Diaspora consultation on Sierra Leone’s Global Open Government Partnership membership
Sierra Leone’s Open Government Partnership engaged with Sierra Leonean Diaspora in London on April 13 to discuss the country’s membership of the global Open Government Partnership (OGP). (Photo:Ms Yeama Thomas with some members of the audience)
Ms Yeama Thomas, journalist for Human Rights, said that the purpose of the consultation was to get feedback from Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora on the government’s action plan on the OGP process.
The OGP is an international organisation launched in September 2011, aimed at strengthening transparency, accountability and to drive innovative reforms. Since its inception, the organisation had eight founding member countries including the UK and US and now boasts of over 60 countries as members.
Sierra Leone submitted a letter of intent to join the OGP on November 2013 – a month after it had passed the Freedom of Information legislation (FOI). The Act gives the public the right to request information held by public authorities. Ms Thompson said that this was a move which had “further emboldened [the government’s] commitment to the OGP process.”
For a country to join the OGP it has to demonstrate devotion to a number of key requirements to transparency, accountability and engagement with its citizens. Having successfully met the eligibility criteria, Sierra Leone is now required to submit an action plan by the end of April 2014, outlining concrete steps it will take to achieve the OGP’s key objectives.
To do this the government must engage and get the input of its citizens and civil society organisations. In February 2014, President Koroma announced that the Open Government Initiative (OGI) in partnership with the Millennium Challenge Coordinating Unit would be responsible for implementing the country’s OGP membership requirements. A steering committee was subsequently formed with the country’s Chief of Staff Dr Richard Konteh as its leader.
Ms Thompson, also a member of the steering committee, was given the responsibility to engage with Sierra Leoneans in the UK on the OGP process. She told the audience in London that a similar consultation was being undertaken by the OGI across Sierra Leone. This was also extended to Sierra Leoneans in the Diaspora in the US and Belgium.
“Feedback from all the consultations will be incorporated into the action plan the government is required to submit,” said Ms Thompson.
Facilitating the break-out sessions, Mr Ade Daramy, co-editor of The Journal of Sierra Leone Studies UK and leader of the Sierra Leonean Diaspora Network, encouraged the audience to come up with tangible steps the government could take to achieving its desired goals.
The audience’s participation focused on three key areas – increasing public integrity, effective management of public resources and improving corporate accountability. Their ideas will be delivered by Ms Thompson to the steering committee in Freetown for consideration.
The Sierra Leone High Commissioner to the UK and the Republic of Ireland H.E. Mr. Edward M. Turay delivered a speech to the audience reiterating his “open door policy” – encouraging effective engagement with Sierra Leoneans.
Mr Michael Fofanah, member of International Association of Sierra Leoneans Abroad, in his speech talked about the various contributions Sierra Leonean Diaspora organisations had made in the country.
The event was organised in collaboration with the Sierra Leone High Commission’s Head of Chancery Mr Obai Taylor Kamara.
By Unisa Dizo-Conteh
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