We know that the Open Government Partnership is a powerful tool to implement national-level change. Brazil enacted its Freedom of Information Law thanks to OGP, the UK committed to public registries of beneficial owners of companies, the United States signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and many more.
But I think we are still missing a substantial trick here.
With 64 countries part of the OGP, how can we ensure that these reforms reach a truly global scale? It seems like a missed opportunity for example to focus on reforms in one country when these may well be equally applicable to 64 countries. How can we ensure that OGP is more than the sum of its parts?
There are two ways to scale open government reforms thanks to OGP:
(1) OGP as a multiplier
If you are an NGO pushing for transparency about the real, beneficial owners of companies (to name but a few: Global Witness, Transparency International, Global Financial Integrity, Tax Justice Network), how are you using OGP to scale? We now have commitment from the UK, but how are you using OGP to achieve your goal across not one but 12, 24 or even 64 countries? From a campaigners’ perspective, OGP offers ‘action forcing events’ every two years (the country action plans) that can help galvanize political support behind key open government issues. If those issues are replicable, or need in fact to be replicated across countries to succeed (e.g. beneficial ownership), OGP can provide this multiplier effect.
(2) OGP as a caucus
If you are an NGO pushing for transparency reforms within international processes (e.g. World Resources Institute working on the Rio Summit and access to information, Transparency International working on the G20, Save the Children working on the post-2015 development framework) how are you using OGP to help create dialogue with governments already engaged in ambitious open government reforms?
If you want to engage an international forum on transparency matters (be it the Earth Summit, the post-2015 development framework or a G20/G7 meeting), OGP can help you in at least two ways: (1) identify OGP countries that are key decision-makers at the summit in question, (2) seek to bring together or caucus both governments and civil society to back the issue and help identify a common position. The Access Initiative successfully used this approach in 2012 in the run up to and during the Rio+20 Earth summit, getting governments behind Principle 10 and access to environmental information.
OGP is a platform - a vehicle to scale open government reforms - so ask not ‘what can I do for OGP?’ Use it to further your own goals and ask: ‘what can OGP do for me?’