Open government for realizing SDGs

Krishna Sapkota, KATHMANDU: The Open Government Partnership (OGP) that basically underpins the principles of access to information, civic participation, accountable public institutions and technological innovations serves as an important support pillar for Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The core values of the OGP directly contribute to develop effective and accountable institutions – which is also the crux of Goal 16 of the global agenda for transformation.

Literally speaking, the Goal 16 is to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, offer access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels. Specifically, the goal 16.10 is to ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms in accordance with national legislation and international agreements. The emphasis of both the initiatives is to increase the availability of information on government activities and deepen civic participation.

As a member state of the United Nations, Nepal had participated in the UN General Assembly and endorsed the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development in 2015. Since it came into effect in January 2016 Nepal government has aligned its development plans and programmes accordingly.

“The goal of leaving no one behind fits well with the inclusive political order that Nepal has been building. The new Constitution (2015) aspires to create a prosperous, egalitarian and pluralistic society, and serves as the overarching guide to all development policies, plans and programmes”, states a Voluntary National Review of Sustainable Development-2017 Report produced and published by National Planning Commission of Nepal. It further notes that the current (14th) periodic plan (2016/17-2018/19), and other sectoral plans, policies and their targets are being aligned with SDGs. Specific SDGs codes have been assigned for all national programs in the national budget. However, in case of some goals, explicit and comprehensive indicators are yet to be set with updated information on present status, progress and steps to be taken to achieve the targets.

Correspondingly, there is urgent need of high-level cooperation and coordination among the broader stakeholders including CSOs to achieve the desired results in line with the SDG targets. Implementing the 2030 global development agenda demands government to be more effective and responsive to citizens which the OGP also reaffirms.

Trust building and collaboration between the government and CSOs, according to OGP, is to embed transparency, accountability and participation across institutions. It seems both the SDG and OGP lay emphasis on creating greater synergy to reach the goals.
However, to the date, Nepal has not joined OGP despite having met its eligibility criteria. A taskforce formed by the government under the leadership of Chief Information Commissioner at the National Information Commission had recommended the government to take the required initiative to be part of the movement. Nevertheless, the government has failed to meet the requirement so far.
Recently, the Good Governance Committee of the Legislature-Parliament advanced the discussion on the agenda bringing together different stakeholders.
At an interaction ‘Open Government Partnership: Status and Way Forward’ organized by the parliamentary committee with assistance from the UNDP’s Parliament Support Unit, UNDP Deputy Country Director Sophie Kemkhadze said as OGP can be a support pillar to leverage strengths for achieving Sustainable Development Goals Nepal can benefit from the global movement to create sustainable and resilient society.
Likewise, most of the speakers stressed that the country should reinforce its official commitment to take ahead the agenda of open governance which they also said would enable environment for implementing SDGs.

The discussion reached to a conclusion to continue conversation around the issue within and outside the parliamentary Good Governance Committee and recommend the government for further actions.

It is high time for Nepal to take wise decision to be the part of global movement for the cause in a way to ensure better implementation of SDGs. It may be strategic for Nepal to reinforce its commitments for broader governance reforms being the part of OGP and reap its benefits for championing implementation of global agenda for transformation. Without removing bottlenecks of governance the country cannot make progress and achieve its targets. Hence, Nepal should not delay any further in adopting a new approach of open government to cherish its dream to become a vibrant middle income country by 2030.

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