Thursday, June 23, 2016

Open Government: More bad faith

When the government announced a unilateral delay in New Zealand's second Open Government partnership Action Plan, it was ostensibly for the purposes developing "more inclusive" engagement processes. The implication was that their mandatory consultation on the Action Plan and its commitments would be better than the last one's mockery.

They lied.

According to OGP Stakeholder Advisory Group papers released today (which had been kept secret despite still-standing commitments to public agendas and papers in advance), this is their new timetable for "consultation":
So, we're going to have one month to decide on commitments, and one month of consultation on the final Action Plan. Neither timeframe allows any scope for serious commitments or real change; instead, we're likely to be served up some pre-decided, pre-existing measures. Just like last time.

Also of note: the timeline makes a lot of noise about "awareness raising". SSC has never done any relating to the OGP (unless you count dumping material on an obscure corner of a website that only tragic geeks like me read), and there's been no signs of them doing any in the time-periods indicated by this plan. But stranger things have happened, and we can but hope.

Finally: its clear from SSC's utter denial of the problems with their first action plan that they don't like civil society involvement. So, their solution is to engage with the wider public via a survey. This is being done specifically to "reach beyond the ‘usual suspects’" - which are explicitly identified as "civil society organisations". You know, the ones the government is supposed to be in partnership with under the OGP.

The survey is a draft only, and it does at least ask respondents which of the OGP's core values they think are most important. But it also presents a frankly misleading statement of the actions in the first action plan (hint: the "work" on "Addressing processes and practices relating to the transparency of parliamentary proceedings, campaign finance and government procurement" was reading and responding to someone else's report on the issue - which they didn't actually do). It asks respondents to rank these in order of importance (rather than whether they have anything to do with open government). It does not ask about future commitments at all.

So SSC's "enhanced engagement" is to ignore its partners and instead try and get people to rubberstamp some list of pre-existing policies via a strapped-chicken survey. Again, they are dealing with us, and the international community, in bad faith, engaging in sham participation as a box-ticking exercise while ensuring that it will have no impact on policy at all. And that goes against the entire ethos of the Open Government Partnership.