Open Government Partnership grows

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The recent addition of Panama and Costa Rica brings the total membership in the Open Government Partnership to 52 countries, including the eight founding countries that have already launched their national action plans. At the first OGP summit to be held in Brasilia April 16, 42 countries will debut their plans, according to Caroline Mauldin, policy director for the undersecretary of State for democracy and global affairs.

Each nation's commitments are part of an "iterative process," said Mauldin during a Feb. 14 World Bank event in Washington, D.C.

"All of the OGP action plans are actually living documents, and that I also think was a culture shift for a lot of governments...The idea of publishing a draft document for the world to see is not something government officials are really used to or comfortable with," said Mauldin.

The idea of a living document was even uncomfortable for the eight founding nations, she said. The United States' National Action Plan (.pdf), was unveiled at a Sept. 20, 2011 event in New York City to launch the international OGP.

The U.S. NAP had to be drafted in a way that avoided repetition, as there are several U.S. open government initiatives, said Mauldin. The plan includes commitments from 40 different domestic agencies, with 26 distinct commitments, said Mauldin.

The execution of the NAP is primarily coordinated by the White House, while the State Department is more involved with OGP governance and international relations. Mauldin said the steering committee is now determining how OGP will change and grow in the mid- to long-term. One consideration is to focus on specific open government themes, possibly each year, moving forward. They're also preparing to hold elections for new steering committee members, she said.

Despite a clear governing body, OGP wants to avoid appearing rigid or regulatory; rather, it aims to give experiences and lessons learned an institutional body for sharing, said Juan Pardinas, civil society representative for Mexico at OGP steering committee.

"There is not a guiding principle or what has to be [required by] OGP for a specific country. One of the beauties of this initiative is that each country sets its own track, its own potential, its own possibility of change in the short- and the mid-term regarding transparency and accountability," said Pardinas.

For more:
- see the liveblog of the event

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