2013 No.


Civil Society Coordination Newsletter - supporting independent engagement with the OGP
Dear colleagues, The London OGP meeting 2 weeks ago had a packed agenda; let me give you three pieces to chew on. The first piece is linked to the discussion of timelines. One of the things agreed in principle was the idea to begin moving toward a biannual calendar for action plans and IRM reports. This links to the discussion on how to encourage ambition and stretch in the action plans - something that was envisioned in the design of OGP, but has not everywhere come out as such. Many commitments are actually defined to be deliverable within a year. From that perspective longer timelines can drive ambition – if balanced by efforts to keep the local dynamic going and maintain pressure on the national process. One of the challenges in the coming months will be to work out how to improve the OGP guidance and mechanics in a way that brings additional quality and ambition to the national dialogue and to the action plans: what can be done to facilitate and strengthen CSO advocacy and monitoring efforts, how can we move from consultation to ongoing dialogue and partnership? Getting this right can bring more depth and quality to the national processes At the heart of the SC meeting was the presentation of the action plans of the newest OGP members, the future plans of the founding members and a dialogue between the both of them. This worked best where countries had both government and civil society at the table like in the case of Costa Rica and Hungary. Costa Rica - with the hands-on support of the Networking Mechanism and our team - managed to turn around their process and deliver a promising action plan and lay the basis for a good permanent dialogue. The case of Hungary brought about a spirited dialogue on balancing political space versus creating space for CSO priorities and on how difficult it is to consult and provide feedback in a way that works for both sides. Our discussion took place before Hungary drastically curtailed the FOI space. This last point brings me to the second piece: what to do about countries that clearly backslide against the principles or eligibility criteria of OGP? How to deal with this clear restriction of the FOI in Hungary or the very obvious restrictions of CSO space in Russia and Azerbaijan? The OGP Steering Committee generally does not collectively comment on progress or lack thereof in an individual country – as the local dynamic is leading - except in the exceptional circumstances. OGP reiterated this in February. But cases will continue to pop up and each case will ask for a tailor-made reaction. The toolbox might need to be filled with more options I think – from diplomacy via publicity to ultimately suspension. More guidance is needed on making processes and plans better at the start of each round, keeping a focus on strong (independent) monitoring and being prepared to act if countries lose ground on openness. All these elements are needed to improve the performance of the current 58 members. Although there was general agreement that the next phase of OGP should be about deepening the commitments and actual change in these countries, there was also consensus on the need to broaden participation in certain regions (Africa, Asia) where more countries are getting ready to join. The latest update of the eligibility criteria made 6 additional countries eligible, including Malawi and Venezuela. Much more can be found in the minutes the Support Unit will release, by the end of the week, via the regular channels. This includes new thinking on peer learning and support as well as agreement on the next rotation (October 2014 – with an additional seat being created). A final point to chew on is the OGP Summit (31 October and 1 November). There is no strategic outline or agenda yet from the side of the UK government. But the buzzwords point in the right direction: energetic, fresh format, smart use of technology, co-creation programming, plenty of space for civil society meetings before and during the Summit. A planning committee is about to be created— hopefully we will have an outline (soon) and a draft agenda before summer. That’s was my quick take on what happened in London. The official minutes and final documents will be online by the end of the week, and the next Steering Committee meeting is in July. Kind regards, Paul

Highlights  London SC Meeting highlights from the Civil Society Coordinator  Self-Assessment Reports available for OGP founding members  News from Italy on FOI implementation  FOI setbacks in Hungary

Inside this issue: FOI Setbacks in Hungary Self-Assessment Reports Available CS Comments on South African Assessment 2



In Case You Missed 2 It... Italy: The Silent State Upcoming Events and Webinars African Model Access to Information Law 3 3


NGO’s Excluded 4 from UNCAC Evaluation Mechanism OKCON Call for Proposals Achieving Results Through OGP 4


April 2013 (#7)

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Hungary to Drastically Curtail FOI Space
Last week, Sandor Lederer, from the Hungarian NGO K-Monitor shared with us his concerns regarding proposed restrictions and exemptions to the Hungarian FOI law: “Only a week after Hungary presented its OGP action plan in London, making a commitment to enhance transparency and openness at government and public institutions, MPs of the governing Fidesz party initiated the amendment of the FOI act watering down existing legislation by limiting access to data of public interest for only two government oversight bodies, the State Audit Office (ÁSZ) and the Government Control Office (KEHI) and restricting public access to information. The draft bill allows public institutions to deny FOI requests if they can be considered as ‘excessive’, not defining what can be considered so. Moreover, several data and information requests will be excluded from the scope of the FOI act ruling out legal actions. Hungarian NGOs regard this as a major setback in Hungary's FOI and anti-corruption environment. K-Monitor Watchdog for Public Funds, the investigative portal atlatszo.hu, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union and TI Hungary have called the leaders of the parliamentary groups of the government parties to vote against the act. In a letter, they warned the Minister of Public Administration and Justice that the amendment makes civil cooperation in the government’s anti corruption working group useless. Despite a huge public outcry the Parliament accepted the amendment this morning. The amendment was initiated on Sunday through an urgent procedure, thus civil consultation was precluded. NGOs assume that government pushed this amendment to hide details of the dubious tobacco retail tender that became a national scandal last week. The aforementioned NGOs jointly with leading online news portals submitted a FOI request regarding the details of the tender but since the amendment extends its effect also on ongoing FOI requests the transparency of this case in endangered. According to K-Monitor's point of view this amendment is the most aggressive and harsh attack against freedom of information in Hungary since the adoption of the FOIA in 1992.” Recently, Transparency International also heavily criticized the brand new Hungarian OGP Action Plan, stating that ‘the actual commitments do not guarantee a more open and transparent government’.  

Self-Assessment Reports Available on OGP Site
All self assessment reports of the eight founding members are now available on the OGP website. Click to see and compare the reports of the UK, Mexico, Brazil, the Philippines, Indonesia, the USA, South Africa and Norway.

South African Civil Society Comments on OGP SelfAssessment Report
The South African government published its self assessment of the country’s action plan last week. According to Alison Tilley, executive director of the Open Democracy Advice Center (ODAC), the report shows little progress on open government. “Ironically released in the same week that the Secrecy Bill was passed by a committee in the lower house of parliament, the government set up seven commitments as part of the ‘race to the top’ on transparency and openness, but only reported successful achievement of two of them.”

In Case You Missed It...
 More news from South Africa, where the Secrecy Bill passed in parliament— in the same week in which the OGP self-assessment report was published. The South African campaign Right2Know has closely been monitoring the process. A cause for concern regarding the Secrecy Bill is that it only has narrow protection for whistleblowers and public advocates (not a full Public Interest Defence) that excludes a range of matters in the public interest like shady tendering practices or improper appointments within key state agencies. Right2Know started a petition to stop the Secrecy Act. You can now email president Zuma to let him know you don’t agree with the passing of the law. The International Budget Partnership published their 2012 Annual Report called Action and Reflection. The Hewlett Foundation has a job opening at its Global Development and Population program. More information can be found here. The World Bank is running a survey in order to get a better understanding of the demand for open financial data—all are welcome to participate!

If you have any information or materials that you would want for us to include in our next newsletter please send them to Nout van der Vaart (n.van.der.vaart@hivos.nl) or Emilene Martínez (emilene17@gmail.com).

Civil Society Coordination Newsletter

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Italy: The Silent State
Last week, at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italian NGO Diritto di Sapere and AccessInfo Europe published the report The Silent State. The report focuses on the responsiveness of the government to FOI requests of citizens and the media. Both organizations carried out a extensive monitoring on access to information practices in the country. The report found that only 13 % of responses to requests provided requesters with the information they had asked for and that 73 % were not adequately answered by the Italian public institutions. ‘In Italy, corruption is estimated to cost taxpayers as much as €60 billion per year. At present journalists have no way of tracking where this money is going because we simply don’t have the data’ stated Andrea Menapace, founder and spokesperson of Diritto di Sapere. Helen Darbishire, founder and Director of Access Info Europe added: ‘The current economic and political crisis in Italy is also a crisis of transparency. Citizens are ill -informed about what is really going on in government and do not have the data needed to participate nor to hold the political class accountable’. For more information contact Andrea Menapace at info at dirittodisapere.it.

Upcoming Events and Webinars
WEBINARS May 15th 2013; 10:00AM–12:00PM EST Learning by doing: Mexico and Peru in the OGP (presented in Spanish) Presenters: Gabriela Segovia Cantú (General Director for Access to Information Policies Coordination at IFAI Mexico) and Mariana Llona Rosa (Public Administration Secretary at the Council of Ministers in Peru). Register for this webinar here. To join the session please use this link to login 5 minutes before the Webinar is scheduled to start. May 21, 2013; 10:00-11:00 AM EST Assets Disclosure Presenters: Ivana Rossi (World Bank) and Irakli Kotetishvili (Director of the Civil Service Bureau of Georgia). Register for this webinar here. To join the session please use this link to login 5 minutes before the Webinar is scheduled to start. June, (TBC) Engaging Demand Side of Open Government Data Initiatives Presenter: Dr. Jennifer Shkabatur (World Bank), Country experience presenter (TBC) OTHER EVENTS: May 17, 2013 Bosnia and Herzegovina OGP Meeting, Sarajevo. Organized by TI Bosnia and Herzegovina. OGP civil society coordinator Paul Maassen and Helen Darbishire from AccessInfo Europe will be attending the event. May 28-30 OGP Africa Regional Meeting, Mombassa Kenya. Agenda TBD. June, 14, 2013 OGP Armenia Conference, Yerevan, Armenia. The event will focus on the Armenian OGP process. Foreign participants are very welcome to join and share their experiences. June 26-27, 2013 Conference on Open Data in Latin America and the Caribbean in Montevideo, Uruguay. More information available here. July 2-4 Peer-exchange meeting for CS leaders from past, current and future OGP chair countries (London). July, 10, 2013: OGP Steering Committee meeting in London.

Civil Society Coordination Newsletter

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Game Changer: Model Law on Access to Information for Africa
Gilbert Sendugwa, coordinator and head of the Africa Freedom of Information Centre ‘s Secretariat (AFIC), published an interesting article on freedominfo’s website discussing the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa. Worldwide and in Africa, the right to information has become widely acknowledged as an essential tool for effective and participatory governance. Countries have increasingly adopted FOI laws— 94 countries now have an access to information legislation, including 11 African countries. The Model law is participatory in its design: ‘the draft model law went through an extensive consultative process from online inputs to physical regional consultations in East Africa, Southern Africa, West Africa and Central Africa and North Africa.

During the regional consultation meeting on the draft (jointly organized by the Special Rapporteur, Human Rights Centre and Africa Freedom of Information Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 29-31, 2011) government and civil society leaders from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, The Model Law on Access to Information for Africa, recently Ethiopia and South Sudan commented on the initiative and launched by the African Commission on Human and Peomade significant inputs into the draft’. ples’ Rights (ACHPR), is a milestone for the development of FOI laws in Africa. This multi-stakeholder co-creation approach process offers valuable lessons for OGP community. Read the full article here.

NGOs Excluded from UNCAC Evaluation The Open Knowledge Foundation is calling for proposals for Mechanism OKCON 2013 Call for Proposals
its annual Conference scheduled for September 17 -18 in Geneva. The deadline to submit them is May 24th. Six topics will be discussed and explored on this year’s conference “Open Data – Broad, Deep, Connected”: Open Data, Government and Governance; Open Development and Sustainability; Open Science and Research; Open Culture; Technology, Tools and Business; and Evidence and Stories. Anticipating the meeting of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption’s Implementation Review Group (IRG) in Vienna May of 27th, the civil society network UNCAC Coalition submitted a written statement to UNCAC to express their concerns about the exclusion of NGOs from the Implementation Review Group and from the Working Groups on Asset Recovery and Prevention meetings.

According to Vincent Lazatin and Gillian Dell (who respectively represent the Transparency and Accountability NetDFID’s Mark Robinson’s published an article on OGP’s blog work in the Philippines and Transparency International in where he discusses how to achieve concrete results through OGP. Robinson argues that generating convincing evidence the UNCAC Coalition) civil society participation in internaon the impact of transparency reforms is critical to the long- tional review mechanism bodies contributes to genuine dialogue and helps to improve law, policies, programmes er term success of OGP. and institutions at national level. Concrete results achieved through OGP would have involve: the successful realization of action plan commitments on Both argue that the application of the relevant UNCAC the part of OGP members; progress on all four main eligibilRules of Procedure would better serve the IRG and the UNity criteria for OGP members against agreed indicators; and actual impact of openness and transparency on the lives of CAC. Transparency enhances public understanding, builds trust and deters malfeasance. Participation of civil society ordinary citizens. assists and strengthens the hand of government officials The last point would be the trickiest one to measure, but working to address corruption. Cooperation among all could take the form of for example the creation of jobs and stakeholders therefore is essential to advance UNCAC improsperity, through the utilization of government data in the plementation and counter corruption. For further reference public domain by the private sector to inform business incheck out TI’s statement on the matter. vestment decisions.

Achieving Concrete Results through OGP

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