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Open Government Partnership – will it help me and my organisation?

photo of dave HendersonDave Henderson
External Relations Manager
Hui E!

Recently I was sponsored to attend International Civil Society Week (ICSW) in Bogota, the capital of Colombia. It’s far from Colombia’s Caribbean beach resorts like Cartagena, being in the foothills of the northern Andes, but it’s a very liveable city.

Contrary to all the media focus on kidnappings and the long guerrilla war with FARC and other rebel groups, Colombia is making great headway towards internal peace. The involvement of civil society organisations in that process made it a very real place to hold the ICSW. The theme was “Active Citizens – Accountable Actions”.

Among the many sessions I attended two stood out in particular, both focused on The Open Government Partnership (OGP). The international OGP body, a not-for-profit based in the US has a strong Civil Society Engagement unit that supports efforts by civil society organisations (CSOs) to get involved in building real partnerships with their respective governments. http://www.opengovpartnership.org/

New Zealand has been a signed-up member of OGP since 2014, but progress has been limited in building the kind of civil society-government relationship that is envisaged in the documentation that government signed us up to.

State Services Commission was tasked with developing the annual National Action Plans NZ has to present to the international body, and for the past year I have been a civil society representative on SSC’s Stakeholder Advisory Group. To be frank I have found the experience frustrating, and I’m not convinced SSC understands what working in partnership with civil society actually means.

From the conversations in Bogota, I decided to invite Shreya Basu, OGP’s Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Asia Pacific, to come and tell us what they see as our next steps. Shreya comes to New Zealand 15 – 22 June, and on 16 June she is speaking at a breakfast at Parliament. You’re invited! Email Joan at  admin@comvoices.org.nz to register.

The potential for us in New Zealand is huge – we have few enough levers on government, or opportunities for genuine input to policy. I am optimistic we can build on government’s commitment to OGP, and the potential is nicely summed up by the international OGP body:

“A civil society-government partnership at the national level is the cornerstone of OGP. But, why should civil society organizations get involved, and what are the best ways to do so?

  • Getting a seat at the table: The OGP process requires government to consult with civil society and citizens, and the Independent Reporting Mechanism assesses the quality of this consultation. As a result, OGP can help ensure that civil society experts have a seat at the table to discuss critical open government reforms with their own public officials.
  • Building coalitions: Open government is not just about open data, or just about access to information laws or fighting corruption. It is about making progress on all of these things, and making sure that citizens have a voice in this process. OGP can therefore be a platform to build a diverse coalition with civil society actors from a variety of disciplines.
  • Getting concrete results: OGP may be a useful platform to get traction on your existing objectives or accelerate progress on issues that might be stuck in the pipelines. You can push for an action plan that fits your priorities. In many countries civil society has managed to get a lot of their asks into the national action plans – and achieved concrete results.”

– See more at: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/how-it-works/civil-society-engagement/engaging-civil-society-why-and-how#sthash.xStGHCzz.dpuf

This blog has been contributed by a member of ComVoices
ComVoices actively promotes the value that community sector organisations and their people, both paid and unpaid, add to New Zealand’s economic and social wellbeing through information, and political advocacy and dialogue.
Click here for our website: http://comvoices.org.nz/