A democratic right
Civil society’s bottom-up participation in New Zealand government policy and procedural settings is little-known. But there is slow awakening to the potential for a stronger open government relationship, as a democratic right. Better outcomes can ensue from increased public participation. Open Government Partnership (OGP) provides a clear democratic mandate for the public to present ideas for improvements to, and reprioritisation of government activities, and for the government to seriously heed these ideas.
Such outcomes include participation and transparency in economic and social wellbeing, greater public transparency of government information, and greater controls over corruption and other negative impacts on our country’s broad wellbeing. Outcomes can come from new ideas to address issues, on the immediate horizon, such as climate change, globalisation, energy and technological changes.
Public participation is enshrined within the Open Government Partnership (OGP) global movement adopted by nearly 100 countries and local governments, including New Zealand since 2014.
Current unique opportunity
A limited window of opportunity exists now, for New Zealanders to influence the future content of our proposed OGP National Action Plan (NAP) spanning from 2020 to 2022.
This fourth NAP, as with its three predecessors, will focus on improvements to public service outcomes and government priorities through improved practices, legislation and service delivery.
New Zealand’s participation in OGP is an important driver for transparency and accountability. It provides a basis to draw attention to such issues and continue to push for progress.
“Countries are increasingly acknowledging the role of open government reforms as catalysts for public governance, democracy and inclusive growth. The OECD Report underscores how open government principles are changing the relationship between public officials and citizens, making it more dynamic, mutually beneficial and based on reciprocal trust. It moreover finds that open government initiatives are a tool to achieve broader policy objectives, rather than as an end to itself.” Open Government The global context and the way forward OECD 2016.
Open Government is about public involvement
“Openness is a critical tenet for democracy. It enables transparency, which enables accountability, which in turn drives better public outcomes and ideally a useful check and balance on power. But openness is also a critical tenet for modern public sectors if they are to be capable of responsiveness and resilience in the face of dramatic and rapid change, and to best ensure evidence-driven policy, programs, and service delivery.” Pia Andrews, What does open government mean for digital transformation?
While public involvement in the development of NAP4 is critical, it is even more critical that deliverables go beyond public sector agency co-creation. It needs to go beyond making information available, by also involving the public during plan implementation. Open government is designed to be an active process whereby the public is naturally engaged and benefits from the results.
Public involvement is critical for effective open government. The public needs to be involved in driving government changes that make government more transparent and more responsive to them. They also need to be involved by utilising the tools of open government to be more informed and engaged. Government on its part needs to constantly be amenable to ways for achieving open data, make processes transparent and deliver services effectively for all. In Taiwan, for example, their open data goal is “to lower the threshold to broaden participation.”
Now is the time to promote the Open Government Partnership (OGP) to your networks and encourage everyone to get involved in the process.
OGP workshops in March 2020 across New Zealand
The development of New Zealand’s Fourth National Action Plan (2020-2022) is underway, coordinated by the New Zealand OGP team within State Services Commission (SSC). In March of 2020, the OGP team will be conducting a series of workshops to gather ideas for the next National Action Plan.
Public sessions include:
- Wellington – Wednesday 26 February, Youth Council, 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm
- Wellington – Tuesday 3 March, National Library, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm
- Dunedin – Wednesday 11 March, Youth Action Committee, 4:30 pm – 6:30 pm
- Dunedin – Thursday 12 March, Dunedin Public Library Drop-In Session, 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm
- Christchurch – Monday 16 March, University of Canterbury Students Association, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
- Christchurch – Tuesday 17 March, Christchurch Library Drop-In Session, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
- Rotorua – Tuesday 17 March, Public Library, 12 pm – 2 pm
- Wellington – Monday 23 March, Common Leaders' Workshop (Workshop as part of Commonwealth Youth Event), National Library, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
- Auckland – Tuesday 24 March, Auckland Central Library, Drop-In Session – Library workspace, 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm
- Auckland – Wednesday 25 March, Youth Voices Network, Pacific Community Room, MIT Campus Otara, 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
The SSC wants you to be involved! “If you would like to conduct a workshop in your community to discuss open government and the potential to take action through the National Action Plan we would like to talk to you. Please contact us through firstname.lastname@example.org.” An overview of the Fourth National Action Plan development process is available from their website.
For more information, visit the New Zealand OGP website workshop page.
What is New Zealand’s grand initiative?
The OGP initiative challenges governments to make transformative commitments reaching beyond incremental steps that would not be undertaken without the OGP commitment. In the first three New Zealand National Action Plans, this challenge has remained unmet. While the OGP process has been largely successful in completing its plan commitments, no results have been evaluated as having a ‘transformative impact’ or as 'opening-up government in a major or outstanding way'.
There are a number of topics that Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) recommends could be addressed when building its new national action plan – NAP4. This could facilitate exposure of, and countermeasures against, damaging and corrupt activities.
- Adequate whistleblower protection
- Transparency of ultimate beneficial ownership of trusts and companies
- Political Party Reform
- Election Financing
- Robust policy frameworks to safeguard against digital threats to democratic institutions and/or that disrupt anti-corruption systems
- Stronger provisions in the Official Information Act to address bribery and corruption
- Embracing our Government's world-leading wellbeing strategy through provisions based on zero-tolerance for corruption.
In looking to make NAP4 a grand initiative, we need to ask: Will these commitments be sufficiently ambitious to be impactful? Will they target our society’s most pressing challenges? Will they result in a more collaborative, accountable way of governing? And, importantly, will they help to protect democracy and elections?
The international OGP schedule of activities allows very short consulting periods. These are required to be the same for all countries, and, as a result, allow little flexibility for public holidays and other localised activities.
We are publishing in this newsletter the Open Government Partnership: Schedule for interactions to keep us informed about oportunities for public involvement to better anticipate when information will be needed. This schedule will be kept current for reference.
- Open Government The global context and the way forward
- Open Government Partnership Global Website
- Open Government Partnership Global Website – New Zealand
- Global Report: Open Government – collective results, March 2019
- New Zealand End-of-Term Report 2016-2018
- OGP National Action Plan Cycle for a plan from 2018 through 2020
- New Zealand OGP by the SSC
- New Zealand National Action Plan 4 process summaary
- TINZ Open Government Partnership articles
- Open Data Barometer – New Zealand Country Sheet
- What’s Next for Open Government in the Nordics
- Delivering public value through open government data initiatives in a Smart City context
- Results of Early OGP Initiatives