Unprecedented Civil Society Report on US OGP: One Small Step for Open Government

The US met most of its 2011 commitments to make the government more open and accountable according to an unprecedented evaluation of the US’ efforts to implement its first National Action Plan. President Obama presented the US’s commitments at the launch of the Open Government Partnership on September 20, 2011.

While the Plan reflected many of the priorities of open government advocates, the specific commitments included in the plan do not put the US on a path to accomplish those goals quickly. According to Patrice McDermott, Executive Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, “The Administration should be commended for taking good first, if often small, steps forward on a number of issues. Achieving the greater goal of transforming government to be open and accountable to the public, though, will require the proverbial giant leap.”

The Open Government Partnership is an international, multilateral partnership working to make governments more accountable to their publics. Participating countries are required, among other things, to consult with civil society organizations and to deliver national action plans that include concrete commitments.

The report released today by OpenTheGovernment.org is based on evaluations of the government’s efforts completed by teams of volunteers from thirty-seven civil society organizations and academic institutions. The evaluations are designed to help combat the natural tendency of a governmental action plan to turn into a “check the box” exercise by creating an incentive for the government to act on input from civil society organizations on how to best implement the commitment, and to make additional progress. In addition to scoring whether the government met the letter of its commitment, evaluators were also asked to rate the government’s efforts to collaborate with civil society organizations, movement toward civil society recommendations, and meaningfulness and sustainability of the government’s efforts. The report also includes suggestions–based on the experience of this evaluation process–for how the government can improve the next National Action Plan.

Overall, the evaluation shows that civil society organizations rated the government’s efforts to collaborate fairly high. There was also notable progress toward the implementation recommendations of civil society on several of the commitments. According to Dr. McDermott, “These are positive indicators, and we hope they will carry over into the creation and implementation of the next Plan. Serious issues remain, though, that the government has yet to put on the table but that must be addressed –most notably surrounding national security. In other areas of key importance – particularly government spending transparency, transformation of the classification system, proactive disclosure, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and ethics disclosure – my coalition partners and others see real opportunities for the government to take that leap forward to real transformative change.”

Download the Report HERE.

See our graphic to explore our process and results: Growing Open Government