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Charting the Course to Strengthen Political Integrity

Trazando el curso para fortalecer la integridad política

Kristen RoseandRenzo Falla|

This analysis was originally published on the Global Data Barometer website here.

Governments should serve citizens rather than the other way around. This concept is at the heart of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), an international initiative that brings together more than 150 national and local governments and thousands of civil society organizations to improve government transparency, civic participation, and public accountability. Advancing political integrity is critical for combating corruption and strengthening democracy, and is therefore a key part of OGP’s mission. Everyone should be able to observe, inform, and influence decision-making equally. Systems should exist to ensure that public officials do not use their offices for private gain. The role of money in politics should be transparent and include citizen-facing channels for accountability.

These goals are clear, but our progress in meeting them has not been. Until now, little information existed on the implementation of basic transparency policies and practices. For example, it was unclear which governments publish data on who is lobbying them or funding political parties and candidates, and whether disclosure is required by law. Where this information existed, it was fragmented and did not easily enable cross-country comparisons.

The Global Data Barometer Results

The political integrity module of the Global Data Barometer fills these critical knowledge gaps about how decisions are made and whose voices are represented. The newly collected data uncovers the state of data frameworks and availability across several areas of political integrity: political finance, asset declarations, lobbying, public consultations, and right to information frameworks. This rich dataset provides an unparalleled look into who shapes decisions, what those decisions are, and what their reasons were for shaping them.

Rather than using the data to rank OGP’s members, we will use it to pinpoint where we collectively have the most room for improvement and identify strong practices that can be adapted and implemented elsewhere. To this end, our preliminary analysis of the data shows several interesting trends:

  • Compared to the global average, OGP countries have stronger laws and policies related to data on political integrity. OGP countries receive higher scores than non-OGP countries across all political integrity indicators. This makes sense as OGP countries must meet minimum openness criteria to join, but it still highlights OGP as a valuable platform for sharing innovations and learning from peers.
  • Institutional frameworks remain a barrier to openness. Across each of the various political integrity indicators, more countries have laws requiring data collection than data publication. In some cases, the discrepancies are significant. For example, nearly all OGP countries have laws requiring collection of political finance and asset declaration data, but only half have laws requiring publication, and far fewer require publishing information in open formats. Strengthening legal frameworks for disclosure is therefore a key area for improvement.
  • Data availability varies widely by policy area. For example, most OGP countries make political finance data available in some form, whereas only a quarter publish information on who is lobbying the government, when, and how. Even when data is available, however, it often lacks high-value pieces of information and is not easily usable. For example, most publicly available lobbying data is not machine-readable and does not include information on the topic or timing of lobbying interactions. Ultimately, improving data availability and usability remains a challenge for most OGP countries.

Where to Next

With the launch of the Global Data Barometer, the challenges surrounding political integrity data are clearer than ever. The next step will be translating the research findings into actionable recommendations that governments can implement domestically.

OGP action plans are a useful way to advance domestic implementation, especially within areas of political integrity. Working with civil society, governments create action plans that include concrete commitments to improve transparency, civic participation, and public accountability. At the end of each action plan cycle, OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) evaluates the results.

Many OGP members have already used their action plans to address political integrity issues. Members have made more than 300 commitments related to right to information frameworks, as well as more than 60 commitments related to asset declarations. Lobbying reforms have been less common, with only about 25 relevant commitments, but IRM evaluations show that these commitments have achieved above-average early results. This suggests that OGP action plans are an important vehicle for change.

The OGP Support Unit will be publishing further analysis of the Global Data Barometer data later this year, in collaboration with Transparency International and other partners. The research will cover the political integrity module in addition to other areas of the Global Data Barometer such as corporate ownership, land ownership, and public procurement. Besides reviewing the state of open data among OGP members, the research will also showcase examples of promising reforms and provide recommendations on how members can use OGP action plans to close existing gaps.

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