What to pack for #OGP2015

Lots of folks are coming down to Mexico City next week for the Open Government Partnership's biannual summit. It's going to be an amazing event, with nearly 2,000 folks, a load of inspiring speakers and panels, and some famous political leaders and civil society pioneers in attendance. I can't wait.

But on more practical matters: what should you pack for such an important gathering? Besides the obvious things (clothes, a toothbrush, taser) here are a few tips from one OGP veteran. It's a free country, of course, but skimp on these at your own risk.

  • Stickers. Stickers of what? It doesn't really matter, does it? Because if you have custom stickers of anything, you're obviously an important person doing serious (or cool, or both) work that's worth talking to. Sticker-less? You might as well be invisible to humanity.
  • QR codes. Why? Because QR codes. Don't question it.
  • A personal hot spot. I brought one to the summit in London in 2013 and it was a lifesaver. You know what Wireless Access Points never handle well? Being hammered by 1,450 people simultaneously in a plenary.
  • Exercise clothes. That's a joke, obviously. Stop pretending you're going to get up early to break a sweat. The only sweat you'll be breaking is walking off last night's mezcal on the way to a morning plenary.
  • Printed reports. Another trick question. You know who has two thumbs and doesn't want to drag your thick-stock glossy report home on an international flight? This guy. Related: no one is going to read those 80 copies of your report that you leave out randomly around the conference venue. Save yourself the weight and the cost of lugging them to Mexico.
  • A sense of humor. People I want to hang out with at the summit: people that take their work seriously but not themselves. People I don't want to hang out with: pretty much everyone else.

OGP Government Champions Award Semi-Finalists Announced: Time to Vote!

[Note: this post is being published here temporarily only because the OGP website is undergoing a CMS migration TEN DAYS BEFORE A GLOBAL SUMMIT. Which seems like a super idea. It will appear back on the OGP blog the week of October 19 2015.]

After receiving several compelling nominations, the judges for the OGP Government Champions Award have selected three semi-finalists for public voting. They are:

Georgia: The Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) nomination for the Inter-Factional Group of the Parliament of Georgia

Sierra Leone: The Civil Society Representatives on the OGP Steering Committee (Sierra Leone) nomination of The Office of the President of Sierra Leone.

Costa Rica: Abriendo Datos nomination of the Ministry of the Presidency: Vice Minister for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue, Ana Gabriel Zuniga and his advisor, Francela Valerín.

All of these semi-finalists are solid examples of government teams and leaders going the extra mile to accommodate and invite civil society into the OGP process, often embracing a genuine co-creation methodology. Congratulations to our three semi-finalists and to all of our applicants!

The public will now decide the winner: time to vote! Please take 10 minutes to review the three semi-finalist videos, read their written nominations below, and use the awards website to cast your vote here: The winner will be announced and presented with the OGP Government Champions Award during the Civil Society Day on Tuesday, October 27th at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit in Mexico City. (Note: we were unable to obtain a version of the video from Sierra Leone with sufficient audio voice over. Please review the written nomination from Sierra Leone below, and also see this much lengthier and interesting video of the President of Sierra Leone participating in a local OGP steering committee meeting.)

Please spread the word to friends and family in the open government community and encourage them to review the nominations and vote. Fair warning: we have ways of tracking ghost/robot voting, so please use good judgment and avoid overloading the system with repetitive or phantom votes. This is OGP after all; no cheating!

Questions? OGP Government Champions Award czar Nathaniel Heller can be harassed on Twitter or email (nheller [at] r4d [dot] org). 

*** Written Nominations (unedited) ***


On 12 February 2015, the Parliament of Georgia officially announced its readiness to engage in the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Initiative and by the Order of the Speaker of the Parliament formed an Inter-Factional Group. Consisting of 11 Members of Parliament from majority and minority factions, the Group was tasked to develop the Open Parliament Georgia action plan.

To ensure close collaboration with the civil society, leading local and international organizations were invited to participate in the process through signing the Memorandum of Understanding with the Parliament on 30 April 2015.  Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI), Transparency International Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers' Association (GYLA), Open Society Georgia Foundation (OSGF), Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), Civil Society Institute (CSI), Eastern Partnership Civil Society Platform, CiDA, JumpStart Georgia, as well as the EU, UNDP, NDI, GIZ, CoE and World Bank joined the Parliament in this intensive and innovative exercise. 

On the same day, the Members of the Parliament of Georgia signed the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness.

The Parliament Inter-Factional Working Group and the Civil Society Working Group held six joint meetings while drafting the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan. One of the most significant meetings took place in Kazbegi, Georgia, on May 23rd, when the final commitments were agreed among the MPs and the civil society representatives after 11 hours of discussion.

It should be noted that the administration and staff of the Parliament worked alongside the MPs and were actively engaged in the process.

Intensive work of the Parliament and the civil society on the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan lasted about half a year and on July 17th, the Bureau of the Parliament of Georgia adopted the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016. The main purpose of the Action Plan is to ensure the openness of the Parliament in accordance with the OGP principles and Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, promote transparency, access to information and increased citizen engagement in legislative activities.

It is also worth mentioning that prior to intensive work of the Working Groups, a thorough research of international practice was conducted that carefully studied and took into account the recommendations of the OpenGovGuide and the international practice.

The Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016 consists of 18 commitments which focus on four main challenges:

Citizen Engagement

Access to Information

Technologies and Innovation


Among the commitments included in the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan 2015-2016 are:

Submitting Legislative Proposals and Initiatives Electronically to the Parliament of Georgia; Ensuring Physical Access into the Parliament; Easing Access to the Parliamentary Information for Persons with Disabilities; Publishing Documents on the Website of the Parliament in Machine-readable Format; Increasing Level of Involvement of Youth, Ethnic Minorities and Other Stakeholders in Parliamentary Work; Establishing Permanent Parliamentary Council on Openand Transparent Governance; Conducting Annual Meeting of the Parliament of Georgia and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), Developing Code of Ethics for Members of the Parliament; etc.

As the final step, OGP’s Legislative Openness Working Group (LOWG) Conference was held in the Palace of the Parliament of Georgia in Tbilisi, on September 14-15, 2015. The two day conference - "Committing to Openness: Parliamentary Action Plans, Standards, and Data" was a part of the OGP Global Legislative Openness Week (GLOW). Participants of the conference gathered from 32 OGP member states. They were joined by the officials of the Georgian Parliament and Government, representatives of international organizations and local NGOs.

The Conference gave possibility to present the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan and its commitments and share with the partner parliaments the Georgian experience in this regard.

Remarkably, the Parliament of Georgia has started to work on the implementation of the Action Plan. One of the commitments included in the Action Plan calls for the establishment of the Permanent Parliamentary Council on Open and Transparent Governance, a sustainability mechanism included in the Action Plan to secure its coordinated and effective implementation. 

The process of the development of the Open Parliament Georgia Action Plan has been facilitated by the Institute for Development of Freedom of Information (IDFI) supported by the European Union and United Nations Development Progamme (UNDP).

Sierra Leone

(Alternative video here)

What today is an ambitious and well-deserving OGP Process in Sierra Leone started with doubts and intense pressure between Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and government. CSOs working on Governance and economic reforms were determined to push the age old reforms agenda around extractive transparency, access to information and public integrity in governance among others. CSOs saw the OGP process as a welcoming opportunity for accelerating such reforms and making the government more responsive to the needs of its people. The government of Sierra Leone also saw it as an entry point for constructive collaboration between Government and civil society.

The President in a public meeting declared the Open Government Initiative (OGI) and the Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit (MCCU) to take the OGP process forward a twin approach which was germane, as both agencies under the Office of the President. The Steering Committee established is quite inclusive and participatory.

The NAP development was completed in recorded time with implementation underway on the 30th April 2014. A framework for implementation was established in a highly consultative manner. Engagement has been through clusters set up within the four grand challenges of the OGP and each grand challenge has a civil society and government lead. There was also civil society parallel monitoring of the commitments and a completion of 65 percent of the NAP by September 30th 2015, despite the Ebola Viral Disease which dictates no contacts during the epidemic.

The OGP in Sierra Leone has thrived on a highly consultative process inclusive of religious and traditional leaders, Ministries Departments and Agencies (MDAS), CSOs, media and community groups. A group of 17 government and 17 CSOs were in the Steering Committee. The committee is headed by a civil society representative from the interreligious council.

The process of creating the NAP has been intensive; the Steering Committee held weekly meetings since the beginning of March 2014 to April 2014. The process started with sensitization before consultation, an approach which became an innovation in the OGP process. The Steering Committee agreed that the NAP should address three of the OGP’s grand challenges: increasing public integrity, more effective management of public resources, and improving corporate accountability. Nationwide consultations were held in all 14 districts, the challenge of improving service delivery was demanded for by citizens and eventually included. Diaspora Consultations were also done in US, Belgium and UK taking cognisance of the migration nature of Sierra Leoneans and recognising their keen interests in the development of the country. The first NAP in Sierra Leone speaks to 11 bold commitments. Among the core commitments our NAP makes are: developing a public integrity policy; increasing visibility of performance contracts; performing subsequent assessments of key government institutions; and operationalizing the single treasury account by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development to improve accountability and management of government accounts. Instituting a culture of delivery and meeting stipulated timelines helped in producing a draft NAP in eight weeks. Sierra Leone endorsed a draft National Action Plan (NAP) for OGP in a ceremony led by President Ernest Bai Koroma having the political buy-in from the highest authority of the state. More than 300 government officials, paramount chiefs, civil society leaders, women and youth groups, attended the ceremony.

It was agreed that a Permanent consultation forum between Government and Civil Society be established taking the form of a hybrid approach. First, the general forum through Monthly Meetings held on the 26th of every month. Next the smaller forum in which a government and CS focal point was to lead each cluster of the grand Challenge covering the commitments of the NAP. Through this model key actors keep the dialogue going and follow-ups made through sectoral interests. The media is also represented at each Steering Committee meeting to report on outcomes.

Sierra Leone recognizes the value inherent in Peer Exchange and Learning. The OGP process also subscribed to this as evident by three study visits tours undertaken namely: the European Regional Meeting in Dublin Ireland, London in Britain and Manila in Philippines. The aim was to ensure preparedness of the OGP management team in Sierra Leone and the Steering Committee as a way of benchmarking best practices in the OGP process.

Despite funding challenges the OGI has been instrumental in coordination and the MCCU has helped in technical backstopping with the Steering committee executing major decisions. The Sierra Leone model could best be described as a multi-stakeholders Consultation Platform for dialogue scrutiny and action. The OGP Process in the first year in Sierra Leone has been a good example of Government Civil Society complementarity backed by checks and balances for appropriate decisions and action. Sierra Leone CSOs therefore nominates the Office of the president for this award for the innovation of a twin leadership of the OGP and how government has worked with CS.

Costa Rica

In the path to an open government, Costa Rica has this year the challenge of presenting its second national action plan. This had to be presented on June 30, but is currently in the final stage of its creation.

This delay, which at first glance looks like a breach of the commitments made within the Open Government Partnership, has become a great opportunity for learning, in which government, civil society, business and academy had been involved.

Faced with the challenge of conducting a true co-creation, civil society and government leaders have developed a process of consultation and building consensus. This has been possible thanks to the decided and real support of two key figures of the Ministry of the Presidency: Vice Minister for Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue, Ana Gabriel Zuniga and his advisor, Francela Valerin.

They, with a group of collaborators in the ministry, have been the government counterpart in a process characterized by mutual respect and openness to reach consensus. All this with the aim that the plan, which will begin the public consultation final process, reflects the proposals, not only from the government but also from civil society.

When our organization assumed the challenge of leading the construction from civil society of the proposals of commitment for the national action plan, we thought that placing our proposals before government was to be a very complicated task. Being used to traditional forms of participation, in which, citizen’s voice is taken into account only for the consultation, we had low positive expectations that our proposals were to be taken into account and respected.

Although it has not been easy and has required enormous effort to keep a permanent and effective communication, we want to acknowledge that this two government officials have devoted to open and defend the necessary spaces for the proposals to be analyzed and evaluated in equal conditions with the government ones, and defending this before superiors and colleagues.

At this time, we can say with pride and happiness that the plan to be consulted integrates, fully or partially, 13 out of the 15 commitments presented by civil society.

Not satisfied with the fact that the commitments have been originated in a citizen process, this ministry office has made an effort to validate through its own calls the proposals presented, so they would have more strength and representativity, and have opened roads for the civil society organizations that have participated in this process, to establish links with the institutions for the seeking of future collaboration relations.

The list of actions is long and they begin from the joint construction of the working methodology to the execution of workshops, meetings, forums and the approval of a decree to make reality the beginning of the work of the National Commission for an Open Government, with the participation of government officials, civil society, business and academy representatives.

We are learning and we have a lot to do before us, but there is certainly the political will to do this together.

This is why we are pleased to formally nominate the Ministry of Political Affairs and Citizen Dialogue, represented by the figure of these two government officials, for the OGP Government Champions Award.

You know you're in a hotel room with napping children when...

  • Opening a pack of sugar takes 30 seconds and sounds like a jackhammer breaking up concrete.
  • Setting your glass down on the table requires two hands and a maneuver like the thing Harrison Ford did with the satchel of sand at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
  • You have better night vision than a puma, because you've been sitting still in the dark for 90 minutes wondering if you'll have to use the bathroom before they wake up.
  • And if you do: would it really be so bad to soil yourself to avoid waking them up? I mean, you have plenty of clean clothes over there in the suitcase. 
  • You have stuffed towels under doorway cracks and wedged suitcases against curtains to prevent any light from entering your personal crypt of woe. Because you and your family are vampires.
  • You discover how to type silently, literally, on a keyboard. Your WPM drops to 11.
  • You disavow all prior thoughts of having additional children. Those are the delusional ramblings of a madman who clearly has never been in a hotel room with sleeping children.

Written (silently) from a Residence Inn in Dedham, MA USA. 

My Brush with Jack Warner (Maybe)

Today's news of the US Department of Justice coming after FIFA's decades-long corruption pyramid delighted me. Not because I've spent the bulk of my career working on the anti-corruption agenda. But because alleged lawyers for Jack Warner, one of those indicted, harassed us a few years ago at Global Integrity. We ignored the threats and they went away. But today's news tickled me no less.

What happened? Global Integrity published a national anti-corruption assessment of Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) in 2012 (covering 2011). As with all countries covered, we worked with local researchers to score more than 320 Integrity Indicators assessing the strengths and weaknesses of the country's public sector anti-corruption framework. We also commissioned a local journalist to prepare a Reporter's Notebook telling a story of how corruption issues manifested themselves in everyday life in the country. Our reporter in T&T chose to prepare a summary of the long-running scandals surrounding Jack Warner, a senior political figure in T&T who also happened to be a former FIFA Vice President. The reporting was a decent summary of previously-reported news but didn't break any new ground.

More than a year later, as the heat was being turned up on Warner internationally (FIFA and law enforcement were both looking into his role in awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar), I received this email, out of the blue, from an alleged attorney in T&T. As you'll read, the attorney threatened us with legal action unless we took down the 2011 Reporter's Notebook that focused on Warner.

We didn't. Instead, I had a fascinating back and forth (captured in this second string of emails) with the alleged attorney, asking him or her to confirm explicitly who the client was (whether Warner or someone else). They refused to name their client. We left the story up.

A final email eventually arrived (the best of the bunch, in my view), alleging that a lawsuit against us had been filed locally in T&T. As with the other threats, we ignored this and ultimately never heard from the ostensible attorney again. 

While this was a relatively easy situation to handle -- it was painfully clear from the writing in the emails that these threats were not originating from an actual attorney anywhere -- it serves as a helpful reminder for why libel tourism remains a scary, pressing issue in many countries, and why take down requests matter beyond pirated movies and music. The rule of law can be a fearsome thing when hijacked for nefarious purposes.