British Prime Minister David Cameron wants countries participating in the Open Government Partnership to make a strong argument in favour of institutional openness and transparency in government by ‘practicing what we preach’ while at the same time providing support to transparency groups.
“First, we’ve got to go out there and really make the argument for open government,” he said. “We can’t just sit there and assume there is some great, inexorable trend towards political freedom. History isn’t written for us. It is written by us,” The British Prime Minister said.
He said open government was not some kind of optional add-on or “nice to have,” but was absolutely fundamental to a nation’s success in the 21st Century.
“We’ve got to give our full-throated support for groups that promote transparency – not least the Open Government Partnership,” he said during the opening plenary to a diverse body of more than 1,000 delegates who came from 61 countries to attend the Open Government Partnership Annual Summit in London from 31 October to 1 November.
“Look around this room – 61 members and over 1,000 specific commitments between us in just two years,” he declared. “We’ve got the Liberian Government here who has pioneered citizen budgets, giving people a greater say on how their money is spent.We’ve got representatives from the Philippines who are letting the public audit major government projects. And we’ve got people here from Brazil and Croatia, who have introduced their first freedom of information laws. These are huge, practical steps,”
The London Summit presented an incredible opportunity for the open government movement to consolidate and build momentum, to reflect on what was working and what was not, and to inspire all participants to return home equipped to pursue an even more ambitious reform agenda, according to the summit conveners.
It also witnessed the formal turning over of the chairmanship of the OGP from Britain to Indonesia, while Rakesh Rajani, the Head of Twaweza,(meaning 'we can make it happen' in Swahili), replaced Warren Krafchik, Director of International Budget Partnership (IBP), as the civil society representative on the OGP Steering Committee.
In accepting the OGP Chairmanship, Vice President Boediono of Indonesia said the OGP had special importance for him because as vice president he chairs the National Committee on Bureaucratic Reforms, which directs and coordinates all sectoral initiatives and efforts to reform the Indonesian bureaucracy.
“The activities of the OGP has well complemented the activities of our bureaucratic reform agenda, providing initiatives in Indonesia as a catalyst for exciting experimentation in a number of branches in our bureaucracy,” Vice President Boediono said.
Also speaking at the summit was the President of Tanzania, Jakaya Kikwete, who said that transparency, openness, and accountability were critical keywords for government and the people; and added that when Government is open, the people know what is going on and they can hold their government accountable thus giving the government the edge to deliver.
“We in government are there for the people, and if the people know exactly what is going on and they should be able to tell us what they want us to do, and if they people are not happy with what we are doing, they should get the opportunity to tell. That is a healthy relationship,” he said.
The OGP summit brought prominent speakers including President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, and John F. Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, both of whom addressed the conference vie video link. Others in attendance included: Mo Ibrahim, Founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP; Angel Gurría, Secretary-General, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD); and Sanjay Pradhan, Vice President of the World Bank Institute, among others.
Deputy Minister of Information Norris Tweah and the Government focal on the OGP represented the Liberian Government, while Mr. Malcolm Joseph, Executive Director of the Center for Media Studies and Peace Building represented civil society.
Meanwhile, Liberia’s Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, was also in London to honor a special invitation extended to him by the OGP’s Global Initiative for Special Fiscal Transparency Fiscal Openness Working Group. Minister Konneh spoke on the “Lessons and Challenges in implementing OGP Fiscal Commitments.”