Founding country members: Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South
Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States
The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a new international initiative
aimed at securing concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption,
and harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable.
“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and
accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments
to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen
the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”
--President Obama, September 23, 2010
The Challenge In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010, President
Obama spoke of open economies, open societies, and open governments as the “strongest foundation for human progress.”
He recognized that the work of strengthening democratic government requires sustained commitment, and that countries around
the world are taking innovative steps to better serve the people they represent. He issued a challenge to the leaders assembled
in New York to gather together again in September of 2011 with specific commitments and plans of action to promote transparency,
fight corruption, energize civil society, and to leverage new technologies.
Answering the Call Responding to the President’s challenge, a group of governments and
civil society organizations spanning the globe have come together to form the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a new multilateral initiative that supports national efforts to promote transparency, fight corruption, strengthen
accountability, and empower citizens. At the core of the Partnership is a commitment from participating countries to undertake
meaningful new steps as part of a concrete action plan, developed and implemented in close consultation with their citizens.
Led in its first year by the United States and Brazil, OGP is a unique partnership with a steering committee composed of
governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States)
and civil society organizations (Africa Center for Open Governance (Kenya), Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Brazil),
Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (Mexico), International Budget Partnership (international), MKSS (India), National
Security Archive (U.S.), Revenue Watch Institute (international), Transparency and Accountability Initiative (international),
and Twaweza (Tanzania)).
The Launch of the Open Government Partnership Today in New York, President Obama and President
Rousseff hosted the formal launch of OGP at an event with Heads of State and senior officials from 46 countries. The high-level
meeting focused attention on the shared challenge of improving governance, and demonstrated a strong political commitment
around the world to the kinds of reforms necessary to enhance transparency, fight corruption, and strengthen mechanisms of
The eight founding governments embraced an Open Government Declaration in which they pledged to advance the core principles of open government. And each government presented an action plan with
concrete commitments to put the principles of the Declaration into practice.
The Partnership also welcomed the commitment of the following 38 governments to join OGP and deliver their own action plans
in Brazil in March 2012: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican
Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania,
Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain,
Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uruguay.
Each of these countries has already demonstrated a commitment to open government across four key areas – fiscal and
budget transparency, freedom of information, asset disclosures for public officials, and citizen engagement – and published
a formal letter of intent to participate.
The Open Government Declaration The Declaration is a high-level political statement by the leaders
of the eight founding governments of the value of openness, and their commitment to:
Promote openness, because more information about governmental activities should be timely and freely available to people;
Engage citizens in decision-making, because this makes government more innovative and responsive;
Implement the highest standards of professional integrity, because those in power must serve the people and not themselves;
Increase access to new technologies because of their unprecedented potential to help people realize their aspirations
for access to information and a more powerful voice in how they are governed.
Eight Action Plans Today, as part of the formal launch, the eight founding governments delivered
action plans pledging new commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness the power of
new technologies. Each action plan contains detailed commitments in a wide variety of areas, developed by governments in consultation
with citizens. Among the highlights, the action plans include commitments to promote:
Effective management of natural resources revenues: The United States will join the Extractive Industries Transparency
Initiative (EITI) as an implementing country – forging a new partnership between government and industry to ensure that
taxpayers receive every dollar they are due from the extraction of our natural resources. (You can view the full U.S. National
Action Plan here.)
Delivering public information: Brazil will develop several activities toward increasing active transparency and open data,
including restructuring the Transparency Portal and launching the Brazil Open Data Portal, in order to converge to the appropriate
environment for future enactment of the Access to Information Law.
Gender equality: Norway will promote gender equality and women’s full participation in civic life, the private sector,
public administration and political processes, including by: following up the recommendations of the government white paper
on equal pay; launching an effort to have more women apply for top posts in the private sector; and undertaking an initiative
to strengthen the role of women in local democracy and develop a gender equality program with all municipalities.
Open data: The United Kingdom will promote improvements in outcomes and accountability in the public sector by transforming
the rights of citizens to obtain data from public authorities and establishing standards and frameworks to embed a culture
of transparency in the UK.
Citizen participation: The Philippines will extend participatory budgeting across the government to 12 government departments
and 6 government corporations by 2012; establish an empowerment fund to support bottom-up involvement in development planning
and budgeting; and institutionalize social audits as a tool for monitoring the implementation of public infrastructure projects.
Service delivery: South Africa will enhance the capacity and capabilities of communities to access and claim their socio-economic
rights through the roll-out of national public education campaigns and set up “Service Delivery Improvement Forums”
in all nine provinces to provide timely citizen report cards on service delivery at the community level.
Public integrity: Indonesia will pursue an ambitious effort to bring greater transparency to range of critical areas that
have been sources of corruption in the public sector, with commitments to publish basic information and performance data for
the police and public prosecution service, the tax court, the immigration office, the customs office, and the land administration
office. They will also increase the transparency of civil service recruitment.
Government transparency: Mexico will increase the publication of socially useful information in four key areas –
budget allocation, security, education, and telecommunications – in order to strengthen public integrity and public
participation, and to enhance the oversight of performance in the education sector to improve educational quality.
The Domestic Open Government Initiative In addition to committing to implement EITI, among the
highlights of the U.S. National Action Plan:
The White House recently announced the launch of the “We the People” petition platform to give Americans a
direct line to voice their concerns to the Administration via online petitions. In addition, the White House plans to publish
the source code of the recently announced “We the People” petition platform so that it is available to any government
around the world that seeks to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public. This will foster greater participation in
The Administration will launch a platform called ExpertNet that will enable government officials to better communicate
with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. It will give members of the public an opportunity to participate in
a public consultation relevant to their areas of interest and knowledge, and allow officials to pose questions to and interact
with the public in order to receive useful and relevant feedback. ExpertNet will foster greater collaboration within government.
The Administration will continue work on a new civil service personnel category (or job series) for officials who specialize
in administering FOIA and other information programs. It is important to recognize the professional nature of the work done
by those administering FOIA. In addition, the Administration will expand the use of technology to achieve greater efficiencies
in FOIA administration, including utilization of technology to assist in searching for and processing records.
Recently, Congress nearly enacted legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing whistleblower protections, provide
protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms
in the remedial process. The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation. But if Congress
remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand
The Administration will launch an initiative that will recommend reforms and require reporting on current records management
policies and practices. The initiative will consider changes to existing laws and ask how technology can be leveraged to improve
records management while making it cost-effective. The initiative will seek a reformed, digital-era, governmentwide records
management framework that promotes accountability and performance.
Brazil 2012 and Beyond Six months from now, on March 5th and 6th, 2012, Brazil will host the
second high-level meeting of OGP. A group of countries – including the 38 who expressed their formal intent to participate
today – will endorse the Open Government Declaration and deliver their own action plans to strengthen the pillars of
open and accountable government.
The founding governments are committed to continuing the Partnership beyond Brazil, with commitments from the United Kingdom,
Indonesia, and Mexico to chair the effort in subsequent years. OGP will work actively to expand the ranks of participating
countries, engage civil society and the private sector, and to help countries deliver meaningful reforms that increase government
accountability, effectiveness, and efficiency.
“When a government
hides its work from public view, hands out jobs and money to political cronies, administers unequal justice, looks away as
corrupt bureaucrats and businessmen enrich themselves at the people’s expense, that government is failing its citizens,”
stated U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the opening of the multi-country Open Government Partnership (OGP) Forum
last week. She described the new OGP “as a network of support for those leaders and citizens working to bring more transparency
and accountability to governments worldwide. This can be a lonely, sometimes even dangerous, task. But through this partnership,
we hope to change that.”
And the forum’s co-chair, Brazilian Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio
Patriota, also stressed that through such multilateral cooperation the OGP could play a role in stimulating innovation, improving
the quality of public services and contributing to national efforts in governmental transparency. Throughout the forum, governmental
and non-governmental representatives from around the world emphasized the important role that civil society organizations
can play in encouraging openness, empowering citizens and promoting change through their own transparency initiatives.
The OGP Forum was an auspicious start to an ambitious project. However, achieving global transparency remains
long and challenging, and only over time will the concrete contribution of this initiative be seen. Yet, this inaugural forum
showcased exciting initiatives and raised important questions, such as how to effectively build networks of governments, foster
cooperation with civil society organizations, identify targeted reforms and use technology to foster a transparent environment.
Many governments have already made great strides in promoting transparency: For example, Brazil is now disseminating
information on government spending and fund transfers data through their Transparency Portal; the U.S. has embarked on efforts to publicly account for Recovery Act spending; and Kenya has published its national census, government expenditure and parliamentary proceedings
data through its new Open Data Portal.
Civil society actors around the world are working to further the transparency agenda
in diverse ways. India’s NGO MKSS combats graft stemming from the implementation of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act
by painting employment and building material costs on walls outside of construction projects in rural areas. Ushaidi Kenya maps citizen reports of acts of violence, while Chile’s innovative Ciudadano Inteligente promotes transparency and active citizen participation through new web technologies.
OGP offers an opportunity for governments from around the world to share best practices in transparency reforms and the inclusion
of both governmental and non-governmental participants facilitates collaboration between key stakeholders. Civil society organizations
could continue to nudge governments toward increased transparency, as well as complement and reinforce ongoing reforms by
disseminating information to the public and monitoring implementation. For instance, in Slovakia, the Fair-Play Alliance’s Z Nasich Dani (From Our Taxes) new online tool, which discloses the names the individuals behind companies
who do business with the government, is complementary to the Slovak government’s online publication of public service
contracts by allowing citizens to dig deeper into the relationship between companies and the state.
The OGP is also
working to identify the transparency reforms to promote. The OGP used four criteria (fiscal transparency, access to information, senior official disclosure and citizen engagement)
to identify around 80 eligible countries, but it is no secret that each country finds itself at a different level of openness.
Although it is noteworthy that the criteria extended beyond the existence of e-government to encompass deeper forms of transparency,
the OGP will still need to strike a balance between emphasizing country-led solutions while encouraging deeper reforms and
discouraging “open government” rhetorical window-dressing. It is reasonable to expect very different paths; some
countries may initially focus reforms in “high-risk” sectors, such as in the extractive sector in resource-rich
countries, while others may focus first on engaging the citizenry in the policymaking process. Either way, it is important
to attain broad consensus regarding what constitutes concrete progress, versus mere pronouncements or decrees on paper only.
The important role of transparency reforms in combating corruption was the subject of a specialized panel at the OGP
forum. For transparency to have more substantial impact on anti-corruption and development, deeper reforms may be needed.
For instance, publishing official statistics and general budget data online can be a first step, but one ought not declare
“premature victory” after tackling such generic “low hanging fruits.” Indeed, well implemented freedom
of information laws or well disseminated budgetary and procurement details at the project and municipal level can be expected
to have larger effects. Furthermore, there can be large payoffs to tackling the more politically difficult reforms, such as
transparency in the drafting of laws and in policymaking, campaign finance, lobbying, the disclosure of officials’ assets,
and fully disclosing which powerful private sector and media executives the leaders of government meet regularly with.
New technologies are only part of the
answer. Twenty-first century technology has simplified and accelerated information dissemination and has lead to a new set
of cost-effective and interactive tools that make it easier for the public to engage with the data. Many existing open data
platforms can easily be adapted to visualize different datasets at a relatively low cost. For instance, the United States
and Kenya now use the same platform to publish their government data. However, as the open government agenda evolves, there is the
risk of becoming hypnotized by technological wizardry at the expense of the availability, timeliness and accuracy of the most
relevant types of information.
In this context, civil society groups, think tanks and researchers may play a role
in reviewing the quality of information and data being disclosed (or withheld), in monitoring and analyzing information citizens
deem the most relevant, and in constructing and disseminating user-friendly worldwide transparency and governance databases.
Yet we also need to be mindful that country context matters. Online tools may be helpful in many situations, but in others
putting information on a wall or disseminating it through community radio or a mobile text message may be a more effective
in reaching people.
Research and experience suggest that there are links between transparency, combating corruption
and more robust democratic institutions. The OGP represents an opportunity to further the openness agenda by bringing governmental
and non-governmental partners together to share experiences that could inform and complement the implementation of transparency
reforms at home. Last week’s OGP kick-off forum was a positive step toward global transparency.
But it was a
first step. Significant work lies ahead in the months to come. The first order of business is to get the OGP formally and
concretely off the ground. Led by their founding country members (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa,
the United Kingdom and the United States – and hopefully India decides to rejoin), the OGP is expected to be formally
launched by country leaders during the upcoming United Nations meetings in late September in New York. In parallel, the critical
role of civil society needs to be concretely detailed, and governments from eligible countries have to formally join the OGP
and be prepared to make transparency reform commitments that can be mutually reinforced and monitored.
Partner organizations in this website while it was
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Ehem -- the anti-corruption initiative
of the Philippine Jesuits echoes the urgent call for cultural reform against corruption in the Philippines. Ehem
aims at bringing people to a renewed sensitivity to the evil of corruption and its prevalence in ordinary life. It seeks ultimately
to make them more intensely aware of their own vulnerability to corruption, their own uncritiqued, often unwitting practice
of corruption in daily life. Ehem hopes to bring people, in the end, to a commitment to live the way of Ehemplo --- critical
of corruption, intent on integrity!
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