What Change Means: the OGP in Africa

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- By Gabriella Razzano

Wednesday 4 May 2016, marked the first day of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit - kicked off with an afternoon Civil Society Meeting. The opening day has brought to the fore probably one of the most pertinent questions underlying the value of the OGP, but also of the open government and transparency agenda broadly: what is real change?

Sanjay Pradhan has just taken over as the CEO of the OGP. He kicked off his tenure with a great speech to the civil society organisations present, highlighting that the OGP is at a critical point of its development. After five years of being in place, OGP should no longer measure its success by the “number” of countries that join. In the next five years, OGP is going to have to start measuring its worth in terms of the difference it makes to people’s lives.

This can be contextualised through a very practical idea – National Action Plans (NAPs) need to not only be ambitious, but they need to be implemented. Commitments need to not just be about proactive release of information, they need to be about closing the “feedback loop” so that civil society can actually hold government to account. We have to move to an era of substance over form.

This is a very real conversation in the transparency world. Yu & Robinsons spoke eloquently of how “open government data” is often a problematic term, poorly used. In fact, open government should not be conflated with open government data. Open government is more than just being open about information; it is also about being open about information that forwards accountability. Sometimes, when a government is merely being open with data, this data is not necessarily enough to hold the state to account.

This is an important conversation to have, particularly on the African continent. As Pradhan noted, the African continent on average has the highest percentage of ambitious commitments, yet, worryingly, the lowest percentage of full implementation.

What does this mean for OGP? ODAC have just completed an examination on the feasibility of the OGP in Malawi (available here), as Malawi just submitted its first National Action Plan in April 2016, after joining in 2013. Our research discussed many of the problems that might exist in trying to implement the OGP in Malawi, but a finer point that emerged was this: if OGP is to do what it hopes to do, and that is create real open government, it needs to do so in a variety of contexts. And in Malawi, there is an opportunity for real change if OGP can extend its hand in peer learning, instead of being overly focused on how the commitments might be technically framed.

Real change will be defined by the contexts in which OGP takes shape. It will be different things for different countries, but the first step to getting there will be for civil society and government to keep their eye on the prize: substance over form.

OGP Africa Summit: the important info

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 - By Gabriella Razzano

The African Regional OGP Summit is only a few days away, and excitement is mounting for a great programme that will help the exchange of ideas and advance OGP on the continent. It is unfortunately too late to register for the event - but if you have registered, you may be curious about the goings on. This blog will outline the key information for participants.

 The full event runs from 4-6 May 2016.

It starts with the Civil Society Day on the afternoon of the 4th from 4:00pm (accreditation) with events running till 8:00pm, with dinner following.

Day One will begin at 8.30 am with registration with the full programme running until 5.30pm, with dinner following.

Day Two will begin at 9:00 am with the full programme running until the Closing Plenary at 4:00pm.

All 3 days will be hosted at Century City Conference Centre, Cape Town, South Africa.

Main Event Website

The main event website can be visited here.

Agenda
The programme for the main event is located here.

The programme for the Civil Society event can be downloaded here.

Accreditation

2 - 6 May 2016
Time: 8.30 AM to 18.00 PM
Address: Century Blvd & Rialto Road, Century City, Cape Town, 7441, Phone: 021 525 3888
All Delegates should produce positive Identification Documents (e.g passports, ID's, Drivers Licence etc) at the Accreditation Centre

Out-of-towners
The government of South Africa as prepared a travel information pack available here.

Human Networks: reflections on our media and marketing training

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- By Gabriella Razzano

In spite of the importance of our work for the public, South African non-governmental organisations (ngo's) are notoriously bad at both conveying the message about their cause, and conveying the message about themselves. For the past two years, thanks to the support of our friendly funders at Indigo Trust, a group of South African ngo’s has been hard at work trying to remedy this. I took an opportunity to reflect on some of these lessons last year, but last week marked the final of the one-on-one sessions we have been undertaking with the fantastic Katie Findlay and Nicky Cosgreave of Edge Digital in Cape Town.

While I now know how to do Facebook boost posts (easy and cheap) and the strength of placing a period before your @mentions on Twitter (genius), the most profoundly important part of the exercise has been building a network of colleagues – and this network is a profound marketing tool as well. Our partners at Fundza Literacy Trust, People’s Assembly, AfricanLII and SAFLII, Code for South Africa and RLabs have become our new cohorts, and each is doing spectacular work that we will continue to shout loud about.

It goes beyond just talking about each other’s work though: specific partnerships have arisen because of this group. For instance, Adi of Code for South Africa and Marlon of Rlabs will be guest speakers at the super interesting NetProphet Conference Edge Digital are helping to organize at the beginning of August (check it out here). Edge Digital were also instrumental in helping to forward ODAC’s vitally important Blikkiesdorp Campaign, where we sought to forward the housing and information rights of a group of citizens that have been unforgivably shunted aside in City planning. SAFLII and Code for South Africa have also begun working together, among many other shared activities between members.

And even more importantly, these are very real and human connections that are built. We were able to share in the excitement of Katie’s little one, and the sadness of seeing one or two of our colleagues move on to greener work pastures. These human connections drive us, and strengthen the very network that can help us to advance the causes we hold so dear.

Bringing together the right people at the right time is how you change the world. That is, at its heart, what we have all been working toward – so we should continue to do it together.

'Is Blikkies home?' A documentary about access to information

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“Is Blikkies Home” was filmed throughout the course of 2015. The aim of the documentary is to follow the process that the residents of Blikkiesdorp went through, together with ODAC and a coalition of organisations including The Right to Know, The Development Action Group, the Community Law Centre and the Legal Resources Centre to gain access to information from the City of Cape Town about the plans for their housing and relocation.

Located 30km from Cape Town on the N2, Blikkiesdorp, which means Tin Town in colloquial Afrikaans, is a temporary relocation area that was created by the City of Cape Town in the 2007 as a temporary place for people with housing problems.

The houses at Blikkiesdorp were meant to be used for a period of 6 months and yet some of the residents have been living in the houses for over 7 years. Made from tin, the houses have no indoor shower, bath, toilet facilities or insulation and are therefore either very hot in South Africa’s summer, or freezing cold in winter. As there are no indoor ablution facilities, up to 10 residents have to share outside ablution structures that often don’t work, and are rife with diseases.

The residents of Blikkiesdorp have been moved from their previous communities to the area as a temporary housing solution. The community is made up of a variety of different people that were moved to the area by the City of Cape Town due to ‘emergency situations’, including victims of xenophobic attacks, unstable housing structures or are people that were previously homeless. Many residents have been moved far away from their previous employment locations and have subsequently lost their jobs, resulting in the fact that in 2015 73% of residents have no form of formal work or income.

The documentary tells of the residents’ journey to gain access to the information around the plans the City of Cape Town has for them, where they are going to be moved, and when.

This is the story of the Blikkiesdorp community:  

 

 Part of the Blikkiesdorp community’s key concerns are the plans by the ACSA  to expand and improve the runways. The Memorandum of Agreement between the City of Cape Town and the Airport Company sets out a plan for the development of alternative accommodation for the Blikkiesdorp residents – but there seems to be no plan to deal with the increase in noise from airport – which will exceed international guidelines and will affect nearly 400 000 people. The major problem with the plans in the MOA is that the City has no trime frame for moving the community.

To see what areas will be affected see our article: How will Blikkiesdorp be affected by the new Airport.

 

 

(Photo credit: Images kindly supplied by Lizane Louw: Photojournalist and Documentary Photographer. To view Lizane's website click here, to visit the Blikkiesdorp community Facebook page click here.)

 

How will Blikkiesdorp be affected by the new Airport

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The residents of Blikkiesdorp have been working on a yearlong campaign to gain access to information about the City of Cape Town and the Airport Company South Africa’s plans for their relocation.

The Blikkiesdorp community is made up of people that were previously moved to the area by the City of Cape Town as a temporary housing solution: however they have now discovered that the City of Cape Town has further plans to move them and yet none of the members of the community had been consulted or informed of these plans despite it being their right to know if they are to be relocated.

A large aspect of the Blikkiesdorp community’s concerns are the plans between the City of Cape Town and the Cape Town Airport to expand and improve the airport runways. With ODAC’s help, the Blikkiesdorp Leaders (the Blikkiesdorp community’s elected representatives) learned of a public meeting about the development plans for Cape Town’s Airport, and while attending that meeting discovered that while an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was being conducted, the Blikkiesdorp community had not been taken into account in this report as they were thought to be moving any way.

ACSA had made plans to move sections of the community, starting with the Freedom Farm residents as they were in the way of the new runway.

The community called for transparency of the plans and for the release of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the City of Cape Town and the Airport – it was this pressure that resulted in the approval of the release of the MOA by the major of Cape Town.

The MOA sets out the plan for the development of alternative accommodation for the residents – but there seems to be no plan to deal with the increase in noise from airport – which will exceed international guidelines and will affect over 387 000 people and 177 schools.

An additional problem with the plans in the MOA is that the City of Cape Town intends to move the residents to an area that will still be affected by the high levels of noise. Through their campaign to gain access to information and greater government transparency, the community now knows what the City’s plans for their future. But they still do not know when they will be moved, and how they will be affected by the noise from the airport.

To see what areas will be affected fill in your address or drop a pin on your location:

 

 

Noise and the way it is experienced is very subjective, and while the overall community attitude about a noise level is usually what is reported, some individuals will be much more sensitive, and others much less sensitive to the sound in question.

The effects of nose exposure:

Noise exposure has been known to induce tinnitus, hypertension, vasoconstriction, and other cardio vascular effects. Beyond these effects, elevated noise levels can create stress, increase workplace accident rates, and stimulate aggression and other anti-social behaviors.

The most significant causes are vehicle and aircraft noise, prolonged exposure to loud music and industrial noise. Research into the effects of noise have been extended beyond auditory effects to include non-auditory health consequences. Hypertension is the most biologically plausible effect of noise exposure and noise seems to cause a number of the biochemical and physiological reactions, including temporary elevation of blood pressure, which can be associated with other environmental stresses.

To find out more about Blikkiesdorp watch the documentary here: Is Blikkies home? A documentary about transparency and access to information

(Development credt: The Airport Noise app was developed by Code4SA. Click here to find out more about the Code4SA organisation.)