Oct 31st, 2012 1:38 PM UTC
By Alan Hudson
“Open government is so fundamental to being human that the arc of human history, driven by the everyday actions of millions of people across the world, will inevitably bend towards openness.”
(Rakesh Rajani, 26th September 2012 – OGP 1st Anniversary – An open government takes humility).
This post sets out what open government is and why it matters, explains the relevance of open government to the post-2015 development framework, and poses some questions about whether and how the principles of open government might feature in the post-2015 development framework. Timed to coincide with the meeting in London of the UN High Level Panel on the post-2015 development framework it makes the case that that framework must, if it is to put people first, have transparency, participation and accountability at its heart.
World Leaders, including Rakesh Rajani, at the launch of the Open Government Partnership in 2011
Open Government is about governments working with citizens to better meet people’s needs. The Open Government Partnership – the clearest expression of Open Government on a global scale – is a multilateral initiative which brings together governments and civil society to make governments and governance better. Launched in 2011 – with this amazing video – it aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Open government is built on three key principles. First, transparency; that information about policy processes should be available to the public. Second, participation; that the public, empowered with information, should be able to engage in policy processes. And third, accountability; that the public should not only be able to participate in policy processes, but should also be able to hold governments and other decision-makers to account. (see the Open Government Standards initiative for more info).
In little over a year, 57 countries from all around the world, north and south, east and west, have signed up to the OGP, demonstrating that open government – and the principles that lie behind it – is seen as something that can help all sorts of countries to address the challenges that they face. No matter what the country, the key to success – to fighting poverty, to achieving prosperity, and to realizing human dignity and freedom – is to be open to improvement, and, to use information to make those improvements.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have contributed to amazing progress in the fight against global poverty. But the existing MDGs – as with any institution – have significant room for improvement. Perhaps their major weakness has been that information about what resources governments have spent in pursuit of the goals, and about what results have been delivered, has been patchy and slow to be reported. For instance, when the International Budget Partnership asked 80 countries for basic information on spending on a number of key international development commitments – on maternal mortality, on aid flows, and on environmental issues – only one country, New Zealand, was able to provide the answers (see internationalbudget.org here for more info).
The poverty of information about the MDGs – and the lack of citizen input into their design – has contributed to limited citizen engagement, limited accountability and few opportunities for continuous learning and course correction. This needs to change. As Francis Maude, the Cabinet Minister heading up the Open Government Partnership for the UK puts it: Information is the raw material of the 21st Century. With citizens increasingly able to access, use, combine and share information, using new technologies, the possibilities for real-time monitoring, participation, feedback, accountability and learning are huge. By harnessing the power of information, promoting participation, and enabling accountability, the post-2015 development framework can contribute to a dramatic acceleration in the rate of progress against poverty and towards prosperity.
Open government – transparency, participation and accountability – might feature in the post-2015 development framework in a number of ways.
In thinking about how aspects of open government might best feature in the post-2015 development framework, there are perhaps two key questions to consider. First, whether the focus should be on information/transparency, or the principles of open government, or the tricky terrain of “Good Governance” with its normative agenda and patchy evidence base. Second, whether any principles that might feature – about information, or open government, or governance – should feature as principles underlying each sectoral goal, and/or as a stand-alone goal.
As keen supporters of the Open Government Partnership and proponents of transparency, participation and accountability, we at ONE have our views; access to information – including information about spending and progress towards meeting the goals – must be at the heart of the post-2015 development framework, with attention given also to the capacity of citizens and accountability institutions to use that information to hold governments to account. But, we aspire to be open; let us know what you think in the comments!
Oct 26th, 2012 4:15 PM UTC
By Michael Healy
Yesterday ONE met with Business Minister Jo Swinson to deliver a petition of 161,918 people calling on the Prime Minister and other European leaders to pass strong laws that will help citizens spot corruption and ensure the money paid to governments is used to lift millions of people out of poverty.
The European Committee of Permanent Representatives is meeting to discuss this issue today ahead of formal ‘trialogue’ negotiations between member states and the European Union beginning next month.
Earlier this month, following a meeting with ONE’s co-founder Bono, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pledged his support for the legislation and urged the European Union to match the tough rules set in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August.
Business Minister, Jo Swinson said:
“We have a unique opportunity to introduce changes that will help combat corruption in the world’s resource-rich countries, boosting economic growth and improving the lives of millions of people. I passionately support EU action to dramatically increase transparency in the payments that extractives companies make to foreign governments, and I will be pushing the EU to adopt a reporting regime that reflects the new rules agreed in the USA.
“The UK Government is working constructively with industry, the NGOs, and with others across Europe to secure agreement on a progressive, robust and workable package. This is an active debate, but we are optimistic that we can achieve the best possible outcome. Europe is close to a historic first step in lifting the lid on financial mismanagement in developing countries, and I want to make sure we take it.”
Adrian Lovett, ONE’s Europe Director, said:
“For African countries this law could be transformative. In the 20 most resource rich African countries, extractive revenues in 2010 were five times larger than aid flows. Africa is has great natural resources, and this law will allow its people to follow the money and help them pull themselves out of poverty.
“We welcome Jo Swinson’s strong support for a European transparency law that really works for citizens in developing countries.
“It is important that this involves project level reporting, a strong definition of project and the removal of anything that could incentivise secrecy laws in autocratic countries. We urge the UK to work with allies in Europe to win support for a law that at least matches the US version.”
Oct 22nd, 2012 5:10 PM UTC
By Tom Wallace
The provision of a $2 vaccine to save a child’s life for many is an important and obvious thing to support. But sometimes what is less obvious in saving that child’s life is how important the road is that was used to deliver the vaccine, or the electricity that powered the fridge to store the vaccine at a cool temperature. These were also essential for that vaccine to be able to save the child’s life.
In the developing world living without access to roads or electricity can mean living without decent education, evening lighting, or medical supplies. It can mean the difference between life and death.
Infrastructure is vital for development. However in Sub-Saharan Africa the infrastructure deficit is huge: 70% of the population has no access to electricity, 95% of agriculture is without irrigation and the majority of the rural population are not served by roads to market and hospitals that are passable year round. However infrastructure doesn’t come cheap and the sector is notoriously complex; this can lead to mismanagement and increase the potential for corruption.
In a 2010 report “Africa’s Infrastructure” the World Bank predicts that the cost of addressing the basic infrastructure deficit in Africa would require an additional $45billion a year in infrastructure investments. However in the same report the Bank notes that mismanagement, inefficiencies and corruption increase this cost, and $17-15 billion could be saved by addressing these problems. Elsewhere Global Construction Perspectives estimate that loses through mismanagement, corruption and inefficiencies range between 10 – 30% in the construction sector.
Recognising: (1) the immediate need for significant investment in African infrastructure and (2) the potential for mismanagement of public finances in this sector; ONE’s Executive Director Jamie Drummond spoke at the international launch of the Construction Sector Transparency (CoST) Initiative this morning.
The CoST Initiative seeks to increase transparency in the construction sector to ensure better use of public resources. There are 8 national level CoST initiatives that work with governments, civil society and construction companies to develop systems and procedures to enable the public disclosure of project information, thereby making construction projects more transparent and open to scrutiny. This transparency and accountability can help ensure money is well spent and can decrease the opportunities for corruption.
For example in CoST’s pilot stage following the public scrutiny an intervention by CoST Ethiopia led to the redesign of a road project which is expected to lead to a cost saving of $2.3 million. This $2.3 million is now available to invest elsewhere to achieve development goals. It means $2.3 million out of the hands of corrupt individuals but instead being used to train more teachers, build more schools or buy more medicine.
“The Construction Sector Transparency Initiative (CoST) is a fantastic initiative that ONE is proud to support. Transparency in the construction sector, from the financing to the decision making stage, is crucial in allowing the public to hold decision makers to account. Thereby ensuring water pipes, electricity lines and roads, reach and improve lives as they were designed to do.” Jamie Drummond
Over the coming year the CoST Initiative will be expanding out to more countries. Working with local civil society, companies and governments ensure the best use of public finance in the construction sector. ONE will be continuing to support this work and you can find out more about the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative here.
Oct 19th, 2012 9:35 PM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
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.
Oct 11th, 2012 4:01 PM UTC
By Katherine Sladden
“Sometimes great things happen when nobody’s looking.” That’s what Bono said today after sitting down with the UK’s Deputy Prime Minister and Business Minister to discuss the campaign for an EU-wide law requiring oil, gas and mining companies to publish what they pay to governments around the world. ONE is part of a coalition of over 650 civil society organisations worldwide calling for greater transparency in the sector.
European leaders are currently negotiating the details of the new law and in a statement following the meeting Nick Clegg confirmed the UK government would fight for strict rules that will best enable the world’s poorest people to benefit from their countries’ natural resources. The French Government also said yesterday it supports strong rules.
This is great news for ONE members who have been campaigning for many months on the issue. Over 160,000 European members have signed the petition calling on European leaders to deliver strong laws, and thousands sent personal messages to key MEPs to ensure they recently voted the right way on the European Parliament’s position. This follows a successful campaign by ONE members in the US to pass a similar law.
Following the meeting with ONE co-founder Bono, Nick Clegg said:
“For far too long, the world’s poorest people have seen no benefit from the vast natural resources in their own backyards.
“It is time to end the injustice where ordinary people are silent witnesses, left to suffer without basic services, as the profits from their countries’ assets are hidden and plundered by corrupt regimes.
“There need to be strict new rules about how payments to developing countries from the oil, gas and mining industries are recorded. Shining a light on where this money is actually going will help people hold their governments to account over how this money is actually spent.
“The United States Government has raised the bar by publishing tough new rules that will apply to US listed companies. The European Union must now follow suit and the Coalition Government will be pushing for those rules to be matched in Brussels.
Business Minister, Jo Swinson said:
“Millions of people in developing countries languish in poverty while their corrupt governments squander or hide large payments from foreign companies.
“Strong EU action to create a new global standard for transparency in the extractive industry can help these citizens hold their governments to account. I’m determined that the UK will play a leading role within the EU to make the most of this opportunity.”
Nick Clegg also praised ONE members for their continued efforts in the campaign. He said:
“I would like to pay tribute to ONE, to Bono’s energy and leadership and to the thousands of ONE members across the world who have campaigned tirelessly to keep this issue on the agenda.”
“Sometimes great things happen when nobody’s looking. That’s what happened today. Nick Clegg and Jo Swinson have thrown Britain’s weight behind strong EU transparency laws, at least matching the new US legislation. This legislation says – let the daylight in. Transparency is the best vaccine against corruption.”
Sep 28th, 2012 3:06 PM UTC
By Lauren Pfeifer
I’m a big fan of maps. They help me to work out how to get from where I am to where I want to be. They help me to find the things that I need. They help me to make arrangements to meet up with friends. They help me to make the best use of my time and to do what I want. Maps are familiar to all of us, but this map of Malawi is the first of its kind.
The key is key – it’s a rainbow. Because when you’re mapping the projects of 27 different donor governments (like those of USAID in the US, or DFID in the UK) on the ground in Malawi, it’s easier to read if it’s color-coded. This map is unique. Not only does it provide, for the first time, a macro view of what donors are doing in Malawi, but it layers poverty and human development data on top of it – indicated by the color grey of that area.
The combination of projects and need highlights geographic funding gaps (information which can spur or improve coordination between donors) and provides valuable information to the government and to citizens, allowing them to mobilize to fix gaps and inequalities in their country.
The combination of projects and need highlights geographic funding gaps (information which can spur or improve coordination between donors) and provides valuable information to the government and to citizens, allowing them to mobilize to fix gaps and inequalities in their country.
The map is the result of a partnership between the Government of Malawi, AidData, Texas Strauss Center’s Climate Change and African Stability (CCAPS) Program and the World Bank’s Open Aid Partnership, which builds off of the success of their Mapping for Results Initiative. Malawi is the first Open Aid pilot country. Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, and Bolivia are anticipated to follow their lead as Open Aid pilot countries. The Open Aid Partnership is based on the premise that the combination of maps and open data can enable more transparent, inclusive and effective development assistance.
The Open Aid Partnership will provide open and free access to project locations, human development data and results at the sub-national and local level, and facilitate the translation of this data into a collaborative Open Aid Map. The Partnership will support countries’ creation of their own mapping platforms, promote tech-based citizen feedback loops, and build open data capacity and social accountability mechanisms in countries, so that the data and its use can improve the effectiveness of aid programs.
The Open Aid partnership has been endorsed by eight countries (Canada, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, UK), along with the World Bank and the NGO alliance InterAction. The work of the Open Aid Partnership will go a long way to make information about aid resources available and accessible and to mobilize citizens to demand more effective aid programs. But the potential is even greater.
I look forward to a map that also includes information about revenues raised from natural resources, about budgets and spending and about the results of that spending. Armed with such a map, people will be able to follow the money to ensure that resources are used effectively in the fight against poverty, and to navigate successfully along their own development journeys.
ONE warmly endorses the Open Aid Partnership and looks forward to working with the World Bank and its partners to make the vision of open aid and open development, with empowered and informed citizens at the center, a reality.
Other great maps on ONE.org:
Sep 25th, 2012 3:48 PM UTC
By Friederike Röder
ONE has been advocating for a long time for the transparency of the petrol, mining and gas sector. Fortunately, we are not alone fighting for more transparency, but we are part of a large civil society coalition, “Publish what you pay” (PWYP), with more than 600 member organisations across the globe from Australia to Zambia. To mark the occasion of PWYP’s 10th anniversary, the coalition has produced a video that showcases the work of one of its national platforms, from Niger in West Africa.
The population in Niger is among the poorest in the world. At the same time, Niger is rich in natural resources, particularly uranium, but also petrol and gold. The video shows that the population living around the mine that generates billions of West African Francs remains as poor as it did before. To make things worse, the gold extraction has dangerous consequences for the environment and for the health of miners, many of which are children.
Niger is part of the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) and publishes the payments as reported by the companies and the revenues as recorded in the public accounts. However, the reports are not very detailed, payments for instance can’t be tracked back to specific projects or even specific commodities, the quality of the data is contested and the reports are not published in a very timely manner.
This is why civil society in Niger is closely following what is happening in the US and in Europe. Strong transparency rules for the extractive sector have entered into force recently in the US. Several European companies listed on US stock exchanges will have to implement them as well. However, this does not apply to, for example, French company Areva, which is the world leader on nuclear energy and very present in Niger. Therefore it is so important that Europe also adopts a strong transparency law. These laws will generate more timely and detailed data and increase transparency and hopefully also put additional pressure on governments and multinationals to be more accountable to their citizens. Transparency is not the objective in itself, but the means to a more effective use of public finance for development.
Ali Idrissa, the PWYP coordinator in Niger, was in France two weeks ago to support our efforts and help us support an ambitious EU law. Together with other African platforms, we met representatives from the Treasury, the Development Ministry and the Prime Minister’s office. We also organised a joint press conference. The aim was to show that the fight for transparency and against corruption has support all around the world and that a European law would help citizens in resource-rich countries to hold their governments to account.
Please keep up the fight for a strong EU transparency law that fights corruption by signing our petition.
Sep 18th, 2012 2:42 PM UTC
By Stuart McWilliam
Great news. Today pressure from ONE members has taken us a step closer towards historic European laws which could help millions of people lift themselves out of extreme poverty.
I was part of a ONE team monitoring the vote by a key group of MEPs (Members of the European Parliament) on proposed anti-corruption laws. Over 8,000 ONE members from across Europe sent these MEPs personal messages asking them to be champions in the fight against poverty and telling them they would be watching to see if they voted the right way.
And it worked!
The MEPs responded to this powerful call, with a majority voting to strengthen the proposed laws.
How the MEPs voted – for more see one.org/champions
This means that, as the proposed law now stands, oil, gas and mining companies will be required to publish what they pay to foreign governments. This would help to expose the trillions of dollars of secret payments to developing countries which allow corrupt officials to siphon-off large sums of money from the sale of these natural resources. Citizens of those countries would be able to spot this and instead push for that money to be spent on vital services like schools, roads and hospitals which would benefit all citizens and help build a more prosperous future for all.
The vote today is a significant step forward toward the law being passed. It now means the European Parliament has a strong position on the issue as it enters negotiations with representatives from governments of the 27 countries in the EU – an important stage in any EU-wide law being adopted. The campaign will now move on to ensure those negotiations lead to a strong final law.
We will call on ONE members to take further actions in the months ahead. For now though, we want to pause and recognise the five key MEPs who stood up and acted as champions.
By sending them a thank you message you can help to show that people across Europe have noticed they did the right thing, and encourage them to continue giving their support in the future.
You can tweet one of the four MEPs who are on twitter by clicking on the links below, or alternatively leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post for all of the five MEPs, and we’ll make sure they receive it.
@EuroMP_ArleneMc – Arlene McCarthy (UK)
@EPPGroup – Klaus-Heiner Lehne (Germany)
@eva_lichti – Eva Lichtenberger (Austria)
@CeciliaWikstrom – Cecilia Wikstrom (Sweden)
Congratulations to everyone who has taken part in the campaign so far and helped achieve this significant progress. Together as ONE we can continue to make sure this historic EU law is passed, so that millions more people can lift themselves out of poverty.
Jul 31st, 2012 6:07 PM UTC
By Michaela Gaziano
Transparency International (TI) recently published “Transparency in Corporate Reporting: Assessing the World’s Largest Companies”, a report reviewing the transparency of 105 of the world’s largest publicly traded companies. In total, these 105 companies are worth over $11 trillion, and have business relations in 200 countries. In an era of globalization, multinational companies are gaining more and more public influence and political traction. While TI and other organizations have been working on government transparency for years, the ubiquity of these multinationals has made it increasingly important to know how they operate and where the money is flowing. Many of these companies’ annual profits are higher than some small countries’ GDPs, so the role they have to play in development is immense.
The report gauged the practices of these companies through three dimensions: anti-corruption programs, the transparency of the corporations’ subsidiary relationships, and reporting financial data for each country. The TI report evaluated these companies based on 5 criteria: the reporting of revenues, capital expenditure, income before tax, income tax, and the companies’ contributions to the surrounding community. Though these companies pay taxes in the countries where they have operations, the study found 85 do not divulge income tax for any country in which they have operations. In the past, multinationals have used bribes and political contributions to avoid paying the full cost of taxes in developing countries. Without knowing how much these corporations pay to each country’s government, it is easier for governments to misappropriate the funds they are receiving from the corporations.
Looking at the corporations covered in the report I can already pick out more than a dozen that I have interacted with this week alone. In the past five minutes, I’ve used Google to get to Transparency International’s website on an Intel computer, and checked my email on my AT&T Apple iPhone. As we use these products and services, it’s easy to forget that we know little about their financial operations abroad. From their scores on TI’s index, it is clear that these corporations have a long way to go to improve their transparency abroad. Some of the companies post financial data on a few select countries, and many post information for all the criteria domestically, but none make the financial data for all of their country locations available. The highest ranking company, Statoil, scored a mere 50%.
All of the information used for TI’s report was taken from what was already published on the companies’ website, and was not verified individually by TI. Though this report is valuable, some of those reviewing this report are unhappy with its analysis because TI only took the companies’ website information at face value and did not look for examples of malpractice in countries of operation, the report seems to be missing some essential information. Questions will be asked about TI’s index – with some arguing that it’s too demanding and others that it’s too lenient –but if it stimulates a discussion about corporate transparency that will be a very useful contribution.
Jun 8th, 2012 10:09 AM UTC
By Isabelle De Lichtervelde
Yesterday Arlene McCarthy MEP wrote a response in the Financial Times to an article from Monday 4th June titled “EU’s efforts to cut red tape meet impasse”, on the EU’s draft transparency laws for the oil, gas and mining industries. Right now, the European institutions are negotiating these laws that would require extractive companies to publish the payments they make to governments around the world. These secret payments currently risk fuelling corruption and prevent citizens from ensuring the money is used for vital services. Shining a light on the financial flows would allow citizens to hold their governments to account.
Monday’s article suggested the European Parliament is ‘blocking’ the finalisation of EU transparency laws “because of objections to member states backing softer disclosure rule for oil and mining groups.” In her response, McCarthy countered that the Parliament is not blocking the process, and would be willing to come to agreement with the EU’s governments quickly, but only if crucial guarantees are in place within the law – including project-by-project reporting – which, McCarthy pointed out, is already successfully carried out in Zambia as part of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.
Some extractive companies are trying to water down these laws by suggesting a weaker version of the European Commission’s initial proposal. Thankfully MEPs like Arlene McCarthy are taking a stand against corruption. “We are happy to begin informal negotiations with a view to achieving a positive outcome” wrote McCarthy, who is rapporteur on the Transparency Directive for the Legal Affairs Committee in the European Parliament. But “we do not wish to compromise on transparency”, she added.
ONE will be working with MEPs from across the EU to make sure the European Parliament’s position delivers a final transparency law that gives citizens in some of the poorest countries in the world the information they really need to make the most of their natural resources.
The International ONE Blog is a daily log of the anti-poverty movement. The site is operated by ONE staff, with guest contributions from ONE volunteers, members and allies.
The content of each post and each comment represents the views of that author and does not necessarily reflect the views of ONE. ONE does not support or oppose any candidate for elected office, and any post expressing support or opposition for a candidate is not endorsed by ONE.