He kupu nā te Pae Tohutohu | Expert Advisory Panel’s Observations
The Expert Advisory Panel (EAP) was appointed by Te Kawa Mataaho | Public Service Commission (the Commission). Its role is to advise the Commission as it works to develop and oversee the implementation of New Zealand’s OGP National Action Plans.
COVID-19 has disrupted a lot of OGP activities, including the process of developing New Zealand’s Fourth National Action Plan (NAP4). When the process started in early 2020, the focus was on commitments to improve the standard pillars of open government: participation; accountability; and transparency. In 2022, the context is different with democratic values and institutions being openly challenged here, to some extent influenced by social media originating in other countries. Accordingly, the EAP recommended greater priority be given to the OGP and the authentic co-production of ambitious, potentially transformative commitments.
The EAP commends the civil society organisations (CSOs) that wrote to the Minister responsible for the OGP in March 2021 – calling for a genuine, inclusive partnership and pushing for the co-production of an ambitious National Action Plan. These CSOs wrote to the Minister again in December 2021 with briefing materials on a range of issues. We are pleased that some of these issues have resulted in commitments in the plan. Civil society representatives have given hours of their time, energy, and expertise to the open government kaupapa.
The EAP would also like to acknowledge the considerable efforts of officials, as they developed a more collaborative process for developing NAP4. To deliver on its potential, however, the New Zealand OGP requires stronger political and strategic leadership from the government. Importantly, it requires a robust commitment to Te Tiriti o Waitangi and to how its principles will be integral in open government practice. Further, as practice to date has demonstrated, successful commitments are those with sufficient budgets to support innovation and the significant development of co-production capacities. Finally, for open government to succeed in rebuilding trust in democratic government, National Action Plans require significantly broadened and diversified participation by civil society representatives and a willingness to focus on issues that matter most to communities throughout New Zealand.
The EAP is looking forward to working with the Commission through the first quarter of 2023 to establish a new Multi-stakeholder Forum. This will be an important step forward to institutionalise the sort of co-governance and co-production that will be needed to strengthen New Zealand democracy through the OGP.