This blog originally appeared on the Open Government Partnership’s website.
Everyone knows that implementation of commitments is at the core of the Open Government Partnership’s mission for transformational reforms. However, more than a third of commitments reviewed to date by the Independent Reporting Mechanism have not been implemented.
For natural resource commitments, this is an especially relevant issue. A new report by the Openness in Natural Resources Working Group (ONRWG), Closing the Gap: Strengthening the Development and Implementation of Natural Resource Commitments in the Open Government Partnership, highlights that countries make more natural resource commitments when compared to other sectors like health or education. However, only about half of the reviewed natural resource commitments have been completed or substantially implemented.
To understand some of the challenges implementing commitments, the ONRWG commissioned a series of case studies from civil society partners in Mexico, Nigeria and Peru. These researchers have been actively involved in the co-creation process in their country and offer a unique perspective, supplemented with interviews from key government and other civil society participants. As the entire OGP community wrestles with how to foster better implementation, below are recommendations synthesized from these case studies.
Get earlier and wider political buy-in from all relevant ministries. All of the case studies highlighted how limited political will and poor coordination of key ministries greatly impacts implementation in multiple ways. In Mexico, researchers observed notable differences in the commitment, speed and seriousness of focus depending on the secretariat in charge of implementation. In Peru, the absence of high-level OGP champions and the OGP implementing authority’s lack of capacity to directly involve the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) commission reduced the OGP natural resource commitments to a mere administrative procedure of secondary importance.
Design realistic timeframes. In Nigeria, implementing the commitment to create a Beneficial Ownership Register requires amending legislation, which significantly impacts the implementation and compliance. Similarly, in Mexico, ambitious timeframes discounted the political context required for legislative energy reform and the slower decisionmaking processes intrinsic to joining EITI. Further, it is clear from all the case studies that government and civil society require different processes and timeframes to engage and make commitments that support implementation.
Mainstream budgets for implementation into the commitment section process. All case studies identified a lack of financial resources as a major barrier to implementation. In Nigeria and Mexico, the national government did not assign a budget for implementation, and instead assumed they could rely on outside funds that did not materialize as planned. In Peru, the Public Management Secretariat (Secretaría de Gestion Pública) had a budget for the overall development and implementation of the National Action Plan, but every implementing agency had to earmark resources from their own budget. To overcome this problem civil society and government officials should consider access to secured funding sources and the ability to mainstream these resources into line ministries involved in implementation when proposing commitments during the co-creation and selection process.
Improve the quality and specificity of commitments. Inconsistent or poor availability of information needed for implementation made it difficult to implement open data commitments in both Mexico and Nigeria. In Mexico, for example, the General Directorate for Mining, which created the geographical mining data, had no leverage over the Office of the Presidency, charged with publishing it. In Peru, civil society partners believe vague commitments delayed implementation and generated distrust between government and civil society by reporting all indicators as completed in its progress report without taking into account civil society's contrasting observations.
Build the capacity of civil society partners to participate in implementation monitoring. Building trust and a working relationship between civil society and government officials, knowledge sharing, and overcoming technical and policy capacity gaps requires resources even when the political support for implementation is there. In Nigeria, civil society groups had difficulty grasping terms and trends that cover the technicalities of the extractives sector. The Nigeria EITI has maintained a training series for civil society organizations to enable fuller comprehension of the implications (technical and otherwise) of the initiative’s work, and increase their know-how on effectively engaging with the government.
The way forward. Advancing implementation of National Action Plans must go beyond monitoring and evaluation. These case studies offer specific lessons civil society and government champions can use to improve implementation of individual commitments and help achieve OGP’s important vision for transformative change. The OGP community will have a chance to dig deeper into the drivers of natural resource commitment implementation at the upcoming OGP Regional Meeting during the ONRWG’s Round Table on Implementation of Natural Resources Commitments in OGP - Success, Gaps and Challenges. This session is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, November 21, at 3:40 p.m.
Elizabeth Moses is an environmental democracy specialist with the World Resource Institute’s the Access Initiative. Marie Lintzer is a senior governance officer with the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI).