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Friday, March 21, 2014

Open letter to Foreign Minister: the OGP, Indonesia and Australia

If you think similarly, you might like to let the Minister know: 


On Lateline recently you mentioned "about 60 areas of co-operation between Australia and Indonesia covering about 22 Australian government departments and agencies."

If not already included can I suggest that the Open Government Partnership is another area for co-operation with direct benefits for both countries and consistent with our efforts to advance Australia's foreign policy interests?

The OGP is a global effort to make governments better, and to make governments more transparent, effective and accountable with institutions that empower citizens and are responsive to their aspirations.

Indonesia is the current lead co-chair of the partnership. Sixty two countries have joined including the US, UK, Canada, Korea, and the Philippines, or like New Zealand are in the process of doing so.

Then US Secretary of State Clinton invited Australia to join in September 2011.

In a joint statement issued by the White House in September 2013 on behalf of Australia and twenty other countries the Government stated its commitment to strengthen support for the OGP and for other mechanisms designed to improve democratic practices.

However little has been said publicly about Australia undertaking steps to complete membership requirements. In May 2013 the then Attorney General Mark Dreyfus said that we would achieve this by April 2014.

A ministerial level meeting of the Steering Committee will be held in Bali on 4-5 May followed by the first Asian regional conference to be hosted by the Indonesian Government. President  Yudhoyono  will speak at the conference. The Indonesian Government intends the meeting serve as a platform for countries and communities within the region to connect, share and learn from each other on the benefits and opportunities across open and good governance practices.

I understand an invitation to attend has been sent to you, and to Attorney General Brandis and Minister for Finance Cormann.

The Bali meetings provide the opportunity for Australia to stand with Indonesia in this cause, to acknowledge the important role that government has played in the development of the OGP, and to publicly reaffirm our support for the aims, objectives and principles that underpin the OGP initiative.

The absence of senior government representation would itself convey an unfortunate message about the level of our interest in the issue and the regard we have for Indonesia’s leadership in the promotion of good government throughout the region.

As the OGP involves a partnership between government and civil society the Government might also encourage participation in the Bali regional conference by those who can assist in establishing and extending ties with non government organisations that are key to the promotion of open, transparent and accountable government throughout the region.

Hopefully Australia can move promptly to complete the final steps that need to be taken on our membership by endorsing the Open Government Declaration and developing a national action plan in partnership with interested parties outside government.

I have written separately to Attorney General Brandis and Minister Cormann who appear to have carriage of these matters.

Thank you for your consideration.

Peter Timmins

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