Excellent news from Asia Pacific – just announced at the OGP Global Summit in Mexico, Papua New Guinea (PNG) has joined OGP as its 67th member. PNG will work in concert with Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand and others to advance the commitment to open government in the Asia Pacific region.
It is indeed a momentous and visionary decision from PNG leaders. Through open government reform, PNG will lay the foundation for creating good governance, which in turn will contribute to the achievement of national development goals in the next 15 years. This is in keeping with the reform agenda of all OGP members, primarily for implementing Development Agenda 2030 which was recently endorsed by all UN member countries in New York.
PNG’s decision was well thought out, and not done in haste. The government has meticulously weighed the benefits and significance of openness, not only for the government of PNG but also its citizens. At least two events preceded the decision. First, the PNG government delegation led by its Foreign Affairs Minister was present at the Asia Pacific Regional Meeting in May 2014 in Bali. Second, the workshop on the formulation of the Open Government Action Plan in Port Moresby in November 2014 that was attended by PNG government and CSO representatives, and supported by the OGP Support Unit, OGP Steering Committee, ADB and The Ford Foundation, TII Indonesia and Pattiro. Both events were initial milestones in PNG’s commitment and seriousness in joining the global partnership for promoting openness and public engagement.
Benefit of OGP
PNG is endowed with abundant natural resources such as LNG, copper and gold. The country now produces massive amounts of LNG. The future challenge is to effectively manage its natural wealth to avoid the resource curse and make sure that the country’s bounteous natural resources do not become a source of conflict and inequality, but instead assets in helping the people prosper. Tax and revenue transparency related to natural resources therefore is the key to reform.
Meanwhile, PNG has a pressing need for human development, mainly in regard to the provision of extensive, high-quality education and health services. Open government reform therefore is an imperative in a bid to ensure that revenue from natural resources flows into state coffers for the main purpose of delivering first-rate basic services in the education and health sector.
Its membership in OGP signifies that all OGP members will link arms and stand alongside PNG to launch governance reform initiatives for improving public services, enhancing the quality and capacity of the bureaucracy, and making sure that development can be equitably enjoyed by all.
Apart from technical support from the OGP Support Unit, Indonesia has maintained friendly relations with PNG and is more than willing to assist PNG in preparing and implementing the necessary plans. The government of Indonesia will help promote freedom of information and improvement of public services through knowledge sharing, peer-to-peer support and best practice sharing. In addition, the government of Indonesia will share its experiences in regard to extractive industry transparency, which could be useful for PNG in boosting revenue generation.
Indonesia will also share experiences in working with CSOs as government partners in planning, implementation and monitoring various commitments on open government reform.
Future Challenges and Unfinished Work
Becoming an OGP member calls for the government’s willingness and commitment to listen to the people. A government that is willing to be friends with the people; satisfying their needs and resolving grievances. Being part of OGP means that the government will do its utmost to better the lives of citizens, both men and women, rich and poor, in urban and rural areas.
Once a member, PNG will need to maintain fiscal transparency standards outlined in the eligibility requirements and draw up its first action plan. This planning document will reflect PNG’s priorities and areas of focus in open government reform for a two-year period.
From the experiences of Indonesia and other countries, there are at least 3 guiding principles that may be of help to PNG: (i) form a technical team capable of implementing various plans, including in preparing action plans in a transparent and participatory manner; (ii) adopt a participatory and co-creation approach in formulating and implementing the action plan; (iii) apply IT and internet technology to disclose information, improve public services and communicate with government units or agencies.
Getting it right will take hard work and perseverance, but PNG’s decision to join this initiative is a very positive step towards will further strengthening Asia’s ability to fulfill the rights of all its citizens.