Strategy for Institutional Openness for Building an Open State in Mexico
In 2015, a constitutional reform on transparency allowed the INAI to propose a specific set of actions to adopt and institutionalize open government principles in Mexico. Thus, it designed a comprehensive strategy that mainly consisted of the implementation of provisions, methodologies and public policies to guide and articulate the design, implementation, and operation of open government in public institutions, the three levels of government and the three branches of government nationwide.
In 2015, open government in Mexico was making progress at the federal level but was relatively unknown at the local level and in the judiciary and legislative branches.
The General Law of Transparency enabled the creation of a new public policy to comply with its 59th article, which provides for the need to establish mechanisms and procedures for institutional openness. In this regard, the INAI put in place a strategy to develop public policy procedures to diagnose, design, implement, and evaluate the minimum conditions required for Mexican government institutions in order to comply with and act in the spirit of the 59th article of the General Law.
This strategy was deployed by creating a series of norms, methodologies and case studies that have allowed both institutions and members of civil society to start their own open government practices in the three levels of government, as well as other government branches in Mexico. Prior to 2015, a strategy of this kind was nonexistent in Mexico and a similar approach was not found in the international sphere.
The strategy resulted in a broader public policy to boost the implementation of an open State in Mexico. Therefore, it was designed to achieve specific results during the various stages of the public policy cycle looking towards 2030 and a way to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The strategy is divided into three stages: first, normative design and adequate institutional conditions to implement open government principles, and the establishment of a standard baseline to evaluate open government policies and capacity-building abilities; second, implementation of OG policies at the local level and within the judiciary and legislative branches, the consolidation of the INAI as a national promoter of this strategy, and OG results assessment at the local level; third, OG as an intrinsic value in the public sector, and OG impact assessments at the local level.
The first stage has already been implemented and the second one is moving forward. A hundred public institutions that have participated in local open government exercises and capacity-building and capacity-replication programs have benefited, and a series of products have also been devised for their specific conditions: a) regulations, guidelines and methodologies to lead and standardize the implementation of open government policies; b) an initiative to support local co-creation exercises in the 32 Mexican states to replicate Mexico’s experience in OGP, 28 participating states, 12 local action plans and 71 commitments; c) open government and sustainable development agents of change training programs, 65 trained persons in open government principles and the 2030 Agenda in 15 states; d) OG metrics to measure basic principles and advances at the institutional level; two metrics have been published (2017 and 2019); e) good practices bank, both at national and international levels.
After four years, the following results were achieved: a) a strengthening of local guarantor agencies regarding open government; b) the internalization of open government principles by public institutions and civil society organizations, which furthered the creation of spaces for dialog and cooperation through new forms of collaboration and thus have a positive impact on public affairs; c) stakeholder engagement.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The strategy to build an open State in Mexico is unprecedented and there is no registered experience remotely similar at an international level. Besides, it is innovative to the extent that it is a unique effort to articulate social knowledge, community capacities, and incentives to actively encourage open government practices in public institutions, local guarantor agencies, civil society organizations, and citizens.
This strategy aims to be a national and international reference in the field, while promoting positive changes in public institutions and citizens, through its implementation and replication, thus making it possible to provide practical solutions to public issues and deal with the crisis of confidence found in democracies around the world.
What is the current status of your innovation?
As stated before, the first stage of the Strategy - normative design and adequate institutional conditions to implement OG principles, and the establishment of a standard baseline to evaluate OG policies and capacity-building abilities - has already been implemented and the second stage advances steadily. Also, with the lifting of the second edition of the open government metric, important findings were obtained for the development of specific actions that allow progress towards closing gaps in transparency and participation. Finally, we have developed a portal that concentrates all the institutional efforts undertaken in the field to disseminate the lessons learned and to continue advancing in the construction of a new culture of institutional openness in Mexico.
Collaborations & Partnerships
Thus far, the implemented actions have been based on strategic associations between the INAI and public and private universities, like the Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE), ITESO, and Universidad Veracruzana; international agencies like UNDP and USAID; international civil society organizations, like Global Integrity (GI) and Open Society Foundation; and Mexican organizations like Gestión Social y Cooperación (GESOC), ProSociedad and Gobierno Fácil, among others.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
One hundred public institutions have benefited, including 28 local guarantor agencies and 120 civil society organizations, that now take part in open government local exercises, capacity-building and capacity-replication for institutional openness programs.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
Results (as of 2019): a) 28 state members of the initiative to promote local co-creation exercises, and 12 local open government action plans, resulting in a total of 71 commitments in the field that comply with a specific goal of the 2030 Agenda; b) increased stakeholder engagement in open government practices and agents of change training.
The INAI accompanies and evaluates local action plans and training programs. Besides, there is a set of Open Government Metrics on the basic guidelines and to support monitoring efforts on institutional progress, even at the municipal level. The 2019 metrics found major improvements in transparency but also a few setbacks in terms of civic engagement.
Expected effects for 2030: 1) public policies with a significant participatory approach; 2) transparency policies aimed at the proactive use of public information to generate socially useful public knowledge; 3) complete and innovative accountability to fight corruption.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenges the implementation of the strategy faces includes:
a) A lack of political will: major resistance to institutional changes to reach agreements on an open government agenda
b) Non-institutionalized civic engagement mechanisms: a fundamental requirement to boost citizen participation in public affairs
c) A lack of proactive transparency: transparency for transparency’s sake is not good enough and will not achieve the desired outcomes unless it provides socially useful public knowledge
d) A lack of actor-capacity in strategic and implementation processes: experience shows that it is absolutely necessary to develop skills to enhance possible outcomes
e) A lack of sustainability: institutions and citizens alike must take on this agenda as their own to encourage further short and long-term efforts.
Conditions for Success
In order for the strategy to be successful, the following challenges must be addressed:
a) Widely promote its benefits among public institutions. The General Transparency Law compels them to adopt open government principles, but it does not establish a clear road map on how to do it. Henceforth, they are not obliged to be part of the INAI’s Open State Strategy.
b) Strengthen local guarantor agencies with public resources and capacity-building programs to prompt open government policies in their own jurisdictions
c) Boost new local and national leadership to promote the open government agenda and cooperation with potential stakeholders to put it on the agenda, especially after the 2018 elections
d) Reinforce the mechanisms, methodologies, and financing tools for citizens and public institutions
e) Enhance strategic alliances with national and international organizations with proven expertise in the field.
The strategy has been designed so that its actions and instruments can be replicated in each state until open government becomes part of its daily activities at all levels of government and in all government branches. As noted above, the main objective is to achieve this by 2030. The strategy includes simple adherence mechanisms and INAI support. In this respect, explicit government and civil society representative commitment may suffice to kick off a given project. The INAI will make a context diagnosis and a technical and methodological assessment. This procedure can well be adopted by other countries.
INAI's support and observations made by experts have pointed at important lessons:
a) Contextualization: one of the Strategy’s main proposals is the implementation of standardized, but adaptable, actions for the local level and/or for each public institution. Even though each project has its own set of rules and guidelines, it is imperative to consider their political, social and administrative characteristics;
b) High level political commitment: any open government policy requires discussion and coordination among stakeholders, government representatives, civil society members, and academia, among others. Namely, it depends on resources and political will of the highest level to achieve its goals;
c) Differentiated agendas: potential stakeholders must be aware of the local priorities that need to be addressed before starting any open government initiative;
d) Avoid pretense: in certain contexts, adherence to some strategy projects can be distorted, for example, authorities that call for dialogue processes with sectors that do not represent the population. The legitimizing use of OG can be counterproductive and lead to resistance or greater distrust in the population;
e) Use of evidence for action: the OG etrics has made it possible to identify a differentiated performance among public institutions in Mexico in terms of transparency and citizen participation. The use of these metrics and indices are undoubtedly key elements for the design of policies and actions;
f) Establish alliances: the INAI has not implemented the Strategy alone, but with the support of institutions and organizations to achieve these results. In addition to the public budget, it has been able to use other sources of financing that has allowed it to implement advocacy projects at a local level in such diverse topics as: social comptrollership and monitoring of public resources (follow the money), citizen accountability exercises, equality of gender, among others.
Mexican democracy is not cosolidated. Previous administrations promoted accountability and citizen participation but not its institutionalization or responsibility towards the agreements reached. Today Mexicans demand answers and participate in public affairs, but do not trust the existing traditional spaces. This Strategy has showed that the establishment of alternative spaces for dialog and collaboration between authorities and civil society are possible.