From left: OGP Support Unit Programme Manager from Washington DC Abhinav Bahl, Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva, Government point of contact Harim Pieries and OGP Support Unit Asia Regional Civil Society Coordinator from Singapore Shreya Basu at the head table and Local OGP CSO Coordinator Pushpi Weerakoon addressing the gathering
The Foreign Affairs Ministry in collaboration with the Open Government Partnership (OGP) held a launch to coincide the visit of the OGP officials in Sri Lanka. The event took place on April 4 and 5 at the BMICH over a period of one and half days.
The launch, which took place on the fourth evening, was attended by the senior officials of the government ministries, civil society, heads from Colombo and the regions and representatives of international development agencies.
OGP was launched in 2011 by eight governments and eight civil society leaders as a partnership to improve government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens. Its main objective is to foster a global culture of an open government that empowers and delivers for citizens of the 21st century.
Sri Lanka is the 69th country and the only South Asian country to participate in this partnership. This is due to the current government’s policy of good governance whereby making the governments more open, accessible, transparent and accountable to the people.
The chief guest at the meeting was Foreign Affairs Deputy Minister Dr. Harsha De Silva. Also present were OGP Support Unit Programme Manager from Washington DC Abhinav Bahl, OGP Support Unit Asia Regional Civil Society Coordinator from Singapore Shreya Basu, Sri Lankan Government point of contact Harim Pieries and Local OGP CSO Coordinator hosted by Transparency International Sri Lanka Pushpi Weerakoon.
Weerakoon in her keynote address gave an update on how her position came to be, the role she is playing to shepherd a CSO movement by, open consultations to collaborate with the government to produce the OGP NAP by June 30, creating a joint mechanism among the CSOs and the government to work side-by-side to achieve the commitments pledged by the government and to also to monitor the progress of the two-year NAP.
Weerakoon gave an update of the progress so far she had with the Colombo-based CSOs while explaining the plans to hold consultations in the regions. She also outlined some of the issues raised by the CSOs during the consultations, such as on corruption, right to information and inefficiencies of the public service sector.
Peries addressing the gathering said that with the new government in place, the government’s main policy is to be open and transparent and hopes to work with the civil society to create an action plan by June 30.
Dr. De Silva mentioned that the government, which agreed to participate in the programme last October, recognizes the role and importance civil society played in bringing this government to power and appreciated their continued service to society.
Abhinav and Shreya, while thanking the government of Sri Lanka for organising the launch, gave an introduction in the form of a presentation on what the OGP is and the benefits it has to the country. They also showed model national action plans of different countries and how they innovatively monitored with regard to progress.
The vote of thanks was given by Pieris.
On April 5, at the full-day workshop, the government officials and CSO representatives brainstormed to identify the issues needed to be addressed in urgency and the possible and effective approaches to address them by joining force.
As of now, open consultations have been planned for May 26 in Galle, June 1 in Trincomalee and June 2 in Jaffna.