19 September 2013

New Zealand will be joining the Open Government Partnership.  This must be wholly unconnected to the invitation to a family weekend at Balmoral, but after meeting yesterday with the UK Prime Minister – and the UK is the current co chair of the OGP – John Key indicated that he will take up the British invitation to formally express New Zealand’s intention to join the OGP later this year.

The OGP currently has 58 countries (and nine civil society organisations) committed to transparent and open government and combatting corruption.

The membership is a mixed bag with Northern European countries with aspirational values New Zealand shares, but also much of Central America and Eastern Europe with quite different motivations – yet apparently keen to adopt the underpinning Open Government Initiative. The propensity of some for corrupt and undemocratic politics must bring the genuineness of their declarations into question.

Although over the last 18 months the OGP has been recruiting hard in a largely uninterested community, Mr Key indicated that he was pleased the UK had made the invitation to join. In Australia where the previous Government had published plans to become part of the OGP had but done nothing about it, the possibility is that the Abbott administration will see signing up to the Open Government Initiative as a fitting illustration of its manifesto to restore strong, democratic and effective government.

The strength of the OGP is the involvement of civil society to avoid the partnership becoming just another side show in the international circus. Member states are required to publish a concrete, succinct and action-oriented plan with declared implementation time frames.  New Zealand already has an open government plan more reflective of the OGP expectations that the initiatives published by many of the member countries.