We were pleased to hear UK Cabinet Office Minister Frances Maude, a major champion in the fight for good governance in the UK, support the efforts of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) this week in London. As of September 26, the United Kingdom became the leading co-chair of the OGP, an organization that aims to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance through increased citizen participation.
The open government movement is a key part of what ONE sees as the future of development. It allows citizens around the world to have the ability to participate in their own development and hold their leaders to account.
ONE Executive Director Jamie Drummond participated at an event called “The Future is Open,” where Mr. Maude gave a keynote speech about the UK’s role in the OGP. In a Telegraph article published yesterday, Mr. Maude called on the world’s media to hold governments’ feet to the fire with the fruits of open government.
He writes, “Transparency is risky, difficult and uncomfortable for governments – it also sticks. Once you start, you can’t go back. This government has put transparency at the heart of its agenda. As the new lead chairman of the Open Government Partnership, we will promote transparency all over the world.”
OGP is a fairly young partnership (initiated in September 2011) that now has 57 member countries covering one-third of the world’s population. The UK’s co-chairmanship comes at a critical time. With the presidency of the G8 in 2013 and the Prime Minister’s role on the UN High Level Panel, the UK has a unique opportunity to put openness, transparency and accountability at the heart of the global development agenda.
The wave of support for open data and transparency resulted in support for a broader concept of open government, and later, OGP. The UK government has shared its vision of open government, but it should go beyond open data and transparency to include citizen participation and accountability. The UK OGP Civil Society Network is currently discussing how to ensure that UK engagement goes beyond data.
Broadly, the UK should articulate that open government is a vision incorporating many elements, from access to information and citizen participation in policy making, to anti-corruption initiatives and work on corporate transparency and accountability.
And open government needs to be about democracy as well as about prosperity. Participation isn’t just a way of promoting prosperity, it’s also a means to deepen democracy and improve service delivery. The public should have access to information that is useful, with freedom of information loopholes closed and robust protection for whistle-blowers.
These tools will enable citizens to participate in the fight against corruption, at home and overseas, and efforts to ensure greater accountability – around aid, around budget processes and around the extraction of natural resources.
The success of OGP will be judged by what happens on the ground, but the energy and enthusiasm that both governments and civil society have shown in the first year of OGP is testimony to the initiative’s potential. As leading co-chair, UK has important responsibility to ensure that OGP realises its potential – and to be transparent about the progress that is being made against the UK’s own commitments.
ONE is keen to ensure that the UK takes advantage of the amazing opportunities that 2013 offers (OGP, G8, HLP) to put openness, transparency and accountability at the heart of the global development agenda, so that people in developing countries are empowered to hold their governments to account for the effective use of public resources – following the money, tracking results and holding governments to account.
With ONE’s focus on poverty reduction in Africa, we are excited to see the UK harness the energy of OGP for poverty reduction as well as prosperity, and to see the UK work with African members of OGP to bring more African countries into the conversation.
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