Last week the White House issued a report card on US National Action Plan initiatives undertaken over the last year; the State Department included the OGP in an overview of significant human rights developments in Asia and the Pacific; and President Obama said "countries all across the world" are signing up, in welcoming the interest of four African countries – Cape Verde, Malawi, Senegal and Sierra Leone - after meeting their leaders in Washington.
Here, after Senator Faulkner stirred things up in Estimates, the issue of Australian membership has again dropped from sight, despite indications over a month ago that Foreign Minister Carr was on board and DFAT was going to hurry things along.
Hopefully someone in Canberra close to the action is gearing up for a trip to London for OGP meetings later in April that would provide a chance to catch up with developments in the US and the other 57 countries actively engaged in thinking about how to improve democratic practices.
The White House reported the US had fulfilled 24 of the 26 commitments in its National Action Plan "that help increase public integrity, promote public participation, manage public resources more effectively, and improve public services." The announcement included a commitment to work with members of the public and open government advocates to finalise a second Plan later this year.
In an appearance before a congressional committee hearing on Democracy and Human Rights in the Context of the Asia Rebalance, Acting Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of East Asian Affairs Joseph Yun had this to say:
In terms of promoting transparent and inclusive governments that provide a strong foundation for democracy, we joined with Indonesia, the Philippines and five other founding governments to launch a global forum, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) in 2011. OGP aims to secure concrete commitments from participant governments in order to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Under this initiative governments are working in close consultation with civil society to develop country action plans with concrete innovative commitments to improve how governments serve their people. There are currently 58 countries in OGP, including the Republic of Korea. Indonesia is currently a co-Chair of the initiative.
President Obama after meeting the four African leaders said:
So what our discussion has focused on is, number one, how do we continue to build on strong democracies; how do we continue to build on transparency and accountability. Because what we've learned over the last several decades is that when you've got good governance -- when you have democracies that work, sound management of public funds, transparency and accountability to the citizens that put leaders in place -- it turns out that that is not only good for the state and the functioning of government, it's also good for economic development because it gives people confidence, it attracts business, it facilitates trade and commerce. And all of these leaders have good stories to tell on that. They recognize that there’s still more work to be done, and so I’m very pleased that all of them are looking to move forward on the Open Government Partnership that we helped to organize through the United Nations several years ago, and that we are now seeing countries from all across the world sign up for -- setting up international norms for accountability and transparency that can lead to good governance.