Tag Archives: accountability

What is the Role of the Private Sector in Open Government?

By Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang

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The Open Government Partnership has become a leading force for advancing transparency and civic engagement in 63 countries. It was founded on a strong partnership between governments and civil society organizations. Recognizing the implications of open governance for economic and democratic development, CIPE has helped to establish an independent Council for Engaging the Private Sector in the Open Government Partnership. The Council is a joint initiative coordinated by the National Information Society Agency of Korea, Microsoft, and the Center for International Private Enterprise. CIPE’s Andrew Wilson, Deputy Director for Strategic Planning, is co-chair. The Council welcomes input from private sector and other stakeholders on the future of engagement in open governance.

Dr. Jong-Sung Hwang, Head of the Korea Big Data Center at the National Information Society Agency, introduces this exciting initiative on the Open Government Partnership blog.

Open government is not a new concept. According to Wikipedia, the idea that government should be open to public scrutiny and responsive to public opinion dates back at least to the time of the Enlightenment. For decades now, the emergence of Freedom of Information legislation and  e-government initiatives have propelled a trend toward building transparent, accountable, and responsive governments.

However, open government has acquired new meaning in the 21st century, facilitated by the development of information technology. Whereas open government in the past meant access to information inside government, it now means not only access but also active sharing of information and collaborative governance between government and civil society. The distinction is that access is a one-directional relationship in which the government side opens up. In contrast, sharing implies bi- or multi-directional relationships and requires opening up and engagement by all sides.

The new version of open government, which aims for shared governance, can be named as open government 2.0. As Tim O’Reilly, advocate of Gov 2.0, puts it, open government 2.0 seeks to “redefine the relationship between citizens and government officials, engaging the citizen as a full participant rather than an observer. Citizens are not passive consumers of government services anymore. Instead, they are actively engaged in producing and delivering government services and sharing the results.

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Pathway to Accountability: “Accountapreneurs”

Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.

Participants at a recent Accountapreneurship event in Nepal.

Narayan Adhikari is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Accountability Lab

Two words always come to my mind when talking about accountability: “power” and “holders.” In principle, power comes from the people (the constituency). In a representative democracy, people are the source of power and they hold it by choosing their delegates through elections.

More often than not, however, the officials who get a mandate from the people hold power against the interests of electorate. Consequently, the power dynamic changes alongside the changes in attitudes, behaviors, and interests of the power holders. The cycle then repeats itself. For example; the recent constituent assembly election in Nepal resulted from the failure of the first assembly to promulgate a constitution.

For many Nepalese, democracy is a tool used to subjugate human beings to operate within certain norms, guided by the rule of law and constitutions. It only gives a framework, not an inclusive picture to judge and regulate the behaviors and relationships between individuals as members of a larger society. Democracy without accountability does not achieve equality, but rather degrades morality, integrity, and ethics. Accountability is more than just transparency and anti-corruption. It gives strength to democracy to be a foundation in society and to inspire people to become responsible citizens.

Today, corruption continues to be the biggest challenge worldwide. Corruption distorts development, undermines trust between citizens and government, and produces structural violence. Corruption also carries huge costs. The European Union spends close to 120 million Euros every year fighting corruption. According to World Bank, corruption is one of the largest “industries” with a scale of $3 trillion every year.

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6th All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference Brings Business Community Together

Energy imports are a key issue for Pakistan's business community. (Photo: The Tribune)

Energy imports are a key issue for Pakistan’s business community. (Photo: The Tribune)

CIPE partner Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry organized its first All-Pakistan Chamber Presidents’ Conference in 2009. Since then, the annual conference has become an important venue for bringing the business community from across Pakistan together to discuss pressing economic issues and propose reforms to provide level playing field for businesses to grow.

This year, the conference focused on making the newly-elected democratic government accountable for its promises. The current government is considered pro-business, and has made a number of promises in their manifesto to undertake business-friendly policy reform. Now the business community needs to monitor the progress made by the government in initiating the reform process and the implementation of these reforms. To this end, the Policy Research Institute of Market Economy (PRIME), with the help of CIPE, has started a Manifesto Monitoring Project to track how well the government is keeping its promises.

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Leadership by example for a region in change


Also available with subtitles in Arabic.

Given the tumultuous change and economic stagnation throughout the Middle East and North Africa, one might be tempted to ask, is corporate governance even relevant in the current environment? The answer is yes, and here’s why.

Corporate governance is intrinsically linked to the concerns being expressed by people throughout the MENA region because good corporate governance and good democratic governance both are based on the values of accountability, transparency, responsibility, and fairness. There is now a new opportunity to talk about these issues – and how to establish institutions that uphold these values – that was never possible before.

CIPE and the Global Corporate Governance Forum officially launched their new guidebook and video resource for corporate governance, Advancing Corporate Governance in the Middle East and North Africa: Stories and Solutions, at the Corporate Governance and Responsibility Forum in Amman, Jordan on June 12-14, 2011.

The conference gathered more than 100 practitioners and businesspeople from around the world and raised issues related to corporate governance, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability.

The driving force for the region’s popular uprisings is economic concerns, including unemployment and a low standard of living. Addressing these issues will require a dynamic private sector that will generate new job growth. To achieve the aspirations of the youth, it is essential to help develop stronger, more sustainable business, which depends on creating an environment where the private sector can flourish.

Implementing corporate governance is one important step in this direction – it will help companies attract investment, instill shareholder confidence, and improve productivity, and will also help rehabilitate the reputation of the business community in an environment where the private sector’s reputation is under attack. Corrupt crony capitalists associated with the ruling regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere have given the private sector and free markets a bad name.

Standing against corruption and demonstrating a commitment to corporate governance, transparency, and disclosure of conflicts of interest is an important way for businesses to generate trust and regain credibility that may have been lost.

Lofty democratic ideals will not motivate all business owners, but there are concrete benefits that corporate governance helps realize. CIPE and GCGF talked with companies around the region in order to gather success stories of how and why they made governance changes and what positive impact it had. The resulting guidebook presents real-world, practical examples that show how companies in the region overcame barriers and improved their governance practices in ways that benefited performance and growth.

The guide is intended to serve a real-world purpose: To provide assistance and motivation to directors, senior managers, regulators, and others as they try to improve existing corporate governance practices.

As governments increasingly look to the private sector to stimulate economic growth, the business community has a unique part to play in promoting values of accountability, fairness, and responsibility. This new role will help to advance democratic institutions and strengthen business ethics to the benefit of the public sector, the private sector, and society at large.

Will tweet for democratic reform

A live and interactive visualization of CIPE’s social media network on Twitter. Hover over to zoom in; click and drag to move around. Relative connection thickness represents hashtag or re-tweet frequency.

It can’t be denied that social media has exploded in the past few years. With its seemingly unlimited marketing potential, Facebook and Twitter have taken up much of the technology spotlight and have shared ups and downs in the “privacy versus access to information” debate. But with recent events, social media seems to have involuntarily expanded its role towards facilitating democratic reform.

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Calls for Direct Elections in Russia

With the price of oil stuck in the mid-$40′s, the Russian stock market in the tank, and the value of the Ruble plummeting the vertical consolidation of power that occurred under the watch of President Putin is now being called into question.  While economic times were swell and oil and $100+ per barrel the population of Russia welcomed the order of a vertical political power and were thankful after years of government mis-management under President Yeltsin.  The petrodollars flooding the country were hiding a dirty little non-secret – endemic corruption (price of oil v. TI score).  It is difficult to think of an adjective strong enough to describe the level of corruption in Russia - estimated by one source at 50% of GDP!

Calls for the decentralization of the power structure have already begun to ring from many academic circles in Moscow.  A simple first step toward making government officials accountable for their actions would be to re-institute gubernatorial elections.  The Kremlin took away direct elections over five years ago.  Currently the president picks governors who are voted on by regional assemblies.  In a recent Moscow Times article by Konstantin Sonin of the New Economic School suggests:

Political scientists and economists have shown that when there are highly competitive elections and informed voters, there is less corruption…In Russia, there is a commonly held misconception that democracy is a luxury that only economically developed and prosperous countries can afford. This belief is particularly popular during economic booms. When times are tough, however, we must pull our heads out of the clouds and plant our feet firmly on the ground. The best place to start is by return direct elections to Russia.

Last summer the presidents of the Russian republics of Tatarstan and Bashkir openly stated that a return to the direct election of governors was preferable.  And in November Moscow’s mayor Yuri Luzhkov declared that open elections would increase accountability in government.  Now the decision is up to the Kremlin and so far they are saying a big Nyet to any changes in elections.

Responsiveness and accountability must go hand in hand

As China prepares to host the Olympics next month, the communist leadership tries to do everything in its power to cultivate the image of an orderly and well-governed nation it wants the world to see. But the outbursts of anger directed at public officials continue. In two recent incidents, more than 30,000 people rioted in Guizhou province over an alleged cover-up of a teenage girls’ death, and after a migrant worker was allegedly beaten by the police in Zhejiang province, hundreds of other workers attacked a police local station.

While the government’s response to social discontent so far has mostly consisted of heavy-handed practices, Chinese leaders are trying to project a new approach. Recently, the government has told local leaders to be on alert to public grievances and find ways to resolve them.

    The order is the most recent in a series of calls reflecting the government’s apparent concern over rising social inequality, rampant corruption and the weak legal system. The latest order to resolve conflicts made no mention of specific instructions on how to do so and appeared to follow an all too common trend whereby the government strives to appear responsive without exposing the party to direct criticism or making officials more accountable to the public.

Therein lies the government’s problem. By definition, it cannot be more responsive to its people without greater transparency and accountability. If the lack of transparency continues to fuel covering up for blunders and negligence of public officials, how can truly improved responsiveness be achieved? If the lack of accountability makes mass protests the only available tool for exposing corruption and abuse, how can the Chinese people possibly feel that the government takes responsiveness seriously?

The state-run China Daily paper said that the latest “unprecedented move … shows the central leadership is paying more attention to public complaints.” But is it really? Calling for greater responsiveness that is not accompanied by greater transparency or accountability can’t be much more than a short-lived publicity stunt.