Open Government Partnership as a vehicle for parliamentary openness

Portrait de AGORA moderator

Yesterday in New York, the Steering Committee of Open Government Partnership (www.opengovpartnership.org/) officially approved the full engagement of the legislative branch into OGP, which UNDP has been supporting for months through the very first ground-braking development of ‘open parliament action plans’ of the parliaments of Chile, Georgia and Ukraine.

OGP as a vehicle for parliamentary openness

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multi-stakeholder initiative focused on improving government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens. The particular feature of this initiative, which distinguishes is from others, is that it brings together governments (including the legislative branch) and civil society champions of reform to develop commitments to openness with the belief that their institution will be more effective and credible if they open their doors to citizen participation and oversight.

Promoting real dialogue with civil society is probably one of the most critical contributions OGP makes on parliamentary openness. OGP introduces a domestic policy mechanism through which parliaments and civil society establish an ongoing dialogue on the design, implementation and monitoring of the commitments included in their OGP National Action Plan (NAP). OGP action plans introduce a regular cycle of policy planning, implementation and monitoring results. Each stage in the cycle presents an opportunity and obligation for parliaments to engage with civil society to seek their input and feedback. Solving jointly identified problems together holds the potential to accelerate and make more efficient the common task of finding solutions, while enabling crucial reforms.

As we have seen in Chile, Georgia and Ukraine this mechanism has brought about fundamental changes in the way these parliaments have been engaging with civil society organizations. This has been recognised widely in the parliamentary development community and has allowed the parliament of Georgia to win last year’s OGP Government Champions Award for best co-creation dynamic between the government and civil society.

How will it work in practice?

With every new cycle for creating a National Action Plan (NAP), the parliament will be invited to develop specific commitments related to parliamentary openness. These commitments can either be made alongside the executive branch of government in the NAP or developed as a separate chapter of the NAP. However, the process of developing new open parliament commitments should abide to the same timeline, guidelines of co-creation (www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Co-creation-guidelines_Sept2016.pdf)  and be reviewed as part of the independent reporting mechanism (www.opengovpartnership.org/irm/about-irm). 

The commitments currently entailed in the existing ‘open parliament action plans’ are still very much 1st generation, focusing on establishing the right mechanism for collaboration with civil society while ensuring that parliament opens up, both physically and through ICT and social media. They have been more been about the means and less about the end. I believe that this has been an absolutely essential step to get where these parliaments are today.  

Now that OGP has officially acknowledged the participation of parliaments into the Open Government Partnership, I look forward to seeing the ‘2nd generation’ of open parliament commitments, which go beyond processes and look into how opening parliament really improves people’s participation in legislation, policy and budgets.

This post is by Julia Keutgen, Parliamentary Development Specialist at UNDP