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An Extraordinary Gathering to Build Back Better

Una reunión extraordinaria para reconstruir mejor

Sanjay Pradhan|

We witnessed an extraordinary gathering on September 24, 2020.  In the midst of the pandemic, amidst global protests against inequality and systemic racism, amidst an unprecedented rise in authoritarian leaders attacking democracy and civic freedoms, a coalition of world leaders, civil society activists and government officials came together to showcase an alternative, more hopeful vision. A vision of more vibrant and inclusive democracies.  

Take a look at the highlights video of this Virtual Leaders’ Summit!  Five Heads of States/Government – French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari – 32 speakers from 23 countries, including civil society leaders, ministers, high-level representatives from OECD, IMF and World Bank, and 1,000 live viewers from 100+ countries.

As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the Summit took place at a critical moment in history, amidst a confluence of five profound crises. We face the most devastating pandemic in a hundred years. The worst global recession since World War II. A climate emergency. A crisis of inequality and entrenched racism. Attacks on democracy and the rise of authoritarianism. 

But leaders in the Summit underpinned time and time again that these challenging times make open government even more vital. Collectively, our speakers underscored that the open government movement has a unique opportunity to help tackle these crises.  And that is because courageous reformers and activists – in OGP countries and beyond – are implementing innovative reforms that showcase an alternative of a more vibrant, greener, and inclusive democracy that empowers all. 

The Summit took a giant step forward in recovering the optimism, enthusiasm, and energy present when OGP was first created. In addition to the examples shared by the speakers, we also saw video stories from community members, many of which were among more than 400 actions crowdsourced from the open government community in response to the pandemic. These actions built on the more than 4,000 commitments that have been made in OGP at the national and local levels across 78 countries. The launch of the new OGP Local strategy last week welcomed 56 new members to the Partnership.  

Together our existing and new members will co-create a record 100 national and local action plans in 2021. Next year OGP also turns ten and we will have a Global Summit in Seoul, South Korea which – whether in person, online or a combination – has the potential to be the largest gathering of leaders, reformers and activists since the pandemic hit. And that will put a global spotlight on the Partnership, including what it has achieved and what it stands for. 

Together, this amounts to an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize on progress in the first ten years to build back a better, more vibrant and inclusive democracy in our countries. To achieve this promise and potential, we have four priorities for collective action.  

To fully recover from the economic downturn, our first priority is to ensure transparency, citizen input and public oversight over the staggering $20 trillion being invested globally in COVID-19 stimulus and safety nets. When so much money moves so fast, there is a high risk of corruption, capture and waste, as we are seeing in COVID-19 corruption scandals in Brazil, Kenya, the Philippines, the U.S. and beyond. We need open contracts, open budgets and open aid to allow citizens to follow the money. We also need citizens to have a say in how funds are spent, so that stimulus funds support long-term green growth and jobs, not corporate bailouts or wasteful fossil fuel subsidies.   

Our second priority is to tackle systemic inequalities laid bare by the pandemic, including vast economic disparities, gender gaps and the shocking cases of systemic racism in the U.S. and elsewhere. We in the open government community have a key role to play in tackling inequality, from ensuring the voices of women and historically marginalized groups are heard in government decision-making, to tackling corruption and capture so that health, education and safety nets are properly funded through fair taxation. Expanding open data can further expose gender pay gaps and other biases in society that need addressing.  We must also ensure transparency and accountability of law enforcement, to root out racial and other biases from the justice system that disproportionately impact minorities and the poor, while expanding access to justice so that all those that need it can get legal redress where needed. 

Our third priority is to build more resilient democracies, through countries combating digital disinformation, illicit money in politics and big tech impunity, and safeguarding civic space for civil society and citizens.

Many governments have used the pandemic to expand state surveillance and arbitrarily restrict civic freedoms that were already under attack in more than 100 countries. We need to together ensure governments roll back these measures and instead enhance civic space.  Misinformation often distributed through social media and left to spread rapidly by big tech has harmed the response. And illicit money in politics is threatening the fairness of the recovery. OGP has solutions for these issues, and we need to learn from each other to address them and, together, build more resilient democracies.  

Our fourth priority is to work to rebuild trust and more citizen-centric democracies through participatory budgeting, social audits, citizen assemblies, and deliberative decision-making. The pandemic has shown that trust is a vital commodity in effective governance, but it can only be restored by bringing government closer to citizens and ensuring people feel they have a voice beyond the ballot box. This can happen especially powerfully at the local level, where OGP members are advancing democractic innovations that can help to increase trust. 

To advance all this, we need to build coalitions of government reformers, civil society, businesses, accountability institutions, and multilaterals to take mutually-reinforcing, complementary actions.  

The Virtual Leaders’ Summit was therefore a launching pad to achieve these possibilities, to realize this promise of the open government movement for 2021.  If we can indeed join forces, we can together write a positive chapter of open COVID-19 recovery that saves millions of lives and livelihoods.  We can put citizens at the heart of governance.  We can amplify the voices of the marginalized to build a more just society. With 78 member countries, a growing number of local governments and thousands of civil society organizations, we in OGP have the platform, the partnerships, the opportunity and the imperative to forge a countervailing force against the rise of authoritarianism and illiberal democracy, and a positive global force for vibrant and inclusive democracies.

Comments (1)

Patricio Pinto Galleguillos Reply

Gracias por la informacion. Me parece muy interesante.Es necesario darla a conocer y recibir opiones de las mas diversas personas. No es una tarea facil avanzar, de manera efectiva y rapida, en la concrecion de las ideas fuerza propuestas.Pero todo largo camino comienza con un primer paso…La propuesta clara…. de las orientaciones de la Cumbre y…. su difusión….. cada dia mas amplia… constituye el desafio….que todos y cada uno debemos, podemos y necesitamos enfrentar …luego de compartir la experiencia de compartir los resultados de lo realizado en esa plataforma de lanzamiento…

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