Civil society participants at the first Open Government Partnership (OGP) Africa regional meeting in Kenya have agreed to facilitate media and public debates about the OGP in their respective countries. This will support the OGP Africa agenda for promoting open governance in the continent.
Participants at the meeting agreed that when issues about the OGP is placed firmly on the public agenda, it will improve public awareness of the partnership and what they stand to gain as a country by joining and promoting OGP.
This was one of the outcomes at the OGP Africa regional meeting which was hosted by the Government of Kenya from October 29-30, 2013 at the Coastal City of Mombasa in Kenya.
The meeting aimed at outlining an Africa agenda for open governance, promoting OGP in Africa and sharing and learning from experiences in open governance from different parts of the continent and beyond. Another key objective was to mobilize non OGP member Governments to consider joining OGP.
The meeting was preceded by a civil society gathering organized by the Africa Freedom of Information Centre (AFIC), International Commission of Jurists-Kenya, the World Bank Institute and OGP Independent CSO Coordinator. It reviewed progress of OGP on the continent from the civil society perspective and outlined key expectations from the OGP regional meeting.
A key expectation outlined at the gathering was why Uganda had not joined the OGP despite meeting eligibility criteria. Civil society also wanted to know the OGP eligibility status of countries like Namibia, Zambia, Nigeria, Botswana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal and Ethiopia. CSO’s also sought answers on how OGP relates with African processes like the African Peer Review Mechanism as well as the place of regional Economic Communities like ECOWAS, SADAC and EAC.
The meeting attracted over 100 government and civil society leaders from Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana, Liberia, South Africa, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Mozambique, Tunisia, among other countries. There was also representation from other agencies such as the OGP Support Unit, the Independent OGP Civil Society Coordinator, the World Bank Institute, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, UNESCO, APRM Support Unit and The World Bank.
However, the most fundamental outcome of the meeting was a visible and trustful relationship between Government and civil society representatives. Another promising outcome was a pledge by Dr Fred Matiang’i, Kenya’s Minister of ICT, that he will ensure that the long awaited Freedom of Information Bill is tabled before Parliament for consideration and adoption.
Other outcomes from the meeting was an assurance by Hon. Alhaji Alpha Kanu, Sierra Leone Minister of Information and Communications that his Government will in the near future get the draft Freedom of information Bill adopted. He also indicated the country’s eagerness to join OGP. The South Africa Deputy Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ayanda Dlodlo called upon African governments to learn from Africa civil society who are networked and keep sharing and supporting each other on OGP in Africa.
Further outcomes came from Minister Richard Twodong and Director of Information Simon Mayende who promised that consultations on Uganda’s OGP confirmation and membership would be expedited. The CSO’s from Ghana promised to engage with Government on the basis of the country action plan to ensure that Government commitment in respect of the Freedom of Information Bill is expedited.
Participants at the meeting agreed that the OGP is an essential platform to strengthen existing mechanisms such as the African peer Review Mechanism through its emphasis on dialogue, inclusiveness and timely action on grand challenges. They also agreed that OGP should be practically tailored towards socio-economic justice and building an inclusive partnership for African citizens.
The meeting decided that it would be useful to hold a separate regional OGP meeting to discuss OGP and civil society engagement in Africa. The tool http://africafoicentre.org/ogp/developed by AFIC to help civil society monitor implementation of OGP commitments was welcomed by all participants. Civil society participants agreed that following the meeting they would meet at country level to deliberate on the status of implementation and share with the rest of the community through the Africa OGP CSO listserve.
Civil society participants also agreed to support each other in campaigning for eligible but non OGP member countries to expedite joining of OGP. They are also committed to deepening engagement on OGP issues by mobilising other civil society “missing voices” at national level from different sectors.
The meeting ended with participants appreciating AFIC for facilitating OGP knowledge-sharing across the continent through webinars, video conferences, listserves and country support missions.
The Africa Regional Meeting has provided an important opportunity for the region to reflect on progress at country and regional level, mobilise other governments and plan for the future ahead of the London 2013 meeting.
At the end of the outreach meeting, civil society again reconvened to take stock of the two days of deliberations and charted a way forward on how to consolidate the outcomes of the outreach meeting.