President Obama addresses the White House Summit on Global Development (Photo: VOA)
Looking back at the global development efforts over the last few years, one theme tends to reoccur: too many reforms are owned by the elites and civil society leaders in the capital with too little engagement at the grassroots. This common disconnect was raised at the White House Summit on Global Development, and it looms large over future initiatives of the international community.
At a session devoted to transparency, accountability, and open government Ambassador Samantha Power, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, talked about how crucial these factors are to unlocking economic development and fulfilling Goal 16 – the enabler – of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). She also highlighted the importance of multi-stakeholder partnerships such as Open Government Partnership (OGP) for advancing this approach and providing a hook that civil societies in countries around the world have been able to latch on to for reforms.
A global growth of demand for accountability and transparency, fueled by the rise of communication technology, is definitely a reason for optimism. At the same time, serious problems persist. Rakesh Rajani, Director of Democratic Participation and Governance at Ford Foundation, emphasized that despite progress and path ahead charted by initiatives such as SDGs and OGP serious challenges remain when it comes to authoritarian backlash and reversals of democratic culture. Even in established democracies such as India non-profit organizations increasingly come under undue pressure. As governments in many countries are clamping down on civic space, international efforts to counteract such trends do not resonate sufficiently with citizens on the ground.
When the Open Government Partnership chose the theme of Openness for All: Enabling Sustainable Development for the 2015 Global Summit in Mexico City, it signaled more than a healthy interest in the Sustainable Development Goals recently proclaimed in New York. OGP was expressing the value of openness as a means to progress on issues that matter to citizens, in addition to achieving openness for its own sake.
As United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark noted at the summit opening, “transparent, accountable, and responsive institutions and governance” are key to achieving progress across the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Private Sector Council on Open Governance is seeking examples of corporate or business-oriented programs to promote better governance in countries and communities around the world. For instance:
- Microsoft has held open data hackathons to develop applications for disaster reduction and recovery, in cooperation with the Government of the Philippines and the World Bank.
- The Makati Business Club has established a Coalition Against Corruption to support projects in procurement reform and delivery of public services, in cooperation with academe, the business sector, civil society organizations, and the Church.
- The Thomson Reuters Foundation ranked the transport systems in terms of safety for women in 16 major cities. In each city, it surveyed women and experts focused on women’s rights, gender equality, urban planning and gender-friendly urban spaces.
To submit your examples to the Private Sector Council, please complete the questionnaire by September 30. Your examples will help to map and communicate private sector roles in governance partnerships and better align governance programming with existing private sector strengths. Our aim is not to raise funding for partnerships but to identify and share effective practices. We will share the results of the survey at the 2015 OGP Global Summit in Mexico City, Mexico.
The Open Government Partnership has an ambitious agenda to advance transparency and accountability in government, which it seeks to advance through voluntary commitments, citizen engagement, and progress monitoring reports. It has garnered many adherents since it was launched by eight countries in 2011, and its members have already implemented numerous practical reforms.
At the OGP Americas Regional Meeting in Costa Rica, we had the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and learn from practitioners about what makes the partnership work and how to sustain it. I was struck by the scale of the effort in several countries despite their resource constraints, as well as the concerns voiced by civil society for the integrity of overall reform.
“Open” has become one of the biggest buzzwords in governance. But what does openness really mean? And does it mean the same thing to governments, civil society groups, the media, and the private sector?
As part of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) — Deputy Director Andrew Wilson serves as co-chair of the Council for Engaging the Private Sector — CIPE is also interested in the answer to this question. OGP is a multinational partnership, currently made up of 63 countries and a number of civil society organizations, that aims to make government more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to citizens.
One way that governments have tried to become more open is through open data — making data about government operations such as budgets, spending, and voting freely available for anyone to use.
But simply releasing some data does not necessarily make a government more transparent or accountable. “So if open data doesn’t produce benefits by itself, how does it work?” asked Emily Shaw in a recent post on the Sunlight Foundation’s blog.
Michael Putra, Shell, discusses open policymaking at the OGP Asia Pacific Regional Conference, May 6. Seated to his left are Y. W. Junardy, President, Indonesia Global Compact Network, and Ahmad Yuniarto, Chairman, Schlumberger Indonesia.
At a tender three years of age, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is growing toward maturity. It has reached a stage where it can reflect on progress made to date and learn from early attempts to inspire action by government and civil society. While enthusiasm remains fresh – palpable in the youth contingent at the Asia Regional Conference in Bali – champions within OGP are thinking seriously about how to ensure the credibility of national commitments and deliver the fruits of open government to the people.
Yet as an observer in Bali, I was mostly struck by the moments of discovery, the “aha” moments that occurred as new and veteran participants encountered one another. OGP is entirely new to many countries in Asia (Papua New Guinea and Burma, for instance) and equally new to certain segments of society, especially the private sector.
At the session hosted by Indonesia Global Compact Network on “Building Trust between Private and Public Sectors for a Competitive and Sustainable Economy,” prominent business people were amazed to know that there is such a partnership for transparency, accountability, and citizen engagement. They immediately grasped the potential of OGP to address issues of concern to them, including innovation policy, education, health, and local development. The light bulb really came on when they expressed that corporate social responsibility is not sufficient, that companies must become active citizens and engage with civil society and government alike to build trust.