Below, please see this country's letter of intent.
1Open government efforts to date
1.1Open government – current policy
Sweden has long used information technology to develop public services, and today ranks among the leading eGovernment nations in the world. The current policy is expanding earlier generations of eGovernment policies. The first generation policy saw citizens as taxpayers and focused on productivity. The second saw citizens as customers and broadened the focus to efficient delivery of services over the internet. The third and current policy initiative presented in the Digital Agenda for Sweden views citizens as potential co-creators and calls for “smart and open government supporting innovation and participation”. Currently, work is ongoing to define the next generation strategy for open data and public services. Government innovation will be driven by external partners in combination with open data. Citizens will be empowered by eGovernment services designed around users’ needs and developed in collaboration with third parties, and by increased access to public information, strengthened transparency and effective means to involve stakeholders in the policy process. The Digital Agenda for Sweden and the Malmö Ministerial Declaration on eGovernment (approved by the EU MS, and the European Free Trade Area countries) are important foundations for the current open and transparent strategy process. Before formal negotiations on the strategy begin in the Government Offices, the strategy proposal – prepared by small but representative groups of civil servants – is examined by the different executive levels of government and finally circulated for comment among diverse external groups for a period of three months using the internet, Facebook and Twitter.
1.2Open Aid – transparent Swedish development cooperation
In 2009 Sweden launched Open Aid, a reform agenda for Swedish development cooperation. The initiative aims to better adapt development cooperation to today’s realities and the opportunities created by globalisation and technological development. The goal is to achieve as effective poverty reduction as possible by opening up development cooperation to transparency and ideas from others.
Open Aid builds on the need for greater transparency (i) through active transparency to promote greater knowledge of Swedish development cooperation and create possibilities for accountability, (ii) to promote fresh thinking and harness knowledge from different sectors of society, and (iii) for increased cooperation and greater involvement of more actors in Swedish development policy.
Every aspect of Open Aid is underpinned by transparency, participation and cooperation. Its implementation has been divided into five parts and projects:
- A transparency guarantee:As part of efforts to improve aid effectiveness and apply the principle of public access to official documents in a more modern way, a transparency guarantee has been introduced into Swedish development assistance. The guarantee means that everyone who is interested can follow the entire aid chain, from overall decisions on the direction and distribution of development assistance to specific decisions, payments, implementation and monitoring. The guarantee has been made more tangible with the launch of the Openaid.se information service (see section 2.3 below).
- Active anti-corruption:Poverty and corruption often go hand in hand. Corruption is both an expression and a consequence of bad governance. It is a fact that most countries receiving aid are also at the bottom of the Transparency International list of the world’s most corrupt countries. To reduce corruption we must design development assistance that can contribute to better transparency and accountability.
- Courage to speak out:Responsible aid must set standards and demand accountability. It requires the courage to speak out and say ‘Stop!’ and to slow down, freeze and, as a last resort, terminate initiatives and cooperation when they do not meet standards or expectations.
- More actors and more knowledge:Development cooperation needs many different actors. In this area, it is important to make effective use of the skills of different actors and also ensure that the right actors do the right things. This entails, for example, enhanced transparency in development procurement, increased knowledge about forms of development cooperation other than grants, and increased interaction with the public on development issues.
- Freedom, women and the internet: Opportunities for creating genuine added value are strengthened when people do what they are particularly good at or experienced in. As one of the world’s freest, most gender-equal and digitised countries, Sweden has good reason to do its utmost to stress the important role of freedom, women and the internet in development.
1.3A Swedish transparency guarantee
On 1 January 2010, a transparency guarantee was introduced into Swedish development assistance. The guarantee means that all public documents and public information will be made available online. The information must explain when, to whom and why money has been made available, and what results have been achieved.
The transparency guarantee applies to all public actors who have been allocated funds under the international development cooperation expenditure area. These are primarily the Ministry for Foreign Affairs and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). Since 1 January 2010, these actors – together known as ‘the aid administration’ – are required to make available all public documents and all public information relating to development assistance. This includes all documents and data from a chain leading from decisions on the direction and distribution of aid, via decisions, payments and implementation of specific projects to monitoring of projects also at an aggregated level. The aid administration will account for when, to whom and for what purpose money has been paid, based on which decision-making information, which conditions and with which results. The information is available to all, free of charge and without licensing or registration requirements. It is searchable and structured so as to make data processing possible, and it is published promptly.
The transparency guarantee in practice:
- The Swedish aid administration shares information generously.
- Aid information is subject to the principle of public access to official documents and is available online in an open format.
- It is possible to follow the whole chain of aid information, from overall decisions to implementation and monitoring.
- Tax revenue used for development cooperation will be traceable.
- Sweden encourages other development actors and partners, including multilateral and civil society organisations, to increase transparency.
- In the long term, aid information will be made available in each partner country and published, whenever possible, in both Swedish and English.
The most important component of the Aid Transparency Guarantee is the web-based platform OpenAid.se, launched in April 2011 to make the transparency guarantee tangible. Openaid.se is a democratic initiative, facilitating accountability to Swedish taxpayers and people in our partner countries by opening up development cooperation to the public. It is a data-hub providing Swedish aid information on disbursements in an open format. This means that the format allows citizens, CSOs and entrepreneurs to use, refine and develop the data provided. The aid information is provided on a global scale, at country level, per sector or by implementing agency. It contains aid information from 2007 to 2012. It also contains historical data from the 1970s to the 1990s, in so far as it is available electronically. Data from 2000 and onwards becomes more and more detailed. Openaid.se primarily shows data at contribution level, which makes it possible to follow different contributions and their component parts at both country and sectoral level. Openaid.se is a prototype, and its content and functionality will be further developed by Sida to include all actors handling Swedish development assistance funds. Openaid.se is not a regular website; data is available in an open format called an Application Programming Interface (API), which makes it easier for those who want to use the data for their own specific purposes.
The information is also published with an open standard for publishing digital information on development cooperation, called The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). The main advantages of this open standard are that the information is more current and prospective, and comparable to that of other partners and donors. It contains past, present and planned activities of major international organisations and national development cooperation agencies, and of small civil society organisation projects. Publishing aid data according to the IATI registry opens up the development of systems and solutions that can display and visualise the information. This is of interest to actors in development cooperation, donors and partner countries that need tools to plan, review and follow up activities. However, in the end, this benefits those who pay for the assistance, i.e. the taxpayers, and those who are reached by the assistance.
1.5Current national and international challenges for enhanced aid and fiscal transparency and accountability in development cooperation
To achieve development effectiveness, increased transparency is essential in itself as well as a prerequisite for development results, in aid resources as well as in partner countries’ budgets and public financial management. Aid transparency and fiscal transparency are therefore intrinsically linked. Budgets in partner countries cannot be made fully transparent without aid transparency. In addition, transparency of aid flows and transparency of partner countries’ own resources are both prerequisites for better accountability, leading to sustainable and locally owned development results. The possibility for citizens to scrutinise the use of resources and government actions creates incentives for results throughout the aid chain. Horizontal accountability both within and between public institutions is needed to enable parliamentary oversights and audit institutions to improve the effective use of resources. Vertical accountability between the government and its citizens, civil society and the media is also needed. Governments need to support an enabling environment for parliaments, audit institutions, civil society and the media to access information and engage in development processes in their own countries.
Aid transparency is a priority commitment arising from the 4th High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness. It is enshrined in the Busan Partnership document and the EU Council Conclusions from November 2011. These new commitments now need to be implemented by all the actors behind the agreements. Focus is needed on the implementation of actionable initiatives and the fulfilment of the commitments. Driving forces such as the Building Block on Transparency, a coalition of the willing, are pertinent to ensure the agenda is taken forward, as are potential ‘game changers’ such as the IATI, the OGP and the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT).
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