Recently, at an event in D.C. focused on Democracy in the Western Hemisphere, USAID Administrator Mark Green told stories from his travels around the world and shared his perspective that “citizen-led responsive governance touches every corner of the hemisphere. ” Simply put, individuals and local community organizations alike are rising up around the world – in open, closed, and closing civic spaces – to help governments learn how to be more responsive to the needs of their citizens.”
Nowhere was this message – and its ubiquitous nature around the world – more apparent than at the Open Government Partnership Summit in July. Held in Tbilisi, Georgia, this year’s Summit brought together more than 2,000 representatives from government, private sector, civil society, academia and more to discuss issues of civic engagement, anti-corruption efforts, and public service delivery in the more than 70 Open Government Partnership (OGP) signatory countries and beyond.
Counterpart has supported OGP efforts in Honduras, Guatemala, and to a smaller extent in El Salvador and Ecuador. Countries must meet the eligibility criteria to become an OGP member, demonstrating a significant advancement and commitment to open government in four critical areas: fiscal transparency, access to information, asset disclosure and citizen engagement. Additionally, the participating countries must pass the OGP Values Check, which assesses the country’s adherence to democratic norms and values.
Building on the excitement around this multi-lateral initiative and the lessons learned from Counterpart’s work in support of OGP, Counterpart hosted an International Implementers Strategic Working Session in Tbilisi at the Summit, entitled “How U.S. Organizations are Supporting OGP Abroad.”
This invitation-only workshop was led by Counterpart in partnership with National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Chemonics, to discuss how international implementers can successfully support the OGP initiative and learn from participants about challenges and opportunities they see in their work for collaboration and thematic expertise as tools to support OGP.
Anna Sahakyan, Counterpart’s Director of Accountability & Transparency, opened the session, explaining that while a handful of international implementors have been successfully supporting OGP through innovative work around the world, we all have been doing it in silos. This in turn, makes it difficult for implementers to share resources, tap into other’s thematic expertise and learn from each other’s successes and challenges. Counterpart decided that it is time to initiate a dialogue that will lead to a greater coordination and collaboration among the international implementers. Organizations, such as Counterpart, have solid contextual understanding of the operating and political environment of the countries where they work, along with established relationships with local stakeholders. As OGP continues to expand, the opportunities for international implementers to provide technical assistance and support the initiative grow as well.
In an effort to open up this dialogue, share lessons learned, and help facilitate a discussion on what works and what hasn’t in OGP implementation, Counterpart, NDI and Chemonics all shared case studies from their programs around the world.
Brianna Duhaime, Counterpart’s Program Associate for Latin America and the Caribbean, shared that Counterpart has directly supported OGP in Latin America under its existing USAID-funded projects since 2011. As a leading development organization, Counterpart shares OGP’s values: promoting transparency, constructive dialogue, and collaborative partnership around the world. Specific examples of Counterpart’s work in support of OGP include facilitating round table discussions during the co-creation process of National Action Plans, providing technical and material support to government officials, and supporting local CSOs during the implementation of National Action plans- specifically focused on anti-corruption commitments and enabling constructive space for civil society and government collaboration.
“We’re dependent on our boots on the ground in Guatemala and El Salvador to implement OGP and determine appropriate roles for international implementers.” Brianna shared, emphasizing the role that local partners have in shaping and supporting open governance efforts.
Victoria Welborn, Governance Program Officer at NDI, spoke about the importance of including Parliament in OGP implementation efforts. Victoria shared NDI’s lessons learned around legislative openness and the need to incorporate Parliament in sharing open government policies, with NDI’s work with OPEN, the Open Parliament e-Network, as a case study.
Finally, Susan Kemp, Democracy and Governance Practice Manager at Chemonics, focused her talk around lessons learned from supporting the development of the OGP National Action Plan in Nigeria, highlighting the importance of “accountability ecosystems,” where local OGP partners can strengthen and encourage accountability in government at the local, regional, and national levels.
Following these presentations, the participants broke into small groups and had passionate conversations about their work supporting OGP partners in both government and civil society – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Together, partners spoke candidly about what tactics have been most effective in supporting collaboration and transparency for open governance, and what type of support is needed from OGP moving forward to make these efforts more successful.
Taking the key messages and lessons learned from our partners in this important meeting in Georgia, Counterpart is leading the charge towards launching two specific outcomes: the first will be a mapping of OGP implementers (more specifically, a compilation of information about where some DC-based implementers are supporting OGP efforts in the field and what activities they are specifically doing, to be shared with both OGP and the broader community) and the second is the creation of a DC-based OGP Implementers Working Group, chaired by Counterpart and launching officially next month. Both of these efforts are designed to help the DC community better support OGP globally, allow for improved coordination by international implementers, and encourage a more efficient and effective sharing of resources moving forward. Stay tuned for the official launch of the OGP Working Group in Fall 2018!
Learn more about the event and Counterpart’s efforts to support open government initiatives by following #OGPpartners