Freedom Forum brought together representatives of CSOs and media to put forth the agenda of openness in different sectors of governance such as Open Budget, Open Contracting, Right to Information, Anti-corruption, Accountable Institutions, among others on Open Government Partnership (OGP) stakeholder workshop held on 28 June 2020.

The main objective of the workshop was to bring CSO’s concern and voice together for open government and set the priorities and future. It also aimed to emphasize the issues of transparent and accountable government during the time of pandemic. Moreover, this workshop targeted to reshape the ongoing OGP community mapping, connect different civil society leaders, and open governance champions to discuss areas of mutual interest and reinforce collective voices around open government in Nepal.

Key contributors of the workshop raised different issues related to the OGP and its rationale, principles, structure and mechanism, practices of OGP in general along with Nepal’s eligibility and performance on OGP. Similarly, the idea of open response and recovery was urged during the time of pandemic along with government and CSOs partnership.

Speakers highlighted the full-fledged execution of right to information obligation and added how proactive disclosure with reference to such pandemic could benefit public in their daily lives. Some speakers stressed critical media empowerment for the state of openness in governance that needs media and CSO collaboration. Other contributors discussed open justice, open budget, open government data, open contracting, open parliament, OGP and SDG, civic space and engagement among others.

Policy Advisor at Freedom Forum, Krishna Sapkota, delivered a glimpse of OGP by sharing his presentation and perspective. He then presented in detail the rationale, principles, structure, and practices of OGP in general along with Nepal’s eligibility and performance on OGP.

Emphasizing the Open Response and Open Recovery, Tanka Aryal stressed that CSO and government should work together openly even in the time of pandemic but it did not happen today. After facing some disaster and pandemic, to get back to the situation from the worst to normalcy, collaboration is must that generally denotes the open response and open recovery is, he added.

Having said that Right to Information as an important tool of OGP, Dharmendra Jha and Bishwajeet Tiwari showed the link between openness and RTI to ensure a transparent and accountable environment in all three tiers of government. They even underscored the restriction made by the government in the time of pandemic. They added how proactive disclosure with reference to such pandemic could benefit public in their daily lives.

Showing the perspective of the media in reference to OGP, Vice President of Federation of Nepali Journalist, Bipul Pokhrel stated that openness is one of the major themes of democracy. To empower the media, is another word to ensure the state of openness in governance. Impactful open governance needs critical media and CSO collaboration.

Focusing on civic engagement, comprehensive peace, open justice and SDG 16 Dayasagar Shrestha, Charan Prasai and HemTembe urged for openness in every sphere of governance and state affairs. They showed concern about shrinking civic space and fundamental freedoms. They felt lobbying needs to be done to make guidelines to support the government and localize SDG and open government concept.

Talking about legislative openness, Dila D Panta questioned the openness parameter, which has been decreasing in Nepal.

Key Strategies and Way Forward:
Besides the discussion on OGP issues, the workshop also identified the strategies and way forward for openness for upcoming days.
Major strategies among varies are as follows:

Demand side activism – right to information, follow the money, expenditure tracking and practices of social accountability tools from demand side and their engagement is must for open response and open recovery.

CSO coalition and readiness- Assessment of readiness, building thematic working groups and dialogue among aligning the interests is major area of intervention. Continuous Advocacy must for expanding Civic space OGP membership and replication of OGP concept at local level.

Collaborative dialogue among CSOs, governments and parliament help to ensure open governance in practice.

Mainstreaming openness efforts: Several openness promotion actions and initiatives are in place and it requires a collective and mutual effort to mainstream and highlighting these initiatives.

Mutual collaboration among oversight actors: is a must such as parliamentary committees at three-tiers of governments focusing Public Accounts Committee), CSOs working on several themes of openness and media.

Facilitation for OGP local: Localization of OGP and technical skills transfer on sectors such as open budget and open data RTI to the local level is another area of intervention. For this Transparency data portal: Engaging local government’s actors will be beneficial.

Peace building and open justice: This issue has been ignored in CSOs and media fronts so this should be highlighted in the CSOs and OGP forum. This should be made a separate theme in OGP working groups and discussion.

The Zoom workshop was moderated by Sanjeeb Ghimire, Project Manager at Freedom Forum. It was held as part of the “Civil Society Mutual Accountability Project (CS: MAP)” with the support of FHI360 and attended by 51 participants. Out of 51 participants, there were 11 females in the event