Senegal has long been known as one of the most stable democracies in West Africa. With elections approaching, ONE and civil society are working with the government to make sure it’s known as one of the most open and transparent democracies too.
Last month, ONE and the Senegalese Government ran a two-day Open Government Partnership (OGP) workshop in the capital, Dakar. The OGP brings together the government and civil society to agree a plan that will improve government openness and transparency.
Groups that were part of this process included the National Organization for the Fight Against Corruption and the government’s Ministry of Good Governance and Child Protection.
The General Secretary of the Ministry of Good Governance and Child Protection, Mr Omar El Foutihou Ba, said at the event: “We’re willing to work hand-in-hand with civil society and major stakeholders to come up with a clear action plan with key objectives that we will strive to achieve”.
Throughout the two-days, everyone was keen to make sure that we build on the work that has already been done around good governance. With education and access to information – particularly online – standing-out as crucial. All agreed that citizens should be able to:
- Influence government decisions – this could include an independent press and freedom of assembly (protest) and expression.
- Hold the government to account for their decisions and actions through a clear process – stamping out corruption.
- Access information held by the Government.
- Use all the opportunities that new technologies offer to take part in the political process and campaign for change.
Why is open government important?
Put simply, when governments are open and transparent it’s harder for corruption to hide. People’s actions, their policies and how they implement them are open to public scrutiny. This means that the government can be held accountable.
This does two things, firstly, it could help stop corruption. Secondly, it helps restore the public’s trust in the government, which can only be a good thing. When citizens have a seat at the table, and a real say in what the government does, communities and governments thrive.
“Governments should view citizen engagement as an opportunity to co-create shared solutions to challenges, harnessing the ideas, energy and experience of citizens.” said Rudo Kwaramba-Kayombo, ONE’s Africa Executive Director.
A great example of this is when Kenya joined the OPG. Local school committees were empowered to hire extra teachers and to monitor their performance – teachers are usually hired by the Ministry of Education. The result was reduced classroom overcrowding and improved student learning.
OGP’s Senior Regional Coordinator, Theophilus Chiviru said, “It is with great enthusiasm that we warmly welcome Senegal to the OGP family. We challenge Senegal to raise the collective ambition and transformative power of OGP to collectively tackle the biggest societal challenges facing the country today like corruption, inequality and service delivery.”
This is a really promising start. We now have to keep an equal and honest conversation going, so that the plan of action really makes a difference. Watch this space!