DP pushes again membership of Open Government Partnership

POSTED: 11/3/15 6:35 PM


Emil Lee at OGP MexicoDP policy advisor Emil Lee at the summit in Mexico City. Photo contributed

St. Maarten – The Democratic Party is once more pushing the country’s membership of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an issue it made a core element of its election campaign last year. Recently, DP’s policy advisor Emil Lee visited the Open Government Partnership summit in Mexico City. DP-leader Sarah Wescot-Williams had to cancel her participation, due to the local political turmoil.

“We funded this trip to Mexico City out of our personal finances,” Lee said, adding that what he picked up at the summit “offers an action plan towards compliance and membership.”

Currently, St. Maarten does not qualify for membership of the OGP. This requires, among other conditions, making government information available to citizens, procurement policies and a code of conduct for parliamentarians.

“This summit provides the country with an excellent road map to follow in our path towards becoming more open,” Wescot-Williams said.
“There is an undeniable connection between the degree of openness and the level of prosperity of any country. The more open and transparent the government the more the people participate in and benefit from the economy.”

“The amazing thing for St. Maarten is that we do not have to reinvent the wheel,” Lee added. “Many countries have problems similar to those St. Maarten has. Many countries have issues with how to make the budgeting process more transparent and inclusive. How to make procurement and government contracts less susceptible to corruption. By participating in OGP, St. Maarten can benefit from all of the experiences and work of other countries.”

A local hot button issue is the confidentiality clauses in many contracts. “There has been a lot of controversy surrounding the use of confidentiality clauses in contracts with the government and with government-owned companies,” Lee said. “There are countries where the contracts are not even legally binding until they have been placed on line for anyone to review. Additionally, there are clear guidelines for what items can be covered by confidentiality clauses. Pricing and financial information typically do not qualify as items that could be shrouded by confidentiality clauses. This clause is usually reserved for proprietary processes and trade secrets.”

OGP’s vision is that more governments become sustainably more transparent, more accountable and responsible towards their own citizens, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services for citizens. “This will require a shift in norms and culture to ensure genuine dialogue and collaboration between governments and civil society,” Lee said. “OGP aspires to support both government and civil society reformers by elevating open government to the highest levels of political discourse, providing cover for difficult reforms and creating a supportive community of likeminded reformers from countries around the world.”

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