Leveraging open government for engaging citizens and improving transparency
Lessons from the Open Government Partnership in Chile, Croatia, Georgia and Uruguay
A series of case studies on the implementation of Open Government Partnership (OGP) reforms found that civil society participation fosters successful implementation, and that the limited capacity of local governments and civil society actors can be an obstacle for reform. Political commitment and strong coordination at the country level also improve the implementation record of OGP National Action Plans.
Furthering ambitious reforms through OGP
U4 senior advisors Aránzazu Guillán Montero and Nils Taxell developed five studies on the adoption and implementation of selected OGP commitments in Chile, Croatia, Georgia, Ghana and Uruguay. The studies help understand how well the OGP model is working in different contexts. They investigate the scope and ambition of national action plans, whether civil society participation has led to more ambitious OGP commitments, and the conditions that lead to successful implementation.
U4 presented the findings in a session on Learning from OGP Research: How well is the OGP working in countries? at the OGP Summit 2015 in Mexico City last October. The panel discussion highlighted that an active participation from civil society and strong country coordinating institutions have led to more successful implementation. Panelists discussed different ways to measure the success of reform processes, and pointed out the importance of widening the scope of participation to include new actors.
Lessons from the implementation of OGP commitments
The studies indicate the crucial value of having high-level political support and a strong OGP coordination unit, and the difference that the effective involvement of civil society actors makes for a successful implementation. An important challenge is the need to create government capacity at the local level. Some commonalities emerge from the cases:
- Choosing OGP commitments that are consistent with government policy reform agendas increases the chance of success, and being flexible in the implementation process can make ambitious goals feasible. (Chile, Uruguay)
- Strong coordination units help to make implementation more effective (Uruguay, Croatia, Georgia) while changes in government can upset political support for reform. (Chile)
- Permanent structures for dialogue between government and civil society improve the NAPS and facilitate implementation. (Uruguay, Croatia, Georgia)
- Online participation mechanisms need to be complemented with other avenues for participation. (Croatia)
- Evidence on the impact of reforms can create incentives for better and wider participation.
What promotes and limits the success of OGP?
Furthering civic engagement in Georgia. Increasing citizen engagement requires trust, which the provision of quality services by Community Centres (CCs) can strengthen. The CCs aim to promote regional development, provide services in rural areas and foster citizen engagement. The CCs shifted their focus from service delivery to addressing the low levels of civic engagement in rural areas. However, local capacity is lacking and decentralisation reforms are still needed.
Aligning open government and transparency policies in Chile. Strong institutional capacities of public agencies and the alignment of OGP commitments with long term strategic policies drive successful implementation. Reforms have achieved significant changes in how government institutions manage information and make it available to the public, particularly at the municipal level. However, limited public awareness about transparency mechanisms and constrains to citizen engagement in policy making hinders the impact of transparency reforms to enhance public accountability.
Institutionalised participation in Uruguay. Institutionalised mechanisms for incorporating civil society contributions into the action plans have improved the scope of reforms. Results include stronger access to information capacity, increased public awareness about access to information and improved central bank performance. Reforms benefit from the strong capacity of the coordinating agency. Remaining challenges include a complex institutional framework and the lack of a clear champion for the access to information agenda.
State-civil society collaboration in Croatia. Engaging citizens in policy-making, through the incorporation of their inputs into draft laws and regulations, was among the goals of OGP commitments. Reforms have resulted in better consultation norms, increased capacity for consultation and opened processes. A strong government-civil society collaboration has built consensus and commitment around reforms.
U4 Report. A. Guillán Montero. 2015. Open government and transparency reform in Chile: Balancing leadership, ambition and implementation capacity.
U4 Report. A. Guillán Montero. 2015. Open government in Uruguay: Strengthening dialogue to make up for institutional challenges.
U4 Report. N. Taxell and A. Guillán Montero 2015. Open government reforms: The challenge of making public consultations meaningful in Croatia
U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre (theme). People’s engagement.