Freedom Forum organized a dialogue on ‘Collaborative Advocacy and CSO Readiness for Open Government Partnership’ in Kathmandu on December 30. The objectives of this initiative were to bring together different civil society leaders and Open Government advocates to review the efforts made so far on Open Government Partnership (OGP) and reinvigorating the OGP agenda in Nepal.

OGP as a multilateral initiative which aims to secure commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower and engage citizens, fight for corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen the governance. This event is a continuation of several previous dialogues organized by FF. The dialogue was also expected to consolidate CSOs efforts to strategically take ahead OGP campaign and institutionalize the efforts towards greater openness in Nepal. Out of 25, 4 were female and 21 were male participants in the event.

Major Concern and Outcome of the Event

Reminding the previous CSOs efforts on OGP, the followings are some achievements of the discussion:

Framing Strategies and Approaches

Strategic and innovative approaches should be designed to convince the government and other stakeholders on OGP and greater openness. FF Executive Chief Mr Tara Nath Dahal said it would be easier to proclaim the progress made so far on openness and transparency and role of CSOs in these accomplishments. CSOs role on establishing new constitutional rights, access to information, anti-corruption, open data, fiscal transparency, performance audit and other governance reform initiatives in Nepal could be claimed as triumphs in this regard as he said.

“To encourage government’s engagement on OGP issues, ‘CSO should follow appreciative approaches”, said UNDP team leader Dila D Pant. He further suggested linking the benefits of different openness measures initiated by CSOs.

Educate, Empower and Engage on OGP

Most of the participants pointed out the need of CSOs’ role to educate, empower and engage with each other, and all layers of government in different thematic areas related to OGP. Beside this, they suggested developing basic IEC materials for massive advocacy and better campaigning. CEO of Accountability Lab, Mr. Narayan Adhikari; Chairperson of NGO Federation of Nepal, Jitram Lama; Chairpersons of CAHURAST, Mr Bishnu Pukar Shrestha; Chairperson of Media Advocacy Group, Anita Bindu and others drew attention on this issue.

Forming and Expanding Thematic Groups

Mr. Narayan Adhikari suggested formalizing previous stakeholders mapping of CSO working on different thematic areas and develop its network. Similarly, Policy Advisor of Freedom Forum, Mr. Krishna Sapkota, suggested potential areas of thematic groups for OGP such as Right to Information (RTI), open data, anti-corruption, technological innovation, fiscal transparency, access to justice and natural resources. “Working via such thematic group modality will enhance CSOs readiness when adopting OGP by government” said Law and Policy Advisor of CS: MAP, Tanka Raj Aryal. He further added that the thematic areas of OGP should be open for expanding its scope. Open parliament, open judiciary, open contract, open audit open health are other possible areas that need to connect with OGP.

Common and Cross-Cutting Agenda

Most of the participants expressed the need to develop an introductory document and toolkit about OGP which helps to create a common voice. CEO of SAP Nepal, Mr Narendra Joshi, viewed that CSOs and its network could include OGP as cross-cutting agenda of their respective working theme. The major cross-cutting areas he suggested are youth, GESI, forestry, governance, environment, climate change, health, media, human rights, research and development, among others.

Piloting/Modeling with Sub-National Government

All participants recommended the development of a model project focusing on particular sub-national government in line with OGP requirements. For example, Nilkantha Municipality, Nepalgunj Sub-Metropolis and Dhangadhi Municipality are some probable sub-national units where OGP requirements can be translated into practice establishing collaboration with CSOs. This type of model initiative and attainments will be a source of inspiration for other sub-national governments. This trend cumulatively may facilitate and create pressure on federal government to adopt OGP process.

Continuous Lobby with Federal Government

However, without formal response of federal government, it is not easy to enter into the process of OGP in an official manner. So, continuous advocacy and lobby with federal government is must for enabling environment to opt the OGP, underscored the participants.

Form a Task Force

The event concluded by forming a task force comprising three members- Mr. Narayan Adhikari, Mr Krishna Sapkota and Mr Dayasagar Shrestha. The committee will suggest the CSOs to revitalize the previous works and prepare a calendar and framework for strategic intervention on OGP.