During the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit in December 2021, I was invited as part of Open Heroines to moderate the OGP and International Development Research Centre (IDRC) sponsored session, “Shaping the Agenda on Gender and Open Government”. The goal of the activity was to collect input, from the large OGP community, on how open government could enhance their work from a gender perspective in 2022. It was a great opportunity to listen to numerous reformers and propose ideas for a more ambitious feminist open government.
Despite the short notice for moderators and participants, it was well planned and impressively attended; more than a hundred people from all over the world, and from a wide range of sectors — NGO, government, academia — participated in the event.
The session was divided into two parts: a plenary and a break out session. At the plenary, we learned from México’s, Morocco’s and Finland’s gender commitments, presented by pretty high ranking public officials, which to me is a signal of the political relevance of the commitments. The second part consisted of 6 breakout sessions: Gender-based violence & justice, Climate & natural resources, Gender-informed Economic reforms, Inclusive participation, LGBTQIA+-Centered Reforms, and Feminist Data Governance, which in some way cover a huge range of themes of the gender equality agenda. I co-moderated the group on inclusion where a high-quality debate took place. It struck me how critical people were with OGP processes and outcomes.
Shortcomings of OGP Processes
For starters, there was concern about the lack of connection between gender commitments and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Generation Equality Forum, United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325, and other national action plans. This lack of connection is detrimental to the progress of both the local and international gender agendas. Secondly, there was a feeling that OGP commitments were low hanging fruits, rather than transformative and inspirational. Finally, it was noted that some civil service reform and training processes still represent the patriarchal status quo.
Interestingly, there were numerous recommendations for OGP to remedy the weaknesses highlighted above . Among the most relevant and easy-to-implement that I identified were:
i) Making gender and inclusion mandatory;
ii) Independent Report Mechanism (IRM) request to members to set out how they have taken account of intersectionality, including gender, and
iii) tougher accountability on gender commitments implementation. (Currently, governments can get away without being answerable to anyone.)
In terms of fostering proper inclusive participation, there were 3 specific suggestions. First, to implement some sort of “stick” from OGP if there is “inclusion washing” rather than true participation. Second, to assess within OGP how much it costs governments (and within OGP itself) to be meaningfully inclusive in terms of implementation of commitments related to inclusion. Third, to support with funding the presence of women in the decision-making table, to demonstrate that this is “worth” their time. Finally, some members emphasized the need for additional support for OGP Local on inclusion issues — particularly to support sub-national governments to test ideas for inclusive participation within their commitments.
I enjoyed the debate very much and hope that the OGP core team will take these comments into consideration. I was also greatly inspired by the opening remarks of Caroline Ford , IDRC — Director, Democratic and Inclusive Governance. She highlighted the findings of the gender review of OGP feminist agenda and pointed out that OGP is at risk if it is perceived to be an elite men’s organization. I strongly encourage you to listen to her remarks (minutes 1 to 6) on YouTube and hope you find them as inspiring as I did.
There is room for improving the feminist feature of OGP and the good news is that they are open to listening to our ideas!