Open Government Partnership: Next steps for the Afghan Government and civil society

  By Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director

In December 2016, the Afghan Government announced its desire to join the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Since then, there has been little movement on the part of the Afghan Government to take any practical steps towards developing and implementing an open government agenda.

The Afghan Government must meet at least the basic requirements of the OGP. There are basic and advanced standards that the Afghan Government should meet throughout the OGP cycle, during development of a national action plan for open government reforms, and when implementing and reporting the action plans.

An essential element of the OGP cycle is dissemination of information throughout the process. Some basic steps would include the development of a website for OGP or a webpage on a government website to proactively share information about the OGP process, key decisions, implementation progress and assessments, and other aspects of OGP in a “visible, accessible and searchable” manner.

OGP requires all its participating countries to “commit to developing their country action plans through a multi stakeholder process, with the active engagement of citizens and civil society.” Civil society participation is considered a cornerstone of the OGP process. This is a deliberate requirement since participation of all stakeholders, especially civil society’s active participation, is key to ensuring that government reforms work in a sustainable way.

Therefore, one of the basic steps for the Afghan Government is to establish a multi-stakeholders forum, which should meet on a regular basis but not less than once every quarter. Both the government and the multi-stakeholders forum should raise the awareness of all stakeholder groups such as citizens groups, civil society organizations, media organizations and journalists, academia, the private sector, government departments at the national and subnational level, parliament, provincial councils, and other relevant groups and entities. The Afghan Government must ensure joint-ownership and decision-making in the multi-stakeholders forum. In addition, the government must ensure that the forum is empowered to make decisions by assigning “high-level representatives with decision making authority” to be part of the multi-stakeholders forum for OGP.

The Afghan Government must not use joining OGP only as a gesture to create goodwill for the government among the donor community. The government should not waste this opportunity for reform as it did when Afghanistan joined the Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) under the Karzai administration – even after almost eight years Afghanistan has not been validated as an EITI member country. Joining the Open Government Partnership is a bold commitment but it is only a beginning of a long process that needs the government’s continuous and sincere efforts – not just making news headlines about more government commitments.