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Background & Rationale

At the heart of the Open Government Partnership lies a mission to bring together government reformers and civil society leaders to create and implement action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive and accountable. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that open government processes have struggled to fully include women and other historically disempowered groups in the co-creation and implementation of national action plan commitments. Additionally, out of the few action plan commitments that have included gender as a focus, those commitments are more likely to lack ambition, specificity, and completion.

Women’s absence from these processes is concerning both for representative reasons – that women constitute half of citizens and deserve equal say in government reforms – as well as for the missed information, knowledge, and skills that may limit the potential of ambitious, high-impact reforms. Additionally, in a world where women’s participation in parliaments remains relatively stagnant around 24% and global gender equality is potentially declining for the first time, OGP could play a key role in mobilizing the power of participatory governance to support collaborations between national and state-level policymakers and civil society that positively influence social norms, cultures, and processes to advance the rights of women, girls, and underrepresented groups.  

To address these issues, in collaboration with OGP co-chairs of the Government of Canada and Nathaniel Heller of Results for Development, OGP will focus on identifying and scaling innovative approaches to increase inclusion and participation throughout OGP processes. The Feminist Open Government Initiative will support OGP governments to adopt more gender-focused commitments and consider action towards gender equality throughout the co-creation and implementation process. These actions are guided by the theory that doing so will ensure that gender considerations and women and girls’ needs are part of the action plan process from start to finish, which will in turn increase the legitimacy and impact of open government interventions.  

While there is a growing body of research around women’s political and civic engagement and strategies for enhancing inclusion, the nexus of gender and open government is a significantly under-examined area. This research call will strive to fill evidence gaps around effective and ambitious gender-focused action plan commitments, how women and women’s organizations have successfully engaged in action plan co-creation processes, and the impact of applying a gender lens to broader transparency and accountability commitments. This call seeks opportunities to support women and gender-focused organizations, partners, and institutions to conduct research designed to address constraints and test new approaches to women’s meaningful participation in open government processes. This action-oriented research will seek to address these questions and identify opportunities to better enhance gender equality and women’s inclusion throughout open government to support the community as it creates more transformative and ambitious gender commitments.  

Current OGP Action Plan Gender Commitments

Gender is an increasingly prominent topic in the open governance community, but only a fifth of OGP participants have made explicit gender commitments within action plans. Of the 42 gender commitments that have been made through the OGP process, 25 are currently being implemented. Fourteen gender commitments have been assessed by OGP’s independent  reporting mechanism, the IRM, who reviews national and local commitments and awards “stars” for commitments that achieve a certain level of specificity, ambition, relevance to open government, and completion of implementing the commitment.  

Out of the fourteen assessed commitments, only two have been designated as starred, having transformative potential impact, and showing significant early results in increasing government transparency, citizen participation, or public accountability. Those two are Ireland’s commitment to hold a referendum on same-sex marriage and the city of Buenos Aires’ commitment to create a portal to increase access to reproductive health services. The low number of starred commitments indicates that where OGP does have gender commitments, they have below average completion and ambition rates -- in other words, they are not yet policy interventions that are likely to make the kind of transformative impact that countries and localities strive for within their action plans. On an encouraging note, more than half of all gender-specific commitments made since 2011 were made in action plans submitted in 2016 and 2017, indicating an uptick in this thematic area.

Current OGP gender commitments cover a wide variety of thematic and strategic objectives. In general, gender-focused commitments have concentrated on gender equality legislation and mechanisms through which citizens can hold governments accountable for the treatment and status of women and girls. In addition to a broad focus on gender equality, key thematic areas to date have included gender budgeting, women’s political and electoral participation, economic participation and employment, land rights, violence against women, and LGBTQI rights. Within existing commitments, strategies to address gender include enhanced participatory processes, training and capacity building, legislation focused on equal rights or non-discrimination, connections to international standards like Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and better gender disaggregated open data. Additionally, there is emerging interest in understanding core open government areas like access to information, freedom of information, natural resources governance, beneficial ownership, public contracting and participatory budgeting and the intersection with gender, pointing to great potential for bringing a gender perspective to broader open government practices. Despite this enthusiasm, however, there is little practical guidance or best practices for how to effectively integrate gender and women’s participation throughout these critical areas.


About the Feminist Open Government Initiative and Partner Organizations

This call for proposals is commissioned under the Feminist Open Government Initiative, a collaboration between Results for Development, the International Development Research Centre, and the Open Government Partnership. To enhance women’s participation and gender throughout OGP’s work, the Feminist Open Government Initiative aims to:

  • Build and deepen evidence around the impact that gender equality can have on improving governance on public services, addressing corruption, and opening up civic space and inclusion; 
  • Encourage governments to design and implement improved gender-aware OGP commitments; and
  • Establish an international coalition of partners to drive effective participation for all in open government processes.
Results for Development

As a non-profit organization whose mission is to support local change agents around the world to create self-sustaining systems that support healthy and educated people, Results for Development has led innovative work over the past decade to both implement and research critical programs supporting civil society organizations seeking to hold their governments to account for key development outcomes. R4D works at the intersection of research and practice, providing analysis and advice to governments, donors, civil society organizations, and private sector entities, helping them improve the design and implementation of their policies and programs. In addition, R4D enables communities of practice to engage productively, share their experience and expertise, and solve problems jointly. R4D Executive Vice President Nathaniel Heller currently serves as a civil society co-chair of the Open Government Partnership.

The International Development Research Centre

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) is a Canadian Crown corporation funding research in developing countries to advance knowledge and solve practical development problems. Part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts, IDRC invests in knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve lives and livelihoods in the developing world. IDRC works with many stakeholders including civil society organisations, think tanks, regional organisations, and government departments in the developing world to drive large-scale positive change.

Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an international, voluntary effort to improve government performance, encourage civic participation and enhance government responsiveness to people. OGP is overseen by a Steering Committee composed of governments and civil society organizations in equal numbers, a unique model that embodies the goal of civic participation. In its first three years, OGP has grown from 8 to almost 100 participating countries and local entities, each of which works with civil society partners to develop and implement an OGP action plan. These action plans include concrete commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. OGP has also established an Independent Reporting Mechanism to periodically track country progress against commitments, thereby promoting greater accountability at the country level.