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.
The question that should be on everyone’s minds is whether Brazil is fit to co-chair the OGP, much less whether it should qualify for the OGP in the first place. If the OGP adopts these sorts of permissive benchmarks before its formal inauguration, much less makes a co-chair of a country not leading on transparency, can we expect the OGP to be anything more than feel-good window-dressing?
A new direction in US foreign policy: backdoor democracy promotion?
Clearly, the idea of openness is good business for US foreign policy. The United Nations has proven an unsatisfactory arena for collective action, precisely because of the chasm between authoritarian regimes and democracies. Alternative international arrangements are difficult to come by. The idea of a new “League of Democracies” or some other formulation has been tossed around over the years, but benchmarks for distinguishing real democracies from sham democracies are tricky. Moreover, the US does not want to set up an “us versus them” collectivity that might offend authoritarian allies, such as Saudi Arabia and the monarchies of the Middle East, among others.