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The Open Government Partnership – a new direction for US foreign policy?

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Tuesday's July 12 inaugural meeting was closed to the press save for the opening and closing remarks.

Criteria for being part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP)

Documents provided by the initiative establish four criteria for eligibility, based on a 16-point index wherein countries must meet a minimum membership threshold of 12 points. The criteria, judged by “an independent group of experts,” comprise the following categories:

a) Fiscal Transparency (2 points each for two budget documents)

b) Access to Information (4 points)

c) Disclosures Related to Elected or Senior Public Officials (4 points)

d) Citizen Engagement (4 points)

Is Brazil fit to co-chair the OGP?

The scoring is apparently somewhat tricked-out. Brazil, the co-chair of the OGP, still has not passed an access to information law (freedom of information), and as I have written about extensively in other posts, resistance to openness has been a prominent feature of politics in both Brazil's Congress and presidency. Notwithstanding the historical record, Brazil scores 15 out of 16 points. On access to information, Brazil scores 2 points for possessing a constitutional provision for public disclosure. It scores an addition point for having a draft access to information law, which is now being considered in Congress. Thus on this criterion Brazil scores almost full points, even though its constitutional guarantee to access public information is effectively impracticable without comprehensive regulation (a freedom or access to information law) and the draft law has been stuck in Congress since 2009. A recent bill to conceal dollar numbers on procurement contracts for the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics has also apparently been glossed over, as has Brazil’s somewhat dysfunctional Transparency Portal – Brazil’s earns full points on fiscal transparency.

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