Connecting the Dots: How the Open Government Partnership and USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance Go Hand in Hand

Ania Skinner
August 23, 2018 | 2 Minute Read
Democracy and Governance
The Open Government Partnership offers a way forward for national governments and civil society to work together on reforms. Development partners are in a unique position to connect the dots among international donors, national governments, and civil society.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a multilateral initiative launched in 2011 which supports countries in consulting with local civil society to develop national action plans which focus on commitments to reforms that strengthen governance by promoting transparency, empowering citizens, and fighting corruption. The annual OGP Summit in Tbilisi, Georgia, which took place on July 17-19, 2018, brought together representatives from 70 OGP participating countries, as well as those countries who are in the process of meeting the criteria to join. One of the remaining questions from this year’s Summit was how we connect the work of international development implementers with the work of OGP. As an implementer, we have some ideas.

OGP Action Plans Support USAID’s Journey to Self-Reliance Strategy

The concept of OGP (a national action plan developed and driven by the country) goes hand-in-hand with USAID’s journey to self-reliance, which focuses U.S. assistance and partnerships on supporting countries to increase their ability to plan, finance, and implement solutions to their own development challenges. During the 2018 OGP Summit in Tbilisi, USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Bureau of Europe and Eurasia Alexander Sokolowski emphasized that buy-in from governments and civil society, as well as a focus on the sustainability of reforms, are crucial elements of success for both the OGP country action plans and USAID’s self-reliance strategy. USAID’s self-reliance metrics focus on commitment (the degree to which a country’s laws, policies, actions, and informal governance mechanisms support self-reliance) and capacity (progress in political, social, and economic development). Countries’ national action plans and their progress towards achieving them are helpful tools for USAID to reference when attempting to understand national priorities (particularly related to open governance), as well as areas in which capacity-building support is needed to fulfill those commitments.

Implementers are Already Key Conveners of OGP Stakeholders – Here’s How we can Connect the Dots

While OGP’s strength is that every national action plan is created and driven by the participating country, a weakness is lack of financial support and technical assistance to support action plan implementation. USAID partners like Chemonics and others may not be an obvious link in the OGP framework, but our projects have critical relationships with government counterparts and civil society organizations – oftentimes working directly with the marginalized populations in which OGP needs to more effectively engage – enabling us to act as key conveners of these groups and identify overlap and opportunities for collaboration between OGP country-level action plan efforts and our project activities. Here’s how:

USAID partners like Chemonics and others may not be an obvious link in the OGP framework, but our projects have critical relationships with government counterparts and civil society organizations – oftentimes working directly with the marginalized populations in which OGP needs to more effectively engage – enabling us to act as key conveners of these groups and identify overlap and opportunities for collaboration between OGP country-level action plan efforts and our project activities.

Align ongoing project activities with OGP action plans: USAID programs are oftentimes working with local stakeholders on the same issues OGP national action plans seek to address. For example, the Chemonics-implemented USAID Nigeria Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement (SACE) Project supported civil society groups to engage in developing Nigeria’s OGP national action plan and costed workplan and provided ongoing support to these groups to engage in the action plan’s implementation, which included reforms focusing on anti-corruption, open budgeting, and asset recovery.

However, project activities don’t always directly support or link to OGP action plans, though many of our programs work in the same sectors and on the same issues addressed in these OGP action plans. In these cases, we may be supporting local stakeholders to achieve reforms without this being recognized as progress towards an action plan commitment. Thus, we should consider the commitments in OGP action plans and their connections to project activities when developing work plans or grant opportunities, and then provide technical assistance, grant funding, and other program resources in support of these commitments. USAID and other donors can also utilize their convening power to bring members of government and civil society, as well as marginalized communities, together for roundtables or working groups to further their national action plan commitments. In this way we may be able to help OGP partners institutionalize mechanisms for co-creation and collaborative implementation.

Incorporate OGP action plans into program development: When preparing proposals and concepts for future programs, both USAID and implementers should refer to existing OGP action plans in the specific country, or the eligibility criteria for OGP membership, as one entry point for future programming. Aligning potential program activities to OGP action plan commitments not only ensures that USAID’s vision is in line with the country’s own plans for progress and development, but it also increases the chances of vital buy-in during program implementation from key partner governmental institutions and civil society organizations who have already identified and are working on these issues.

USAID Administrator Mark Green summarized the vision of the “USAID of Tomorrow” as one in which “each country must lead its own development journey.” OGP national action contributes to a country’s development journey – it’s up to USAID and implementing partners to align our technical assistance and partnerships in support of this journey.

Blog posts on the Chemonics blog represent the views of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Chemonics.

About Ania Skinner

Ania Skinner is a manager in Chemonics’ Europe and Eurasia Regional Business Unit.