The Open Government Partnership (OGP) Global Summit was held from May 29-31, 2019 in Ottawa, Canada and brought together OGP member countries as well as local and regional governments, academia, and civil society groups including Namati, a supporting partner of the Justice for All Campaign. This year, there was a stronger focus on the theme of access to justice, compared to the previous summit in Tbilisi.
A key outcome of the Summit was the creation of a coalition of the willing within OGP comprised of government and civil society who will drive forward access to justice. While an OGP justice working group had been previously established during the Tbilisi summit, there has been little movement. Going forward, the justice coalition aims to set a plan, scope, and terms of reference in order to strengthen the commitment and focus of the justice working group. Namati urged members of the coalition to engage with National OGP Action Plan review processes to ensure access to justice is included as an open government priority.
The high-level panel ‘Opening Justice Through Access to Justice’ challenged attendees to make their own commitments to access to justice. The panel – including Namati Sierra Leone lawyer Eleanor Thompson – discussed how access to justice is part of the foundation of sustainable development and can enable people and communities to advance their rights, access services, push for legal and regulatory protection, shed light on corrupt practices and effectively participate in governance processes. The panel also reflected on how justice commitments can be included in National Actions Plans and help open justice.
In the ‘Year of Justice’ panel – moderated by Senior Advisor to The Global Legal Empowerment Network Marlon Manuel – participants discussed how they have used their National Action Plans to push forward access to justice reforms, and how civil society organizations successfully campaigned for these reforms. Speakers included Fani Karanfilova, Open Society Foundation Macedonia; Eleanor Thompson, Namati Sierra Leone; Sandra Elena, Government of Argentina; Luis Lozano, Judge of the Supreme Justice Tribunal of Buenos Aires; Joaquin Caprarulo, Asociación Civil por la Igualdad y la Justicia, Argentina; and Maha Jweid, OGP. They emphasized that governments and civil society organizations must make concrete commitments that increase financing and protections for grassroots justice defenders in the months leading up to the UN’s High-Level Political Forum and General Assembly Meeting.
Finally, in her keynote remarks, The Elders Chair Mary Robinson emphasized the role of access to justice in preventing violence against women and called on attendees to increase their financial commitments to grassroots justice and women’s groups. She challenged OGP members to think about how they can further the goal of closing the justice gap and argued that an important way in which OGP can help with opening justice is by promoting legal empowerment. She ended her remarks to OGP by stating:
You’re not bad. You can get better and especially on justice.