Reflections on the Open Government Partnership Summit

October 31, 2023

Counterpart has a long-standing history of supporting the Open Government Partnership (OGP), and this year is no exception. At the 8th Annual Global OGP Summit in Estonia in September, we joined our colleagues from around the world to discuss the importance of civil society in the continued fight and protection of democracy and human rights.

Our delegation to the OGP Summit included chiefs of party from two USAID-funded Counterpart programs: Civil Society in Action Program in Armenia and New Partnerships in Open Government Program in Ecuador. These programs are improving citizen participation in governance by supporting the co-creation and implementation of OGP National Action Plans (NAPs). Through NAPs and with support from OGP’s independent review mechanism, civil society can encourage and support stronger open government commitments, and then hold their governments to account if they falter. We work with local teams to support the independent review mechanism evaluations through our experts in both Yerevan and Quito.

The Counterpart delegation at the Open Government Partnership Summit in Estonia.

Protecting Democracy

One important takeaway we heard during the OGP Summit was OGP’s intention to unite reformers and activists in the fight and protection of democracy. OGP was primarily a technocratic exercise, dedicated to transparency, open data, and government efficiency. However, OGP’s recently published strategy takes a much bolder stand on the side of democracy and human rights.

At the Summit, participants heard from the Prime Minister of Estonia, Kaja Kallas, that Democracy is never ready, it needs constant care. It is more and more challenged by governments whose value system is completely different. Of course, it is not something new… Even in established democracies, there can be elected leaders who erode the balance of power and democratic institutions. This way, democracies can also die slowly from within. So, our democracies need to be protected and cared for every single day.” Various heads of state echoed her sentiment, making it clear that the governments’ represented at the Summit were actively looking to engage with those working to protect democracy.

The Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal addressed the audience at the Open Government Partnership Summit in Estonia about the importance of democracy.

Advancing Climate Action

One of the larger themes of the 2023 OGP Summit was around climate action and advancing environmental democracy. There is a growing understanding of the need to connect initiatives that protect civic space and open data to advance collective action around climate change. The Summit included sessions focused on improving citizen participation in climate decision making, shared lessons on how governments are opening environmental data, and emphasized the need to improve access to justice for environmental defenders and activists. As discussed in the OGP Strategy, climate action has risen to the top of the priority list for a lot of countries, and at Counterpart we too have seen the impact that governments can make when they utilize their NAPs for climate action.

Sharing Knowledge, Building Solidarity

USAID Administrator Samantha Power speaking at the 2023 Open Government Partnership Summit in Estonia.

In her remarks, USAID Administrator Samantha Power drove home the message that USAID views OGP as a powerful actor in the democracy community, citing its ability to convene, innovate, and sustain momentum over the years. The memorandum of understanding between USAID and OGP is a great achievement; we hope the agreement will open doors for actors such as Counterpart to share our learning on how OGP can be built into broader democracy, rights, and governance programming efforts to make them more effective and impactful for local communities.

Finally, we acknowledge the power that comes from building solidarity among members of the OGP global community. Sitting at the OGP Summit in Tallinn, we were just over 600 miles from Kyiv, which served as a powerful reminder of what we were all working to protect. The delegation of civil society leaders from Ukraine were inspiring to us all, as they showcased an unwavering commitment to democracy, human rights, and open and transparent governance, even at a time of unprecedented crisis. Through OGP, Counterpart affirms its commitment to supporting democracy alongside our partners and collaborators every day and looks forward to continuing this momentum beyond the OGP Summit.

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