In April 2012 representatives from 55 governments and hundreds of delegates from civil society gathered in Brazilia for the second annual meeting of the Open Government Partnership.
The Open Government Partnership is a new multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, OGP is overseen by a steering committee of governments and civil society organisations.
Each signatory country presents a National Action Plan, with list of commitments that it will be expected to fulfil in the following year. This is the list of the top ten commitments presented by countries in Brazilia.
At the 2012 annual meeting, the UK took on the co-chairing of the OGP for the next year. ORG has joined with other civil society organisations to form a coalition that will engage with the government to ensure that it fulfils its obligations and delivers on its commitments.
Our initial civil society analysis of the UK National Action Plan, can be found here. It was produced with contributions from Article 19, Campaign for Freedom of Information, Christian Aid, Global Witness, ONE, Open Rights Group, Publish What You Fund, Tiri and Transparency International UK.
These are the main issues we found:
The UK government must improve its engagement with civil society including wider consultation and clear mechanisms for collaborative design and progress monitoring of the national action plan.
The current national commitments are too focused on open data, information technology and public services and should be expanded to cover a comprehensive model of open governance.
Internationally, the UK is a global leader on aid transparency. However, the UK must now address the transparency of natural resource revenues and international corporate transparency more broadly.
The paper can be directly downloaded here:
We have helped create a common web space for UK organisations at OpenGovernment.org.uk and we will be posting much of our work there as well as in our site.
For ORG supporters, there is a lot that we can hope for from the new administration.
- We can hopefully assume that talk of a repeal of the Human Rights Act is now shelved.
- ID cards and their database should be scrapped
- The DNA database should be restricted or scrapped
- Promises of a Data Freedom Act are welcome
On the other side, there are some big questions. For all of us campaigning around the Digital Economy Act, we are concerned that the process is likely to proceed and recommend a disconnection regime. This requires political will to prevent. We sincerely hope the views Nick Clegg espoused during the election will hold, and be put into action. This will help restore trust among younger voters.
There is an opportunity to repeal this, from the start, with the body of laws the new administration are hoping to repeal very shortly.
There are other looming challenges, the approaches to which are harder to predict. One of the biggest will be the new administration’s attitude to the review of the Data Protection Directive, due this year. New European data protection laws, covering information held by the police and legal bodies for the first time, will be passed through Europe. What will the new administration’s views be, especially given the contrasting views of Europe within the coalition?
Similarly, copyright is due for review in Europe, and is still in review in the UK. The election was full of parodies – including several from the parties themselves – all of which infringed copyright, despite their clear intent as powerful means of exercising freedom of speech. It would be good if the parties drew from their own experience and introduced a limitation to copyright establishing the right to parody. New UK rights to format shift, and uses for personal study and archives are also desparately needed.
Another concern is the number of hasty calls for electronic voting that polling station chaos has produced. Let’s first remember that polling chaos is a very regular feature of electronic voting systems; and secondly recall that the immense technical challenge of combining high security with absolute anonymity has never been satisfactorily resolved. ORG will be meeting with the Electoral Commission to discuss these matters shortly.
But for the moment, many of us will regard the way the badly-drafted and ill-thought out Digital Economy Act is dealt with as a first test. Please sign the petition asking for Clauses 11-18 to be repealed.