Gone But Not Forgotten: Translating High-level Global Endorsements into Country Action

It all makes sense on paper – the cycle of action and accountability one hopes that international summits and forums will trigger. A government commits to making a change, sets out timelines, appoints somebody responsible and explains the steps they intend to take. Meanwhile, the public pays attention, sustaining pressure on the government to fulfil the pledge and offering deserved praise when the change is realised. Through this semi-cyclical relationship of accountability and action, commitments are implemented and sustainable reform is achieved – and everyone lives happily ever after.

But even though so many of us hope the delivery process pans out this way – participatory and transparent, consistent and concrete – in reality there can be many more challenges. And whilst it can be difficult for those who are working so hard to affect change to admit that these challenges exist, it’s an important discussion to have. The truth of the matter is that often commitments made by senior political leaders at international forums are done so with good intentions, however they have limited value unless they are translated into credible and concrete actions back in their respective countries.

What global forums have shown is that we need to better coordinate and leverage available platforms to catalyze action and accountability at the country level. At the 2016 Anti-Corruption Summit over 40 governments and five international organisations made over 700 individual pledges. Now, two years on, it seems apt to pause and take a look at the realities – and challenges – of implementation, to see what we can learn and apply going forward. In the wake of that Summit, Transparency International UK (TI-UK) and other Transparency International chapters started to work together to track the progress those governments were making on implementing those many commitments.

A central part of that monitoring and implementation process has involved encouraging governments to embed the Summit commitments in their OGP National Action Plans (here, here and here), as was also encouraged in the official Summit communique, in an attempt to crystallise those original pledges in a more robust follow-up mechanism. Progress made on the beneficial ownership register reforms in the UK, Kenya, Nigeria or open contracting in Argentina, France, Afghanistan are examples of such follow up action at the country level through OGP commitments.

This week, at the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), TI-UK and the OGP are co-hosting a panel discussion which will address some important questions: what lessons can we take from recent anti-corruption efforts, now that the Anti-Corruption Summit is a distant memory for so many people? What factors are at play when implementation and accountability efforts don’t go to plan? And how are different countries working with the OGP processes to advance their commitments from different international forums – G20, SDGs, IACC – in a practical way?

The panel discussing this at the IACC will see  Ministerial representation, including from governments that made ambitious commitments at the Summit and are  recent additions to the OGP family, as well as countries like the UK which are looking at ways of following on from the progress made there – both domestically and internationally.  We also see civil society as an integral part in progress made on ambitious anti-corruption reform – not just in monitoring but also advancing implementation.

Civil society voices from Corruption Watch (South Africa) and TI-UK, this will be a frank conversation about the realities of anti-corruption work in ever-changing domestic, and international, contexts. Whilst each country has its own realities and experiences, lessons from one can inform a new approach in another and prepare other governments and civil society actors for the potential challenges ahead.

As we think about follow up from the Anti-Corruption Summit, as a community we need to look to coordinating strategies on key reform areas common across countries, while building alliances within our own countries on taking advantage of the momentum from these meetings to ensure timely follow up from governments. As one way to do this – OGP is keen on continuing to offer its platform for civil society to work with their governments to co-create policies based on commitments made at IACC, and offer the accountability for timely implementation.