Open government is the simple but powerful idea that governments and institutions work better for citizens when they are transparent, engaging and accountable.
Open government has three parts:
Good open government reforms can transform the way government and public services work, ensuring that they are properly responsive to citizens, while improving their efficiency and effectiveness, and preventing abuses of state power.
The Open Government Partnership is an international initiative that provides a platform for reformers inside and outside governments around the world to develop reforms that “promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance”. Since its foundation in September 2011, over 2,000 commitments have been made by 65 participating countries, covering a third of the world’s population.
Countries must meet a set of basic eligibility criteria and agree to an Open Government Declaration to join. Once a member, governments must develop a National Action Plan with civil society in their country on a biennial basis. The government must regularly report on its progress and work with civil society to achieve the agreed reforms. Progress is evaluated at regular intervals by an independent researcher appointed by the OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism. The OGP emphasises partnership between government and civil society at all levels. Its steering committee is formed of equal government and civil society representatives, with co-chairs drawn from each.
The UK was a founding member of the OGP in 2011. Since, it has produced two National Action Plans (2011-13 & 2013-15), and is due to agree and publish its third (2015-17) by the end of 2015.
As well as its domestic role, the UK Government has been an OGP steering committee member since its foundation, and co-chaired the initiative in 2012/13.
As a member of the Open Government Partnership, every two years the UK government in collaboration with civil society must develop an open government national action plan, setting out specific, measurable and time bound commitments.
The OGP’s guidance states:
“OGP participating countries will co-create a National Action Plan (NAP) with civil society. Action plans should cover a two-year period and consist of a set of commitments that advance transparency, accountability, participation and/or technological innovation…
Action plans should be clear, succinct, and action-oriented, approximately 8-12 pages in length and written in plain language with minimal use of jargon or technical terms. All countries participating in the Open Government Partnership are asked to follow a common template for their OGP Action Plans…
Each participating country must develop an OGP National Action Plan (NAP) through a multi-stakeholder, open, and participatory process.”
So far, the UK has developed and implemented two action plans (2011-13 & 2013-15), and is in the process of developing its third (2016-18).
The implementation of a National Action Plan takes place over two years and is monitored and reported in three ways:
The OGP’s requirements state:
“Countries are to identify a forum to enable regular multi-stakeholder consultation on OGP implementation—this can be an existing entity or a new one. Having a platform for permanent dialogue can help build trust and understanding and provide a forum to exchange expertise and monitor progress…
During the two-year action plan cycle, governments are required to submit two annual Self-Assessment Reports to assess the government’s performance in living up to its OGP commitments in its action plan. The Self-Assessment Report should provide an honest evaluation of government performance in implementing its OGP commitments, based on the timelines and benchmarks included in the country’s OGP action plan…
The OGP Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) delivers biannual reports for each OGP participating country. These progress reports assess countries on the development and implementation of their OGP action plans and offer technical recommendations to help improve future action plans. The IRM is a key means by which all stakeholders can track progress and results within participating countries. All participating governments are therefore required to participate in the IRM’s reporting procedures and cooperate with the IRM local researchers to provide information.”
So far, the UK government has produced two self assessment reports and the IRM has produced one progress report (with a second due to be published in Summer 2015).