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OGP Prepares for Brazil Conference; Serbia Joins

Source: freedominfo.org

Date: 6 April 2012

About 440 persons are expected to attend the Open Government Partnership conference in Brazil April 17-18.

Only a few national action plans have emerged in advance of the meeting, but more than 40 will be unveiled during the two days of meetings in Brasilia. For the agenda, plus a list of side events and participants, see this page.

The latest government to join the OGP is Serbia, bringing OGP total membership to 54.

In the run-up to the meeting, various OGP announcements have been made.

- Webcasts of the OGP meeting will be provided, the OGP has said.

- The OGP launched a blog.

- A three-hour meeting will be held April 18 by representatives from civil society groups, previously estimated to number more than 100, about ways work together going forward on the OGP at the country and international level.

On the day before the conference, the OGP Steering Committee will meet to discuss governance issues and other matters. No agenda has been posted for the meeting.

For all previous FreedomInfo.org articles on the OGP see this collection.

Action Plans Incoming

Action plans are expected from just over 40 countries. (The original eight members of the now 54-member organization issued their plans last September.) The plans will be presented orally April 17 in concurrent regional sessions during with government and civil society representatives will each have five minutes to make comments.

The action plans are being uploaded via an online form on the OGP website.

The form requires that countries list some contact information that has previously been largely unavailable – an overall government focal point for their OGP process (name, agency, title, contact info) as well as the specific agencies involved in each new commitment they are making, and a contact point for each of these commitments (name, agency, title, contact info).

Director of the OGP Support Unit Julie McCarthy wrote, “…. the existence of an online, searchable, tagged, downloadable and ultimately visualizable database of information on the content of each OGP country action plan that is in keeping with best practice and standards on open data.”

Among the plans known to be approached was one recently approved for the Czech Republic.

As the date for governments to announce their action plans approaches, some national controversies have ensued. In Canada activities have bemoaned the lack of a draft action plan, according to media reports such as one in the Winnipeg Free Press.

OGP Challenges Discussed

Going into the meeting, the OGP’s challenges were addressed in a post on the OGP blog by Felipe Heusser, the founder and director of Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente, a Latin American NGO based in Chile.

He says in part that “the degree to which the actions plans are the result of a participatory process, and not a mere consultation or top-down notification, is fundamental…”

A second big challenge regards to the governance of OGP, he writes, saying, “It is yet to be seen how will OGP govern member countries without mediating international treaties or law enforcing tools, and how will it govern such a diverse group of civil society organizations that though committed to democracy, are not necessarily elected bodies. We witness an innovative organization that will have to prove that transparency and civic participation can move forward without traditional law-binding instruments.”

He continues:

Risks on the other hand remain on failing to pressure governments to fulfill their transparency commitments, and to have them praise their OGP membership without achieving nor even committing to real substantive transparency reforms, in opposition to small cosmetic transparency policies that are abundant in many country action plans. The governance of civil society organizations on the equal side of governments is a chapter in itself. It is also to be seen how coordination, standards and agreements will be achieved among CSO’s, how will they be represented at upper levels of OGP, but above all, how will we develop enough cohesion to protect organizations that are left on the sides by governments that oppose an open dialogue, and cohesion to stand together to push for real transparency change.

High-Level Attendees

Confirmed attendees for the event include Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, UK Cabinet Minister Francis Maude and dozens of senior government ministers from around the world. Amongst a range of speakers are Ushahidi co-founder Juliana Rotich, Yemini anti-censorship activist Walid al-Saqaf and Indian education activist and TED-Fellow Gautam John.