“We have to sustain momentum in the next two years, or the initiative is not going to deliver. And what we want is to deliver!”
– Alejandro Gonzalez
While Mexico’s first OGP action plan was developed in collaboration between government and civil society, it addressed itself to thirty-seven commitments. This, says incoming OGP Steering Committee (SC) member Alejandro Gonzalez, was not strategic in terms of its potential to actually transform public administration; engage citizens; increase transparency and accountability, and reduce corruption. “We got an A for effort and process, and a C minus in terms of our capacity to actually change lives on the ground,” Gonzalez says.
Building trust – working together
An equal working partnership between government and civil society was established through its OGP coordination committee, composed of representatives from government, civil society and IFAI, Mexico’s Federal Institute for Access to Information and Data Protection. That each representative commits to serving at least two years, ensuring continuity and follow-through, is a key lesson from the Mexican experience to date, explains Gonzalez.
“The type of dialogue and the capacity shown through this process reflects the development of a constructive relationship based on trust,” he says. The tripartite body is mandated to make process decisions, including how best to evaluate commitments, decisions on which specific government representatives to pair with which commitments, and how new commitments should be integrated into the plan. All decisions are consensus-based. “This proved to be a good mechanism for dialogue and for resolving any tensions and differences that arose in the process.”
Gonzalez notes that the approach to assessing Mexico’s first action plan reflects the trust relationship developed between civil society (CS) and government. “There was no ‘official evaluation’ from the government, followed by a ‘shadow report’ from civil society. It was developed in a consensual way, in one document.”
Responsibilities of lead chair
With Mexico taking over the OGP lead chair in 2014, Gonzalez, who is a founding member of Mexico’s Accountability Network (1), and an active participant in a Community of Practice on Transparency and Accountability (2) is in the ‘hot seat’. He wants to ensure that the chair “plays a substantial role in shaping the priorities and the way of doing business of the OGP.”
For civil society to achieve its objectives in the OGP, a strong and influential civil society coalition internationally and nationally, particularly in chair countries is required, he argues. “This means pushing governments from chair countries to actually lead, and not only administrate.” Gonzalez believes the chair should “address the thorny issues” if it is to be effective.
“This means striking the right balance of sticks and carrots for enhancing ambition and impact.” Improving the rules of the game; finding the right set of incentives; enhancing the Independent Reporting Mechanism; and deepening the partnership by setting standards are some of Gonzalez’s priorities for his term in office. At a technical level, he argues that guidelines are required for true partnerships between government and CS at national level, and for meaningful CS engagement.
“The OGP is all about thinking and doing out of the box,” Gonzalez says. He sees this achieved through “identifying, incentivizing, and rewarding innovation to keep the OGP at the cutting edge.” He also aims to support the “sharing of best practices by taking full advantage of the body of information and knowledge available” through improved information management.
His advice to the OGP community and those considering joining is to not get involved in the OGP “if you’re not willing to leave your comfort zone.” For civil society, this means “being willing and able
to play a double role, not only putting pressure on government but also cooperating,” Gonzalez says. For governments, he sees this to mean recognizing that “government does not have all the knowledge, capacity, resources and legitimacy required for solving complex public problems, and acknowledging that civil society can be a valuable ally in finding solutions.”
Since joining the OGP SC, Gonzalez has focused his attentions on the Sub-Committee on Criteria and Standards. “I want to contribute to the strategic issues – by improving the rules of the game, improving the incentives, improving the instruments – in order to push governments towards more ambitious commitments, and greater compliance on actual commitments,” he says.
For Gonzalez, being in the ‘hot seat’ also means using his position to contribute to transforming the “initial energy and commitment displayed into actual changes that can be assessed as progress in each country – in terms of transparency, accountability, anti-corruption, and involving civil society in public decision-making – ultimately, changing lives on the ground.”
He concludes: “We are at a very crucial moment of the initiative, key to determining the long-term future of the OGP. We have to sustain momentum in the next two years, or the initiative is not going to deliver. And what we want is to deliver!”
By: Sarita Ranchod
(1) Red por la Rendición de Cuentas is a 61 member organization that includes CSOs and public institutions that advocate for transparency and accountability. http://rendiciondecuentas.org.mx
(2) is a Community of Practice on Transparency and Accountability that includes 15 organisations working on these issues. http://www. colectivoporlatransparencia.org