Thursday, 21 November 2013

Open Government 2013 London Summit Concludes with Strong Achievements and Commitments for Transparency and Accountability.

The London 2013 Open Government Summit brought together more than 1500 reformers from government and civil society for the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Established in 2011, OGP is a partnership with 62 member countries where government and civil society develop commitments to make governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens. Since becoming members, South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Liberia made formal commitments to strengthen fiscal transparency, access to information, accountability and citizen participation.
The Summit, taking place five months after the holding of the Africa OGP regional outreach meeting in May 2013 provided an important opportunity for reflection, review and re-commitment on the side of both African governments and civil society. Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC) collaborated with the Support Unit, Civil Society Coordinator, UK Cabinet Office, World Bank Institute, Government of South Africa and Alianza Regional in the planning and organisation of different aspects of the Summit and events.These included among others the Civil Society day, the African Caucus and Networks session.

Ahead of the Summit, AFIC worked in partnership with its members in South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Liberia, Ghana and Malawi and ONE Campaign on country specific advocacy to make commitments at the summit that would increase government transparency and help to promote accountability. We are very pleased that a number of Governments including Ghana and Tanzania have taken practical measures in the direction of our requests. 

The Summit attracted a good number of AFIC members including Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (Ghana), Human Rights Network (Uganda), International Commission of Jurists (Kenya) Open Democracy Advice Centre (South Africa), Center for Media Studies and Peace Building (Liberia) Society for Democratic Initiatives (Sierra Leone), Media Rights Agenda and Public and Private Development Centre (Nigeria) and Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (Malawi). During the Summit, AFIC Secretariat and members used the opportunity to hold side discussions on individual countries to strategise on enhancing advocacy for the right to information. Members also explored opportunities for peer learning amongst each other. 

Summit Process and Outcomes
The OGP London Summit was important for Africa in terms of fulfilling commitments and mobilising action:
  • Sierra Leone adopted the Freedom of Information law and immediately sent letter of intent to join OGP. This was a fulfilment of pledge the Government of Sierra Leone made during the Africa OGP Outreach Meeting held in Mombasa, Kenya in May 2013.
  • Tanzania started by President Jakaya Kikwete committing to passing Freedom of Information legislation by April 2014
  • Ghana re-committed to adopt a freedom of information law as per country action plan
  • Nigeria, Senegal and Corte d’Ivoire committed to take the necessary measures to secure the necessary points needed to meet eligibility.
  • Steering committee countries i.e. South Africa and Tanzania committed to visit and mobilize OGP prospective countries  to join OGP.
  • African countries agreed to consult amongst themselves and agree on the host and date of the next OGP Africa regional meeting. South Africa offered to facilitate this consultation.
  • Peer learning and support arrangements will be discussed through a series of video conferences and webinars. AFIC in collaboration with World Bank Institute and African Governments will follow-up on this.
  • More information regarding eligibility will be shared with African Governments and civil society to support their respective national processes and consultations. AFIC, Paul Maassen (CSO Coordinator) and the Support Unit will endeavour to provide information.
  • Discussion on helping countries to be more ambitious in respective country action plans will be done.
  • Country level strategies for reaching out to missing voices such as judiciary, legislatures, faith based groups and non traditional transparency and accountability prayers will be developed and implemented.
  • Opportunities for OGP and African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) to mutually support each other will be explored.
  • Strategies and experiences on planning and mobilization of resources to ensure effective implementation will be done.
Looking Ahead
The spirit of partnership between African governments and African civil society has grown strong over the past year. The discussions more and more focus on how to make OGP relevant and productive in the African context. Increasingly, there is more knowledge sharing among civil society groups across countries in the region as well as frequent engagement between governments and civil society. The coming days should focus on preparations for the next Africa OGP regional meeting and development of a regional strategy for ongoing knowledge exchange and peer support, outreach to new members, strong implementation and monitoring.

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