I was fortunate enough to attend the official Open Government Partnership (OGP) launch event in New York City today, including the heads of state meeting/confab at which presidents and prime ministers spoke of their countries' aspirations and commitments under OGP. While we're hoping to do some more in-depth analysis of the eight steering committee governments' OGP commitments in the coming days, here are some quick reactions to what's been happening.
The momentum is real. Although Global Integrity has been fairly involved with the ideation (yes, I just used that word) around OGP since the early days, we've also been healthy skeptics about its potential. We've worried about OGP becoming a platform for prosletyzing about "open data" rather than a broader initiative aimed at promoting a range of reforms, including open data efforts. While the proof will be in the pudding in the coming months as dozens of new governments develop their OGP commitments and the eight steering committee governments begin implementing theirs, it's fair to say that OGP is, for the time being at least, the real deal. My sense is that there is real energy around this initiative right now felt by both civil society and governments. I'm more excited than ever about our role in matching aspiring OGP governments with providers of open government expertise under the OGP Networking Mechanism, which could be really exciting in the coming months. Want to join that effort? Here's how.
The hard work is yet to come. In some ways, getting 40+ governments to sign up to OGP is the easy part. What's going to be trickier and likely more controversial will be coming to an agreement around how civil society will be monitoring governments' efforts to implement their OGP commitments. We've heard about country self-assessments as well as "international experts" measuring country performance. The latter has and will continue to raise the hackles of some governments (cough, India). I've also heard the idea of a peer review mechanism floating around. My quick take? Stick with government self-assessments coupled with independent third-party evaluations (whether domestic civil society and/or an international panel of experts). I've been sufficiently unimpressed with other peer review mechanisms (sorry OAS and APRM) to think they will somehow be worth the effort this time around.
The exciting stuff is also yet to come. You know what really excites me about OGP? Getting provinces, states, regions, and municipalities involved. This is where the govenance rubber meets the road for citizens, and where it's easiest and fastest to move the needle on reform. Will coordinating sub-national governments and politicians with their national counterparts be a hassle? Sure. Will it be worth the effort? Absolutely.
Watch this space for more from us in reaction to all of this week's events.
— Nathaniel Heller