22 September 2013

The announcement that New Zealand will seek membership of the Open Government Partnership was blogged favourably on Open and Shut – the Australian privacy blog, which periodically bemoans the reluctance of the Australian government to do anything more than talk about OGP membership.

The application process is formally structured, with specified dates by which aspirant states are required to comply.  To become part of the  “Group Four” nations which will become members from April 2014 New Zealand will have to apply by December and by the end March have a draft action plan developed in concert with civil society on how it will give effect to the OGP principles (as the NZ chapter of Transparency International released a media statement applauding the New Zealand move there will be civil society support).

By April 2014 New Zealand must have presented its plan to the OGP steering committee, and begun putting the plan into action. Then by September 2015 it will report on progress with implementing the plan and confirm whether it intends remaining a member.

This structure is intended to ensure that real change is effected and the OGP does not develop the talkfest characteristics of most international organisations.  Russia, which joined the Second Group indicated in May this year that it will not continue as a member.

There are several websites promoting awareness of the OGP, through news and blog items. The Freedom website although reporting the Prime Minister’s statement, spelled his name incorrectly.

An interesting post on the Global Integrity website last week suggests that the US President, criticised by many for having no strategic approach to foreign policy,  in fact is promoting open government as the Obama Policy!

“Here’s the argument:

  • Open government is one of the few policy issues of interest to this administration that cuts across both domestic and international lines and has commanded the President’s personal attention and engagement. It was his senior aides in the first term that conceptualized and helped launch the Open Government Partnership, a ground breaking partnership between 60 governments and civil society to advance the open government agenda internationally. While domestic open government reforms are indeed very incomplete, the president and a number of close advisors have done more to push the agenda than a number of his predecessors combined.
  • While observers like Inboden rightly point to certain key foreign policy cabinet officials being distant from the president (e.g. Kerry, Hagel, Clinton), he chose to install a close advisor and open government champion in the form of Samantha Power as ambassador to the UN. Fellow OGP architect Jeremy Weinstein, who left the White House to return to Stanford two years ago, has been recently called back to serve as Power’s chief of staff in New York.
  • An open government approach helps to explain, at least in part, why we might be perceiving a hesitation on the part of the president to micromanage other countries’ internal processes (or conflicts). Open government, for all its warts, relies on an approach of governments hashing out their challenges with domestic constituencies and local stakeholders, not with elite power brokers and kingmakers at the international level….”