December 17 (Kabul)—at the OGP Global Summit 2016 in Paris on 9th December 2016, the NUG representative at the conference announced its membership to the OPG. The announcement was well received by twelve head of states and more than five thousand delegates present at the conference. Integrity Watch’s representative at the conference welcomed the announcement. The Afghan civil society led by Integrity Watch has been advocating the cause for the last one year with the National Unity Government officials.
At a press conference on 17 December at Government Media and Information Center (GMIC), Abdul Subhan Rauf, a deputy at Administrative Office of the President, stated, “We are committed to promoting transparency across the government and pledge to implement the OGP values and principles in Afghanistan.” The OGP rests on four pillars of citizen participation, transparency, accountability and finally innovation and technology. Each member state has to commit to promoting the core values of the OGP.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, put the Afghan membership at the OGP into a larger perspective and told to the press at the GMIC that, “In the ocean of corruption in Afghanistan, there are islands of integrity that pushes for transparency and accountability.” He added, “We welcome and support Afghanistan’s membership to OGP and see is as an achievement of the Afghan civil society’s persistent advocacy for the cause.”
In order to become a member state of OGP, there are four basic eligibility criteria i.e. fiscal transparency, citizen participation, access to information, and asset registration of public officials. The four criteria are measured through global rankings of the countries at Open Budget Survey of Open Budget Partnership, Open Society Institute Justice Initiative and Access Info Europe’s Right2Info.org, World Bank’s Public Officials Financial Disclosure, and Economic Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index.
With ratification of the Access to Information Law by the National Unity Government in October 2014, Afghanistan became eligible to join the OGP. Although Afghanistan’s ranking of Open Budget Survey dropped from 59 in 2012 to 46 in 2014, it still met the criteria for fiscal transparency. Article 154 of the Afghan Constitution of 2004 and Law on Oversight to the Implementation of the National Corruption Strategy 2008 obligate the public officials to register their assets. And finally, Afghanistan enacted two separate laws that allow civil society participation and a separate and pretty strong law that guarantees free media. These legal documents meet the eligibility criteria of the OGP.
According to Ahmadullah Mauj, Integrity Watch’s representative at the OGP Global Summit 2016, “The next step following formal membership to OGP is draft of a National Action Plan (NAP) through a participatory mechanism between the relevant government agencies and civil society organizations.” A NAP is prepared for two years. After the mutual approval of the NAP, the government starts the implementation and the civil society monitors its implementation. Member states share their NAPs to the OGP secretariat for follow up and technical assistance. Currently, the member states have committed more than 2500 pledges through the OGP. Twenty-five percent of the commitments have been implemented including beneficial ownership in the UK, and access to information in Chile.
In addition to promoting global movement for transparency and deepening democracy across the world, the member states benefit on several counts through membership at OGP. According to Afzali, “ It increases a country credibility at global level, boosts foreign direct investment, highlights the suitable destinations for clean multinational companies and limit the global environment for companies that lacks integrity.” The OGP is strong global mechanism for support and protection of civil society, free media and citizen participation at national level.
Member states lose their membership if they do not remain committed to protection and promotion of the core values of the OGP. This includes causing difficulty to citizen and civil society participation, and lack of access to information among others. Azerbaijan lost its membership in 2016 because of curtailing civil society in the country.
The OGP as mechanism to promote accountability and transparency at the national level was jointly initiated by eight countries: Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, Norway, Philippines, South Korea, the UK, and the US in 2011. Currently, it has 75 member states.
- Integrity Watch requests the government of Afghanistan to hold awareness workshop for all the government agencies at the national and local level to familiarize them with OGP.
- The government of Afghanistan should reach out to the civil society organizations and pave the way for their participation through the OGP.
- The government should hold preliminary workshops where civil society and government officials and can meet and suggest initial inputs for the commitments to become part of the OGP.
- The international community is expected to provide support to the civil society organizations to meaningfully and constructively engage with the government through OGP.