For the uninitiated, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global initiative that aims to secure commitments from governments to their citizenry to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
A novel feature of this voluntary enterprise is that it encourages governments and civil society to work together to introduce, implement and monitor reforms. In Ireland, a small but diverse ad hoc group of civil society representatives and citizens coalesced around the creation of Ireland’s first two year National Action Plan, which contained 20 reform commitments, and was launched in June 2014 (you can see details on www.ogpireland.ie).
This week’s report is a welcome milestone in Ireland’s journey as a member of the unique global OGP initiative, which started some four years ago under the leadership of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Brendan Howlin.
Written by TCD political scientist Professor Raj Chari, the report charts the first year of implementation of the National Action Plan’s commitments, from 2014 to 2015. Dr Chari’s overall verdict is that the plan contained “ambitious commitments” on citizen participation, ethics in public office, lobbying regulation, and whistleblower protection. He concludes that “while much progress has been made in implementing the commitments, some areas need strengthening and reinforcing.”
One of the most pressing of these surely relates to ethics and standards in public life. An overhaul of our weak ethics regime was a central plank of a suite of legislative reforms aimed at enhancing transparency and accountability in government and public life contained in the last Programme for Government. These also included lobbying, whistleblower and freedom of information reforms.
These recommendations also aim to ensure that the modest momentum built up in government and civil society around Ireland’s membership of this unique global partnership is not squandered.
Nuala Haughey is communications director with the Social Democrats and was previously a researcher, analyst and project manager on democratic accountability issues with TASC.
She is an award-winning former Irish Times journalist with 15 years' experience reporting from Ireland and the Middle East on human rights, social affairs and immigration.
She was a consultant in human rights and communications for Irish and international NGOs and European Commission.
Nuala has a law degree (LLB) from the Queen’s University Belfast and a Master's in journalism from Dublin City University.