Open Government Partnership
Information and details surrounding the Open Government Partnership.
Scholar in Residence
Faculty of Law
Grading the government on its commitment to open government
The New Zealand government has signed up to the Open Government Partnership, a forum of countries working to promote government that is open, accountable and responsive to citizens.
In 2014, the New Zealand government issued its first OGP Action Plan. It set out commitments by the government aimed at improving our systems of integrity, transparency, participation and accountability over the ensuing two years.
Under the OGP process, there’s an organisation based in Washington DC that assesses each government’s Action Plan. Did the government consult properly on it? Is it effective? Ambitious? What are its strengths and weaknesses? How might it be done better?
To help them out, the OGP organisation hires local researchers. Steven Price is the local researcher for New Zealand. In conjunction with the New Zealand Centre for Public Law, he gathered information and views on our country’s Action Plan.
This page summarises the Action Plan and provides links to the State Service Commission’s pages on the plan. Since New Zealand’s Action Plan incorporates various other government initiatives, it provides links to them too. It also links to the OGP international site, and some other key documents.
Feedback on these materials can be directed to:
The Open Government Partnership
The Open Government Partnership is effectively a pact among a group of countries in which each promises to take concrete steps to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance.
As of 2015, there were 66 countries participating, including New Zealand.
Participating countries signed a declaration acknowledging the importance of open government and commiting them to:
- Increase the availability of information about governmental activities
- Support civic participation
- Implement the highest standards of professional integrity throughout our administrations, and
- Increase access to new technologies for openness and accountability.
Each country agreed to prepare an Action Plan that sets out concrete commitments to meet some or all of these goals. Action Plans were prepared in consultation with interested people and civil society groups. They were then assessed by the OGP’s “independent reporting mechanism” to see how well they performed. Researchers were appointed in each country to help conduct this assessment, by gathering information, seeking public comment, and consulting stakeholders.
This page is part of that assessment process.
New Zealand’s Action Plan
New Zealand’s Action Plan for 2014–2016.
This plan differs from most other countries’ Action Plans. It does not list a set of specific projects or reforms. Rather, it embraces a series of government initiatives relevant to OGP goals that are already in process. The goals are broad ones, and the specific steps to achieve them are generally not described in detail, but are expected to evolve during the course of the implementation of the Action Plan. The government describes the Action Plan as “a living document”.
So New Zealand’s four OGP commitments are embodied in four initiatives:
- The Better Public Services programme, and in particular, Result 10, which aims for New Zealanders to be able to complete their transactions with government easily in a digital environment. The government aims to have an average of 70 percent of New Zealanders’ most common transactions with government completed in a digital environment by 2017.
- The Government ICT (information and communications technology) Strategy and Action Plan to 2017, and in particular, Action 13, which aims to make information assets “open by default”. The government says it will consult to develop a strategy to increase awareness of the availability of open data and progress the release of important data.
- Consultation with Transparency International on the recommendations arising from its National Integrity System assessment report. The government says it will examine and respond to the recommendations.
- The Kia Tutahi (Standing Together) Relationship Accord, a set of principles and expectations agreed between the government and community groups to work together to achieve social, economic and environmental outcomes. The government says it will hold discussions and gather evidence to try to improve government engagement practices.
There is more information about these programmes in the links below.
The State Services Commission is heading the OGP process. It has set up a steering group made up of a range of stakeholders to oversee the development and implementation of the Action Plan. It has sought public feedback on its plan.
Pass or fail?
Bringing existing initiatives into the Action Plan does not break the rules. Some stakeholders see these programmes as far-reaching, ambitious, and potentially transformative. Some think our commitment aims higher than the piecemeal transparency projects adopted by many other countries. Others are more critical. They are sceptical that these initiatives will lead to real change. Some regard our Action Plan as vague and a missed opportunity to commit to specific new reforms, perhaps along the lines of those recently suggested by the Law Commission.
What do you think?
About the researcher
Steven Price, Senior Research Fellow, is a barrister specialising in media law and an adjunct lecturer at the law school at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington. He has an Honours degree in law from Victoria University of Wellington and a Master of Journalism degree from the University of California at Berkeley. He is the author of a text about media law called “Media Minefield” and he writes a blog. He has conducted research on New Zealand’s Official Information Act. He occasionally comments on issues of media law and official information in the media.
Documents relevant to the initiatives in New Zealand’s Action Plan: