President Obama calls on the Open Government Partnership to help defend civic space around the world

New York, 23 September 2013, Open Government Partnership.

This post was originally published on the Open Government Partnership website.

Representatives of the Open Government Partnership participated today in a High Level Event Supporting Civil Society hosted by US President Barack Obama. During his remarks, President Obama issued the following call to action to OGP:

“Strong nations recognize the value of active citizens … even when inconvenient for government leaders. … We urgently need to do more to spur global action.”

Alejandro Gonzalez, a civil society member of the OGP Steering Committee also spoke to the assembled guests, stating:

“At this very moment civic society organizations and leaders are involved in the policy process to shape some of the most relevant reforms taking place in Mexico. The Open Government Partnership has provided a positive and practical framework to have a structured, critical, and at the same time constructive dialogue between government and civil society.”

Mr. Gonzalez reminded the audience that all OGP participating countries have signed on to an Open Government Declaration that commits governments to protect the ability of civil society organizations to operate, including ensuring freedom of expression, association, and opinion.

The Open Government Partnership is a partnership between government and civil society. This is true at both the national level – where governments must work hand in hand with independent civil society organizations to develop their OGP action plans – and at the international level, where the OGP Steering Committee is comprised of government and civil society representatives in equal numbers.

Warren Krafchik, OGP’s Civil Society Co-chair, who attended today’s event commented:

“As a partnership, OGP can only succeed if independent civil society organizations around the world have the space to organize, convene and participate in the policy-making process. While many countries around the world are opening spaces for civil society, there is a strong counter-trend to undermine civil society space, even within these same countries. This countervailing trend threatens pioneering efforts, such as OGP.”

Linda Frey, OGP Executive Director said:

“Because this issue is absolutely critical for the OGP model to work, we are committed to take this conversation forward with participants at the upcoming OGP Summit, October 31st – November 1st in London.

“We look forward to working with the Obama administration, the 59 other OGP participating governments and with a broad group of OGP civil society partners to do our part to defend civic space in countries around the world.”

A decision to set up a special Task Force to develop concrete recommendations on how OGP could do more to advance effective models of civil society engagement in OGP’s 60 participating countries is on the OGP Summit agenda.