are both commitments in the NAP.

      We are a lot further along toward making information (including data) proactively available — certainly than we were before this president. Agencies are putting information up on their websites — info that is not just “here is how great we are” — for the public to use to understand the effect of government policies on communities, to learn where to get assistance, etc. Do we still have problems getting information from agencies about how policies were created, who had a role in their creation, etc.? Yes. But the implementation of our Freedom of Information Act is being actively improved with the collaboration of the government and civil society. OGP and our NAP have been great levers for this.

      Even in the area of national security, steps — small steps — are being made. Members of civil society are meeting together with personnel from the intelligence and national security communities to talk about how to make more information about surveillance practices available to the public (by declassifying it), and how to create a climate where less information is classified in the first place.

      The public cannot be meaningfully be involved or empowered to contribute to policy without good information — beyond that that the government would like them to see or is comfortable sharing with them. Transparency is not just for its own sake — it is for accountability. That is exactly why the public in African countries, as elsewhere, absolutely have to have the maximal possible access to full, accurate, current and usable government information. I would be surprised to learn that these are not also the goals of the citizens of the countries of Africa.

  • Al Kags (@alkags)
    Posted at 16:12h, 14 August

    I’m like a hyper kid on sugar (so stimulated) by comments on http://t.co/wAXWmJnDEc #OGP sustainability

  • @guerzovich
    Posted at 16:55h, 14 August

    Link insight from #LAC 2 chat: @opengovpart sustainability #Africa v @alkags http://t.co/pPAeh2aEB1 cc @VondaJBrown1 @zoe_reiter @emi202

  • @zoe_reiter
    Posted at 07:58h, 19 August

    RT @guerzovich: Link insight from #LAC 2 chat: @opengovpart sustainability #Africa v @alkags http://t.co/pPAeh2aEB1 cc @VondaJBrown1 @zoe_r…

  • @sihombingnanda
    Posted at 04:22h, 26 August

    Hi @alkags, We share the same concern; OGP might be too dependent on individual to be sustainable in the long term http://t.co/x97KGGZ2g2

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