22 May 2013

Good intentions seem to have prevailed as the Australian Government today indicated that it will join the Open Government Partnership and sign up to the Open Government Declaration.   So persistent has been the advocacy by Open and Shut – a privacy blog – that one could wonder if the commitment is a way to silence a critic.

The announcement highlights the contribution Australia can make to supporting the international open government movement and help spread the values of transparency and accountability in the region. The strength of the OGP is that member states are required to develop a national action plan, comprising genuine transparency measures, which is monitored by another member.  That’s the obligation.  The reality may be considerably less. Is participation of the civil society of member states to champion genuine openness when Governments may be more inclined to cosmetic changes a similarly frustrated aspiration?

Ireland has also indicated an intention to seek membership.  However Russia has now decided to pull out.  And perhaps this is the point where the enthusiasm engendered in 2012 runs down and the OGP becomes the very movement that it avowed never to be – just another international NGO.

Membership so far is in three tranches:

the founding eight:  Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States

the early adopters:  Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Domincan Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Guatemala, Honduras, Italy, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Paraguay, Peru, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay

and those possibly manoeuvred into membership by the founding eight:  Argentina, Costa Rica, Finland, Ghana, Hungary, Liberia, Mongolia, Panama, Serbia, Trinidad and Tobago

The OGP has eligibility criteria which precludes wholly undemocratic states from membership.  That distinguishes it from other aspirational arrangements, like the UN Convention Against Corruption, to which almost all countries rated poorly in the Corruption Perceptions Index have acceded.

New Zealand remains one of a small number of states outside both the UNCAC and the OGP ( some companions include Japan and Germany  – but also Syria and Sudan! )