At the Open Government Partnership Europe Regional Meeting on May 8th, Brendan Howlin, Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform released Ireland’s first Open Government Partnership Draft OGP National Action Plan for public comment in advance of submission to Government for approval in June 2014.
Europe Regional Conference – A Report
As Minister Brendan Howlin prepared to publish Ireland’s first Open Government Partnership) Draft OGP National Action Plan, at a Europe Regional Meeting on a rainy morning in May, there was a visual display of unity. Everyone, whether they were members of the public, European or domestic civil servants, or NGO representatives, was armed with an umbrella as they carefully make their way over the wet cobble stones that led into the conference’s host building, Dublin Castle.
It was a fitting sight because unity was one of the unspoken themes that pervaded the two day Europe Regional Meeting (May 8th and 9th).
Ireland hosted the event so that the nation could be recognised as a new, full participant of OGP, to publish the Draft National Action Plan and to endorse OGP’s central ideas of transparency, technology and innovation, accountability and citizen participation. The conference was also designed to facilitate peer learning on aspects of the OGP and to increase awareness of the partnership in Europe. The conference agenda was made up of both working group and plenary sessions addressed by many invited experts, activists and Ministers from Ireland, Europe and beyond. Here are some videos of the plenary sessions.
The Draft NAP was published with little fanfare on the morning of May 8th by Minister Howlin. He said: “The important actions included in the Plan are closely aligned with OGP objectives to increase the openness, transparency and accountability of public governance.”
Irish civil society representatives collaborated heavily with officials in drafting the plan. A foreword, was written by civil society for the Action Plan, and one section reads: “Open government delivers tangible and lasting benefits. By providing transparency, encouraging participation and facilitating accountability, openness improves public services, drives innovation and business growth and helps builds trust between government and citizens.”
However, the absence of a commitment in the draft plan to abolish fees for Freedom of Information requests, was a disappointment to the members of civil society who had strongly advocated for this since the early stages of OGP consultation meetings in June 2013.
Apart from unity, more themes on the first day of the conference included: legislative openness, measuring progress in open government, best practice in Nordic countries, the EU’s role in promoting transparency and accountability. On the second day, open data was a significant topic that bled into most of the discussion sessions. Other discussions were built around fiscal openness, citizen participation, whistle blowing, access to information and open contracting.
Members of the public can comment on the Draft National Action Plan. Views and comments should be submitted to email@example.com by Friday 6 June.
See this web visualisation of the NAP.
More information on the Europe Regional Meeting can be found here:
An open letter was sent Minister Howlin in March 2014, expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of commitment on the government’s part to abolish FOI/AIE fees within Ireland’s first NAP. See the letter here.
Open Government Partnership website: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/get-involved/europe-regional-meeting
Department of Public Expenditure and Reform’s Press Release: http://www.per.gov.ie/open-government-partnership-minister-publishes-irelands-draft-national-action-plan/
The National Action Plan is open for public comment. Please submit any views or comments you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org by Friday, June 6th, 2014.
For your information you can download the Europe Regional Meeting Agenda (PDF)OGP European Regional Meeting kicks off Ireland’s OGP Membership