Opening open government: How women’s rights organisations strengthen government commitments to transparency, accountability and participation in the Philippines

by 14th Dec 2020
Workshop on Gender and the Open Government Partnership in the Philippines, July 2019 Workshop on Gender and the Open Government Partnership in the Philippines, July 2019

How can governments around the world become more transparent, improve accountability and empower citizens through meaningful participation? One answer is to proactively engage women’s rights organisations in open government processes, finds action research by Rebecca Haines, Kara Medina and Tam O’Neil.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP), an organisation of reformers inside and outside of government aiming to transform how government serves its citizens, set out to answer this question when it was established in 2011. Today, its growing membership consists of 78 national governments and 20 (and counting) local governments. They work together with thousands of civil society organisations (CSOs) to submit an action plan every two years, making concrete commitments to enhance transparency, accountability and public participation in government. This is arguably more urgent than ever – the Carnegie Endowment found that the coronavirus pandemic has heightened public demand for government transparency and accountability.

As co-chair of the Open Government Partnership, the Government of Canada – in collaboration with the International Development Research Centre, Results for Development and Open Data for Development – set up the Feminist Open Government Initiative in 2017: a platform to advance gender equality through the OGP. The initiative uses research and action to encourage members to consider gender issues and mainstream gender and inclusion within all commitments, as well as adopting gender-focused commitments in their action plans. It has already contributed to change: gender is now one of the fastest growing areas in OGP action plans, and 41 OGP members are currently advancing gender reforms.

With funding from this initiative, CARE UK and CARE Philippines carried out action research with OGP Philippines and women’s rights organisations (WROs) during the co-creation of the OGP Philippines 2019-2020 Action Plan, asking: Does targeted support for women’s rights organisations improve gender integration in OGP co-creation processes and action plans?

Findings and recommendations

The research found that in the Philippines, targeted support to women’s rights organisations improves gender integration in OGP co-creation processes and action plans. As a result of logistical and financial support, more women’s rights organisations and activists were involved in the consultation process. Representatives of WROs actively participated and contributed new perspectives and priorities on gender equality and inclusion.

The participation of women’s rights organisations in regional consultations resulted in a greater gender and inclusion lens in the Philippines’ 2019-2020 Action Plan. The action plan reflects recommendations made by the WROs: out of 11 commitments, three include gender considerations in their problem analyses and four include gender indicators.

The research has proposed an extensive list of practical recommendations to improve the meaningful participation of WROs and other social justice activists in OGP action plan co-creation processes. This includes recommendations for OGP globally, OGP in the Philippines, women’s rights organisations and gender equality activists, and OGP donors.

Learn more about the research findings and recommendations in the executive summary.

Toolkit: improving gender integration in action plans

Based on the action research with OGP Philippines the research team developed a Toolkit for OGP Members, aiming to support governments and civil society to assess and improve gender integration in their action plans. Recognising that the action plan co-creation process varies throughout the world depending on context, the tools are developed to be adapted by OGP members and stakeholders – both government and civil society. It contains a self-assessment tool for OGP members, as well as tools to better integrate gender equality and inclusion in the co-creation process and content of action plans.

Tool 1: Gender, Inclusion and Power Self-Assessment

This tool helps OGP Members analyse whether their OGP processes and action plans are inclusive and gender responsive and to identify entry points for improvement. The self-assessment has three sections: enabling environment for integration of gender and inclusion, conditions for diverse civil society participation, and conditions for meaningful participation of women’s rights and social justice organisations.

Tool 2: Reflection tool for gender analysis of commitments

Conducting a gender analysis of individual draft commitments is essential for developing gender-responsive action plans. This tool offers a set of reflection questions – informed by gender and political economy analysis – that guide OGP stakeholders to assess the inclusiveness, quality and feasibility of their draft commitments during key moments in the process.

Tool 3: Template agenda for preparatory workshop with women’s rights organisations
Tool 4: Template slide deck for preparatory workshop with women’s rights organisations

When women’s rights organisations and gender equality activists are not involved (sufficiently or at all) in action plan co-creation, it is more likely that action plans will disregard gender and the priorities of women, girls and people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations. This tool contains a template agenda and facilitation slide deck for a preparatory workshop with women’s rights and gender equality activists to enable them to have more influence within consultation events with government.

Tool 5: Template agenda for multi-stakeholder dialogue on gender equality and open government
Tool 6: Template slide deck for multi-stakeholder dialogue on gender equality and open government

Holding consultations and multi-stakeholder dialogues with a focus on gender and inclusion can improve the integration of gender and inclusion in OGP action plans. This tool contains a template agenda and facilitation slide deck for a gender-focused multi-stakeholder dialogue event with government(s), women’s rights organisations and other civil society organisations that champion inclusion and social justice.

For more information please contact Tam O’Neil, Senior Gender Advisor (Gender & Resilience team and global Inclusive Governance team) at CARE UK: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Tam O'Neil

My role is to provide technical advice to CARE International UK’s programme and operational teams to help meet our commitment to integrate gender equality and equity into all our activities. It’s an incredibly varied job and hard to sum up! As a taster, here are some of the things I’ve been doing in the past year. For our programme teams, I’ve been supporting the roll out of the new CARE gender marker, setting up a new project to learn how CARE can build sustainable partnerships with women’s rights organisations, and setting up our new Women Lead initiative with our Gender in Emergencies Team. Internally, I’m leading CARE International UK’s Gender Equity and Diversity audit and rolling out the CARE Gender Equity and Diversity Training, which helps staff to better understand and discuss power, privilege and working across differences.

My passion is women’s political leadership and representation. Men’s over-representation at the top of politics, business, academia and civil society is unjust and leads to decisions that don’t reflect the needs and experiences of half the population adequately. As part of my day job I get to collaborate with committed feminists to try to change this. I’m a member of CARE International’s Gender Network, I co-chair the UK Gender and Development Network Working Group on Women’s Leadership and Participation with Oxfam, and I support CARE’s work with the cross-sector UK Centenary Action Group.

Before joining CARE in September 2016, I was a Research Fellow in the Politics and Governance Team at the Overseas Development Institute.