Wednesday 27 November 2013

Open Working Group on Open Government

The Open Working Group will be debating 15 indicators of progress towards tackling conflict & fragility at its meeting in February, before closing the doors to start the arduous task of writing their report, to be debated at the September General Assembly before feeding into the High Level Political Forum for the last stretch of the post-2015 marathon.

It’s shaping up to be an important meeting and I am told by officials close to the process that the atmosphere becomes tense whenever different country missions talk about it, because it inevitably raises very awkward and difficult issues. Bad politics, freedom of expression, corruption are among them and the inevitable push-back against including these areas in a post 2015 framework started last September as a result.

Here at today's European Development Days conference there was a debate involving Sam Doe, who was a lead official at the United Nations Development Programme tasked with one of the nine thematic consultations on conflict, fragility & disaster resilience. He had some interesting news for the gathered throng: open governance was likely to be a key theme and he had already been asked to prepare some indicators of progress for the Open Working Group to debate. The linking of governance to conflict was a connection already made by the High Level Panel in their own report, but the question is how to measure progress. 

The proposed indicators are an interesting mix, and include three broad themes: Governance, Conflict and the Rule of Law. They are as follows:

  • Corruption
  • Transparency
  • Participation including political participation
  • Freedom of expression
  • Social accountability
  • Violent deaths
  • Women
  • Cohesion, the extent of social
  • Inequality
  • Global factors exacerbating conflict
Rule of Law
  • National identity (reference was made to the number of Syrian refugees now stateless as a result of no formal national identity)
  • Judicial capacity – the extent to which the system can function
  • Professional standards among judicial staff
  • Women’s property rights
  • Women’s ability to to register and run private enterprises
It’s an interesting mix and I will reflect on it more later- but for the time being I thought this was a really positive step forward in terms of framing a debate about measuring progress rather than the stale old debate about whether all of this stuff should be part of the post 2015 framework at all. The fact we haven't tried this holistic form of development before has already led some people who should know better to start drawing perverse conclusions, which will only make matters worse unless discussions are focussed on how to make it work rather than carry on as we have - which has demonstrably failed the poorest and most vulnerable to date.

The fact remains any major study of what people on the ground in the poorest countries think reveals that they rate governance higher than almost anything else – it is currently third overall in the MyWorld survey for example and similar findings arise from the UN Task Team Consultations and the work of the High Level Panel.

The question now is surely not if, but when and how. 

1 comment:

  1. For some reason Neva Frechville, co-chair of Beyond2015 was unable to leave a comment here, so here it is:

    Thanks Chris. The Participate initiative, which carried out participatory research with some of the poorest and most marginalised communities in nearly 30 countries, also found that accountable and democratic governance, built through participatory governance was a central concern of people living in the worst situations of poverty (alongside human rights, social relations and how services are delivered). The report can be accessed here:

    So we obviously have duty to get these reflected in the framework. But the question is whether we have that thinking ready collectively in time to influence this report and the framework.

    Neva Frechville
    Co-Chair, Beyond 2015