Nepal Eligible To Be OGP Member

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Nepal’s Prime Minister has been invited to participate in Open Global Partnership (OGP) summit being held in Estonia on September 6-7. This is not the first time that Nepal has been invited to participate in its Summit, and to be its member for a few years. The National Information Commission (NIC) conducted a study and found that Nepal is eligible to be a member of this multilateral initiative. The NIC also submitted the report to the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers with an action plan. It has recommended that Nepal join OGP that has listed it as non-participating 20 countries qualified to join the OGP. High-level bureaucrats have already attended several OGP summits.

NIC has organised a number of seminars on open governance at provincial level last year, highlighting the importance of transparency and accountability and the option for provincial and local level authorities to join OGP. The subnational governments can also join it. Open governance seeks to strengthen democracy, curb corruption and promote better development. If citizens do not know how decisions are made, taxes are spent or who is responsible for these tasks, they have little idea as to how governments work for their benefit.

Concept 

Transparency, accountability and participation are necessary conditions to ensure that public resources are used efficiently, public policies are designed in best interest of people and governments act with integrity. Much still remains to be done to bring the benefits of open governance to citizens all over the world. Open governance is a concept that ensures citizens' access to information and participation in the decision-making process. It is based on the idea that an open government is more accessible, more responsive, and more accountable to citizens, and that improving the relationship between people and their government has long-term benefits for everyone. Governments have institutions and policies to enhance transparency, accountability and participation, and the appropriate tools and investments are made to enable these policies.

Citizen participation in public policies and processes means citizens can hold their authorities to account, denounce instances of malfeasance and sanction elected officials. We seek to maximise citizens' effective use of open governance to advocate for and impact change by promoting the direct engagement with communities and civil society for building coherent, open government standards and monitoring systems, and fostering stronger government commitments to implement critical open governance reforms. OGP is a broad partnership that includes members at the national and local level and thousands of civil society organisations. Through the partnership, these powerful forces work together to co-create two-year action plans with concrete steps and commitments across a broad range of issues. 

The OGP is run by a steering committee of 22 members (11 national governments and 11 civil society organisations) and an executive board composed by four members (two of each). Governments and civil society organisations can join if they agree with the principles, mission, and agenda of the OGP. This includes the promotion of freedom of information about government activities, civic participation, professional integrity in public administration, and access to technology for openness and accountability.

Seventy-eight countries and a growing number of local governments (representing more than two billion people) are members of OGP. All OGP governments have signed the Open Government Declaration and are required to work with civil society organisations to co-create reforms as part of an action plan that can deliver real benefits to citizens. To join the OGP process, Nepal should sign an Open Government Declaration to adhere to the democratic governance norms and values. It should also meet the core eligibility criteria. Core eligibility metrics measure a government's performance across four key areas of open government (fiscal transparency, access to information, public officials' asset disclosure, and citizens' engagement). It should also select lead government organisation to steer the process and submit a letter of intent.

Once Nepal becomes member of the Partnership, it should submit an action plan for reform. Action plans are at the core of a member's participation in OGP. They are the product of a co-creation process in which government and civil society define ambitious commitments to foster transparency, accountability and inclusion to measure implementation progress of the action plan, benchmarks with timeframes and anticipated annual achievements need to be stipulated for each commitment. The annual self-assessment progress report is developed against these benchmarks. To ensure that implementation progress is assessed and measured in an unbiased manner, an independent reporting mechanism ensures biannual reporting in all member countries.

Nepal has made significant progress in good governance over the past several years. Notably, the country enacted Good Governance (Management and Operation) Act and Right to Information Act in 2007, Financial Procedure and Fiscal Accountability Act in 2019 and Prevention of Corruption Act in 2002 to improve the transparency, right to seek the information from public bodies, fiscal transparency and prevent the corruption.  

Nepal is committed to the democratic values and good governance and is documented in its constitutions, legislations, policies and programmes and political manifestos of all the political parties. The partnership can be a platform to showcase its reforms and initiatives to the world. The partnership has created a MDTF (Multi Donor Trust Fund) to support reform agenda from the action plan, Nepal can have the access to this fund and other international cooperation funds, which can be useful to accelerate the reform process for the benefit of the people. 

Meaningful engagement

The partnership can provide a forum to learn and share experiences on reforms of countries, which can be beneficial to Nepal. OGP can be a factor for meaningful engagement with civil society since the action plan of any countries is product of joint work of the government and civil society. It gives an opportunity to the government to engage civil society and build trust. The transparency, access to information and accountability can bring much needed reform in service delivery mechanisms and generate highly positive environment to boost domestic and foreign investment.

Since Nepal has already embraced the OGP's core principles through national charter, policy and programmes, political parties' manifestos and a number of government's commitments to openness, transparency, good governance and right to information, there are no difficulty for it to make entry into the OGP. The only challenges remain in realising its values and norms. 

 (The author is the Chief Commissioner of NIC.)

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