Why Open Government Matters
Democracy requires transparency, citizen participation and accountability in policy making. In democratic countries, the power is in the hands of the people and leaders take the power from people and promise to serve them in a great way. What is very significant for the people is having a government which is listener and responder, because they have right to know, what is happening in the government in terms of every information that directly relates to people’s lives. This is why in 2011 some government leaders and civil society advocates came together to create a unique partnership – one that combines these powerful forces to promote accountable, responsive and inclusive governance.
The recent report of OGP in 2019 shows that 79 countries and a large number of local governments representing more than two billion people along with thousands of civil society organizations are members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP).
The countries which are officially part of OGP, have accepted some clear commitments regarding the needs of their people to work on them. Governments seek to broaden access to data and information, ensure transparency and accountability, and strengthen citizen engagement in the activities of government and in the democratic process.
Mission and strategy
OGP’s vision is that a big number of governments will become sustainably more transparent, more accountable, and more responsive to their own citizens, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of governance, as well as the quality of services that citizens receive. This will require a shift in norms and culture to ensure genuine dialogue and collaboration between governments and civil society. OGP aspires to support both government and civil society reforms by elevating open government to the highest levels of political discourse, providing ‘cover’ for difficult reforms, and creating a supportive community of like-minded reformers from countries around the world.
Now that OGP is established and has grown significantly, the key objective is to make sure that real change is happening on the ground in a majority of OGP countries, and that this change is benefiting citizens.
There are three primary ways for OGP to help make sure the right conditions are in place for countries to deliver ambitious open government reforms:
- Maintain high-level political leadership and commitment to OGP within participating countries;
- Support domestic reforms with technical expertise and inspiration;
- Foster more engagement in OGP by a diverse group of citizens and civil society organizations; in addition, OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) seeks to:
- Ensure that countries are held accountable for making progress toward achieving their OGP commitments.
Endorsed by the Steering Committee, the 2019 Implementation Plan is organized around five overall organizational priorities:
- Provide world-class support to OGP national and local participants to support better and more inclusive co-creation, more ambitious Action Plans especially on thematic priorities and better implementation;
- Advocate globally for openness and democracy, including through OGP’s first major campaign on gender and inclusion, and position OGP as pivotal implementation platform to translate global promises into country action;
- Support targeted learning, facilitate collective action, and strengthen partnerships to demonstrate greater ambition on OGP’s thematic priorities;
- Enhance OGP’s research, learning and capacity building program and become a widely accessible resource for stakeholders across the partnership for knowledge and innovation;
- Strengthen OGP’s core institutional functions to sustain and support the Support Unit and IRM in the areas of governance, finance/accounting, human resources, fundraising and technological infrastructure.
There are some specific and visible ways that governments prove their openness to the people. One of the easiest methods is by generating an Open Government Website which every citizen has access to data as well as working on e-government policies. OGP aims to evolve to increase the capabilities and expectation for better participation and collaboration among the countries. For sure, OGP also can play a pivotal role in supporting good-governance, democracy and inclusive growth.
Open government Standards
Open Government is a hot topic right now, but what does it really mean in practice? What should government be doing in the areas of Transparency, Participation and Accountability to qualify as “open governments”? What are the uses of new communications technologies, which really advance openness as opposed to merely perpetuating existing bureaucratic practices in a digital environment?
The country members of OGP aim to answer those questions, drawing together all the standards already developed by civil society into a coherent structure around the emerging concept of open government. Therefore the Open Government Standards were drafted through a consultative process, involving all kinds of civil society organisations across the world working to promote open government. They agree on the basic elements of what constitutes open government, following one goal: to define the measures that different governments must adopt in order to advance and become Open Governments. For this reason, they were designed to be applicable in all countries, with a particular relevance for members of the Open Government Partnership. Open Government Standards are structured according to three core pillars: transparency, accountability, participation.
Information about the activities of public bodies is open and available to the public, with limited exceptions, in a timely manner and in open data formats without limit on reuse. This includes the disclosure of information in response to requests from the public and proactively at the initiative of public bodies. In addition to that, key information about the private bodies is available either directly or via public bodies.
An accountable government makes itself answerable to the public, observing standards of behavior and integrity required by that public, and both explaining and taking responsibility for its decisions and actions. Accountability mechanisms therefore include the rules, regulations and mechanisms in place that govern the behavior of elected and public officials in their exercise of public power and the spending of public funds. Such rules will require that public officials (elected politicians and civil servants) act with integrity, carrying out their public functions in the interests of the public good, and not any personal or private interests.
“That members of the public can engage directly in the consideration of policy options and in government decision making, and contribute ideas and evidence that lead to policies, laws, and decisions which best serve the society and broad democratic interests. That governments actively seek to mobilize citizens to engage in public debate, and that mechanisms exist which permit the public to participate at their own initiative.”
So, why is OGP so crucial? Because truth always matters. Public documents and access to information will bring wonderful change in the communities. According to the “Sunshine Laws”, doors should be opened, let the light come in and show the truth to the public. Citizens must have the right to see what is the government doing. Freedom of expression and government information must be public and people must have the right to know what’s going on. There is no doubt that everyone wants a government to listen and response. Only people can change the culture of the government.