With over 50 years of experience working in more than 60 countries, Counterpart has always set itself apart from other international development organizations through a never-wavering commitment to working closely with partners on the ground to develop local solutions to local problems. In our growing civil society strengthening portfolio, we work with civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world – including many in countries that Freedom House defines as a closed or closing civic space – to help them have a greater voice with government and the public alike, and to ensure that laws and policies reflect the spirit of open dialogue and collaboration that our work has always championed. Today, these values are being echoed on a global stage by the Open Government Partnership.
Established in 2011, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative bringing governments and civil society together to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and strengthen good governance. OGP has over 70 member countries as well as hundreds of CSO partners, with new governments committing to the partnership regularly. Counterpart has been supporting CSOs and facilitating dialogue with governments around OGP efforts in Honduras, Guatemala, and now in El Salvador as well.
“Conversations between the Guatemalan Congress & civil society”
As part of our commitment to supporting OGP efforts worldwide, our Vice President of Programs, Belma Ejupovic, our Senior Program Manager for Latin America and the Caribbean, Leanne Webster, and our Chief of Party for our Honduras program, Dina Eguigure, recently attended the Global OGP Summit. The OGP Global Summit 2016 took place in Paris, France on December 7, 8 and 9, with additional side events on December 5 and 6, including a session focused specifically on civil society participation. Attended by more than 3000 representatives from 70 countries, the agenda for the Global Summit was based on an open call for proposals from the entire open government community, which solicited more than 700 proposals from which the sessions and discussions were designed.
From the design of the agenda to the groups that participate in OGP events on the local, regional, and global levels, one thing is clear – OGP is about more than just the participating governments. The OGP initiative is completely voluntary and has no enforcement mechanisms, meaning that all policies and advances that are adopted as a result of this initiative are being driven by citizens and the CSOs that represent them.
“Developing Discussion Group: ‘Perspectives for the consolidation of transparency in Guatemala.”
We work across many countries and sectors, and at Counterpart, we’ve never seen such visible, passionate participation from citizens as we have around our coverage of OGP events. The OGP Summit in Paris was attended by heads of government, ministers, CSO representatives, members of parliament, start-ups and digital innovators, private sector leaders, journalists, and more. Beyond the 3000 enthusiastic participants, #OGP16, the official event hashtag, trended across social media, allowing the voices of citizens around the world to be part of the conversation in real time.
“The President, Jimmy Morales, listening to the voices of civil society right now in Guatemala”
The Civil Society Morning of the 2016 OGP Summit was a half-day event held during the OGP Global Summit. The session brought the OGP civil society community together around the goal of connecting, sharing, creating, and strategizing around innovative ways to achieve open government globally. As Belma Ejupovic tells us, “A key theme that dominated the first day of the conference was all about closing civic space and the OGP Platform serving as a venue for increased citizens engagement.” She continued, “A lot of emphasis was being paid on putting dialogue between government, civil society and people at the heart of change.” This sentiment and the focus on the people driving this effort has been evident both on social media and at the local and regional OGP events where Counterpart has taken a leadership role, particularly throughout the Northern Triangle. Counterpart is committed to supporting the OGP efforts, and enhancing the voice of citizens and the CSOs that represent them – particularly in the countries we already have a presence and a history of successfully championing civil society issues.
“The Open Government Action Plan is lead by the Participacion Civica Program implemented by Counterpart International and supported by USAID Guatemala”
The enthusiasm of the attendees at the 2016 Global Summit cannot be understated. As Leanne Webster shared, “Workshops were packed with people sharing ideas and stories of successes and challenges. It was inspiring to see such a vibrant response to an initiative bringing governments and civil society together that relies solely on voluntary participation.” This emphasis on participation is echoed in the very charter of the OGP Initiative. When joining the Partnership, governments endorse the Open Government Declaration and commit to the following principles:
- Increase the availability of information about governmental activities
- Support civic participation
- Implement the highest standards of professional integrity through administrations
- Increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability
Leanne continued, sharing how these principles translated into concrete discussions in Paris, “Not surprisingly, given the robust response to the event, one of the primary themes that persisted was the need to expand citizen engagement further, and to reach every individual to ensure no one was left unheard. If the enthusiasm of Summit itself is any indication, we can do it!”
Counterpart is proud of our leadership and support of the Open Government Partnership effort in Latin America, and we look forward to continuing to work with citizens, civil society organizations, and governments alike on a global scale to help make the OGP a truly global success story.