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Speech by Haydeé Pérez Garrido, Executive Director of Fundar, Center for Analysis and Research (Mexico) at OGP’s Five-Year Anniversary, High-Level Event UN General Assembly 71, September 19, 2016

Discurso Haydeé Pérez Garrido, Directora de Fundar, Centro de Análisis e Investigación (México), Quinto Aniversario de OGP, Evento de Alto Nivel, 71 Asamblea General de la ONU, 19 septiembre 2016

Haydeé Pérez Garrido|

I must admit that it was hard for me to write this short speech. But that is not surprising; it has become increasingly hard for me to do my job and, in general, to inhabit this planet. Every day, I see outrageous and painful realities. But, what can I tell you that you don’t know already?

I see people and communities stripped of their land and territory, whose health and lives are compromised by the implementation of large-scale development projects that have no respect for their right to decide about their only possessions on behalf of “development”. I wonder, whose “development” or for whom, and especially what do we mean by “development”.

Scandals of corruption, of tax havens and fiscal privileges, of conflicts of interest, all involving senior officials within the political establishment, who, evidently in agreement with the economic elites, benefit and leverage private gains from public goods.

Dads and moms who have been suffering for years because they do not know the whereabouts of their sons and daughters because they have a “disappeared person” status, or people who have been tortured by the authorities in order to confirm some investigative theory.

Journalists and human rights defenders that are trying to carry out their work in very difficult conditions. For many of them, their committed work is repaid with harassment, repression and, in some cases, death.

In addition, I have seen absurd and ignorant proposals such as the construction of walls that seek to separate rather than unite us. And I have to live with an alternate reality where Statesman Awards are granted to someone with an approval rating of approximately 20% among the people he governs, such as the Mexican President.

It is in such a complicated context that OGP was born 5 years ago. I personally decided that a project of dialogue and interaction between civil society, the private sector, and the government could become a powerful platform for significant progress in transparency, citizen participation, and the fight against corruption; always having the human rights as the ultimate goal: the right to health, education, peace, and a decent life.

But I want to be frank with you: 5 years after embarking on this road, my assessment is bittersweet. On the one hand, I have to acknowledge that today we have a stronger international community of institutions and people interested in taking these issues forward, and OGP has undoubtedly played a key role in achieving this.

This interaction has been instructive for all of us; we have put a stop to prejudice, we have developed joint projects, we have learned from the experience of countries that had never crossed our minds. Thanks to OGP, people and institutions committed to these causes have been recognized, and their work and talent has been appreciated. And, certainly, there has been some significant and concrete achievements.

However, I believe that the huge investment we made has not paid off as it should have. In some cases, OGP has become a process of “apparent openness” rather than a platform for effective co-creation. Very often, when defining action plans, middle-level officials are the ones who make commitments. And, afterwards, they lack the power to persuade their superiors or to compel other agencies to commit, much less to comply with the commitments undertaken.

Taking OGP seriously means opening a substantial and honest dialogue with civil society and taking on commitments at the highest level, which involve shifting bureaucratic institutions, investing material and economic resources, and, in many cases, promoting far-reaching changes. For some, open government still means opening public information databases or using information technologies when governing. They have not realized that it is about changing our current paradigm, since this has not yielded results.

OGP is about leveraging public intelligence located in different sectors of society in order to move forward in solving public issues that are becoming increasingly difficult to resolve.

It is about transitioning electoral democracies to participatory and deliberative democracies, where citizens are at the heart of government action and, therefore, can play a substantial part in the decisions affecting them. Ultimately, it is about democratizing information and decision-making forums, that is to say, democratizing power. Are you willing?  

Until there is a genuine belief among heads of government, OGP will remain a very good idea, a very interesting and commendable initiative. Certainly one where many people from the social sector, private and public, work enthusiastically, but nevertheless a mediocre effort in the face of the huge challenges that we face as an international society.

Five years after launching this project, and with a deep knowledge of it, I am convinced that we have a platform with the potential to make a significant contribution to the objectives that we want to achieve in the 2030 development agenda.

It is up to you whether we get the most out of it or we keep leaving it in the background in order to advance minor and insignificant issues. I personally encourage you to make the commitment to take it seriously and leverage its potential. Citizens need to restore their confidence in and the credibility of their governments and this is a unique opportunity to begin to do so. You decide whether to seize it or let it go.

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