Civic engagement is at the heart of the OGP.Howevergiven the nascence of the initiative, we are still learning about the extent and the way governments and the civil society interact within the framework of the OGP. This report contributes to this knowledge and examines the critical factors for the success or failure of government-civil society interaction. The key purpose of the research was to inform the OGP Support Unit and Steering Committee members of possible areas for improvement when it comes to guidelines and support to government and civil society.
Results of our research show that the OGP process represents both challenges and opportunities. A structured approach to government-civil society interaction has proved to be a key opportunity. This includes the existence of a permanent dialogue mechanism that oversees the development and implementationof a country’s National Action Plan (NAP); united civil society actors that pursue OGP related issues; and the OGP format and guidelines that provide a solid framework for discussion between government and civil society. All of these mechanisms foster transparency. They alsohelp to empower civil society and have the potential to enhance its voice, as well as to facilitate interaction with governments.
At the same time, a significant challenge turns out to be the complexity and the technical nature of OGP commitments. Only a narrow circle of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs)are usually involved in the OGP process, while citizens and smaller NGOs far from the national capitals often lack the capacity to engage in consultations or simply remain excluded. On the government side, there is a clear need to build capacity amongcivil servants to carry out effective and responsive consultations.
On the basis of our research, we recommend that:
1. The OGP should require its members to establish regular and institutionalized structures for civic engagement and dialogue
2. The OGP should strengthen its monitoring mechanisms for the engagement of civil society
3. The OGP should develop guidelines to ensure that suggestions from CSOs are considered in the OGP processes
4. The OGP should develop basic guidelines for OGP-related record keeping for governments
5. The OGP should provide support to encourage the translation of its guidelines into the official national languages in its member countries
6. The OGP should continue to grow its network of international partners as a means of enhancing awareness about the OGP, and to continue to help building capacity in OGP countries
7. The OGP should strengthen connections between working groups and civil society in its member countries
8. The OGP should work to develop additional awareness raising material that can be used by governments and civil society actors to enhance participation in OGP within member countries
9. The OGP should maintain, or increase its regional and international forums for government and CSOs
10. The OGP should expand its website, particularly in the areas of ‘Resources’ and ‘How to Get Involved’
To come to these conclusions, the research team employed both quantitative and qualitative methods in three phases. Phase one drew on existing data and indices to provide a quantitative overview of the state of government-civil society interactions across all 65 OGP member countries. Phase two consisted of case studies in nine OGP member countries that added more depth to the quantitate analysis in phase one. In phase three, the research team conducted interviews with a number of government, civil society, and OGP actors within each of the nine countries identified in phase two. These interviews helped to further flesh out information uncovered in the first two phases. Further detail on each of the recommendations can be found in section six of this report.
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada.
From informing to empowering: Best practices and recommendations for improving government - civilsocietyinteractions within the OGP