14 April 2015
Last week State Services Commission announced a proposal for a Stakeholder Advisory Group that would help shape the way New Zealand gives effect to its commitments as a member of the Open Government Partnership. The SSC website seeks expressions of interest from interested parties willing to serve on the Stakeholder Group. SAG seems to be an unfortunate acronym for enthusiasts who will be paid an allowance and travel expenses for attending up to seven meetings a year which are intended stimulate Open Government principles across the public sector. A cross section of the community is invited to show interest, with particular reference to the inclusion of Maori, Business, Civil Society –being the community and voluntary sectors, and Academia.
A google search suggests that few in these target groupings have awareness of, or interested in, the aspirations of the Open Government Partnership. This of course is not a surprise. There is almost no familiarity with the OGP or of New Zealand’s action plans and the compliance regime concomitant with membership.
This despite results of the 2015 Open Government Index conducted by the World Justice Programme showing that New Zealand is perceived as the second most open administration measured on the dimensions of published laws and government data, right to information, civic participation and complaints mechanisms. New Zealand is achieving the characteristics promoted by the OGP although not yet having completed the full requirements of membership
(see Correction below).
Australia appears less committed than New Zealand to the OGP. The Australian Freedom of Information blog – Open and Shut which is critical of the reticence of Australian Governments to give effect to platitudes about information freedom – had a post on 11 April suggesting that good government could be reclaimed if there was a genuine commitment to the Open Government Partnership, and a “meaningful” relationship with civic society to develop action plans required by the OGP. Although not an OGP member Australia nevertheless is ranked 9th on the 2015 Open Government Index.
Andrew Ecclestone (SSC) has confirmed that New Zealand fulfilled the OGP membership requirements by publishing its action plans. The specification on the OGP website that membership involves countries submitting a letter endorsing the Principles of the Open Government Declaration is now satisfied with the publishing of its approved action plan.
The following website guidance is no longer the practice:
“To join OGP, countries must commit to uphold the principles of open and transparent government by endorsing the Open Government Declaration …. Through endorsing this Declaration, countries commit to “foster a global culture of open government that empowers and delivers for citizens, and advances the ideals of open and participatory 21st century government.” The Declaration has been endorsed by 65 OGP countries, and the countries that are currently developing action plans will send a letter endorsing the Declaration together with their final approved action plan. : http://www.opengovpartnership.org/about/open-government-declaration#sthash.Bm68tJZc.dpuf