A feminist approach to open government: investing in gender equality to drive sustainable development
Governments around the world have made commitments to be more open, to ensure greater transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies that strengthen governance. The Open Government Partnership (OGP), an initiative that has grown to include 75 national governments and 15 subnational ones, is responsible for supporting government efforts to be more open and accountable to their citizens. Since the OGP was founded in 2011, more than 2,500 commitments have been co-created with governments and civil society towards more transparency, participation, and accountability.
Despite these successes, recent assessments point to challenges in the fledgling open government movement. Critics have suggested that by treating the public as a common group, open government lacks responsiveness to socio-economic dimensions of inclusion, particularly gender. Current open government practices limit the ability of women and other marginalized groups to fully participate at all levels. For instance, a minority of women participate in OGP national committees, and research has shown that women in Guatemala and Liberia, for example, face a number of barriers accessing government information at the local level as compared to men. Access to information is a fundamental underpinning of the open government movement, one that, for example, indigenous women in Chiapas have used to demand and leverage improved healthcare delivery.
The movement risks stagnation and eventual decline if it is perceived to be an elite, male-dominated agenda that ignores the real challenges facing women and girls in engaging in transparency and accountability in their communities and countries. Continued progress will only be possible by addressing power asymmetries head on and ensuring that open government reforms ultimately benefit all dimensions of a community, including women and girls.
This initiative — called Feminist Open Government (FOGO) — focusses on making open government more inclusive by improving design and implementing gender-responsive approaches. OGP member countries will be mobilized to develop and implement gender-responsive OGP commitments. Finally, the project will identify constraints and suggest solutions towards fuller participation of women and girls in open government.
FOGO will be a flagship initiative of Canada’s co-chairmanship of the OGP, which runs from October 2017 to October 2019. It will leverage a unique and catalytic moment to transform OGP, and the open government movement more generally, into a truly gender-centric engine of empowerment.