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The Next Phase of OGP: Delivering Transformative Impact for Citizens

Siguientes pasos para OGP: Lograr Impactos Transformadores para los Ciudadanos

Opening Plenary Remarks – OGP Asia Pacific, July 21, 2016

“It is a great pleasure for me to welcome all of you. I joined OGP just over two months ago, and have had the privilege to meet with OGP’s government, civil society and other stakeholders across regional meetings in Africa, Americas and London Anti-Corruption Summit, I am delighted to now be at our Asia meeting – home to 60% of the world’s population – where we have our very high hopes for OGP.

I would like to extend my special thanks to Secretary Diokno for opening this event.  A very special thanks to the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as our gracious hosts, and thanks to UNDP and IBM Philippines as co-sponsors, and to colleagues from World Bank joining via webex.

Above all, I want to thank the people in the room – governments, civil society, and multilateral partners: you are the real champions who we applaud and thank for investing your time and energy in driving the open government agenda forward in the region. It is your commitment, passion and energy that has been a key to the first five years of OGP and will continue to be our most precious resource in the next phase.

OGP at a Cusp

We meet at a time when OGP stands at a cusp.  In just five years since OGP was launched at the UN General Assembly, seventy countries have joined, along with thousands of civil society organizations, as well as multilateral and bilateral partners, and have together generated around 3000 commitments in National Action Plans.  These are impressive accomplishments for a new multilateral, multi-stakeholder initiative.  

But over the next five years, success will not be measured by the number of countries or numbers of commitments, but by whether OGP delivers transformative impact in the lives of ordinary citizens around the world, and by whether OGP makes a tangible difference in government transparency, in fighting corruption, and in improving basic service delivery to citizens.  And it is here that we face a challenge.  The OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) assesses that only 12 percent of OGP commitments are potentially transformative.  We need to collectively raise the transformational impact of OGP.

This is the promise and mandate of OGP.  OGP is, quite simply, about governments serving citizens by making government more transparent, participatory, responsive and accountable. And in the next phase, OGP needs to deliver that transformative impact for citizens.

OGP’s Four Key Attributes to Deliver Transformative Impact

I am very hopeful that OGP can deliver transformative impact, because of a combination of four key attributes of OGP:

First, high-level political commitment.  OGP was launched by 8 Heads of State and continues to enjoy high level support and commitment at the top leadership levels in many OGP countries.  The Presidents of France and South Africa will co-host OGP’s five year anniversary at the United Nations General Assembly this year, and we expect there to be high-level participation from many Heads of State, as we also expect at OGP’s Paris Global Summit in December.  This high-level political commitment is a key strength and enabler of OGP. And by providing mechanisms to connect political leaders to citizens, OGP provides political dividends for leaders.  Of course, with 70 countries now in OGP – there is wide variation across countries.  And there is the reality of political transitions that many in this room have to deal with.  But political transitions also offer opportunities to take OGP to the next level.

Take our two founding countries from Asia – Indonesia and the Philippines.  Both have new governments with a strong commitment to governance and anticorruption.  In Indonesia, we met this week with civil society, and they noted that the co-creation process with the new government is now better than in the past.  And it was clear in discussions with government that they also see OGP as instrumental for tackling new priorities of the President – for instance, open government and citizen feedback for effective delivery of village funds, for a one-map policy for environmental regulation, and for anticorruption.  And as we have heard from Secretary of Budget and Management Benjamin Diokno, the new government of the Philippines is committed to governance and anticorruption, including fiscal transparency, freedom of information and citizen engagement.  It will be critical to sustain the multi-stakeholder OGP Steering Committee in the Philippines with co-creation between government, civil society and the private sector.  

But with political transitions, it falls upon government officials and civil society in this room to sustain continuity of OGP and ensure a good transition.  We greatly appreciate your efforts here. One lesson here is that we need to broaden the base of political and societal ownership of OGP: collective ownership for open government at the cabinet level, across legislative bodies through OGP’s open legislature initiative, and with subnational entities, as well as a broader range of civil society.

Second, co-creation between government and civil society. Civil society amplifies the voice of the voiceless, of ordinary citizens and the poor, and reformers in government respond to citizen demands and feedback.  This co-creation is uneven, however, and genuine co-creation is central to the spirit and impact of OGP.  In the Americas, 13 out of 17 countries have created permanent dialogue mechanisms.  All this presumes that governments will protect and enhance civic space, with support from OGP, as was evidenced in the OGP Steering Committee’s recent decision to list Azerbaijan as inactive due to concerns about the operating environment for civil society.

Third, focus on action with accountability.  Governments and civil society develop concrete national action plans (NAPs) and there is built-in accountability not only from civil society, but also from OGP’s Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM), through which local researchers assess whether governments are living up to their commitments. IRM reports assess both the ambition of NAPs and also the implementation gaps.

Fourth, peer-to-peer learning and support. –  OGP has peer working groups in key areas like open data,  fiscal openness, and extractives, where countries learn from each other, but also join together to raise their collective ambition.  Global summits and regional events like this one become avenues for this exchange, as well as action-forcing events for political leaders.

While these four attributes of OGP hold great potential, they need to translate into transformative impact for citizens.  And this is where we need to all work together to push the envelope to ensure genuinely transformative commitments.

But what kinds of commitments will deliver transformative impact?  Let me give you some examples to illustrate transformative impact from the eyes of the citizens.

Deepening Transformative Impact of OGP Commitments

In the first five years of OGP, a key thrust was on transparency and disclosure.  We see great examples of government opening up areas which really matter to citizens – for instance, Ukraine opened up Soviet-era archives that give citizens a view into sensitive areas and human rights violations that had long been closed to them.  And Georgia has taken unprecedented steps to publish government surveillance data and phone tapping statistics through their NAP.

Fiscal transparency is another key thrust of OGP commitments.  A number of OGP countries like France, Honduras, Ukraine, New Zealand and South Africa disclose all eight budget documents considered key to fiscal openness by the International Budget Partnership.  In the next phase of OGP, as we continue to push on fiscal transparency, we need to push the frontiers on citizen participation.  Brazil, for instance, publishes an annual Citizen’s Budget along with innovative programs to educate the public on the budget, and is also a pioneer in participatory budgeting.  Citizens can also play a vital role in monitoring budget execution: in the Philippines, the disclosure of expenditure programs on digital platforms has been accompanied by participatory social audits (supported by the Commission of Audit) where citizens oversee whether the money is being spent as intended.

Taking this further, over the next five years, if we want to deliver transformative impact for citizens, OGP commitments should focus not only on whether the money is spent but also whether services were delivered to citizens.  And here we have a challenge where we need your help: only 5% of OGP commitments focus on health and on education, but for citizens it is these services that matter most.  There are innovative emerging examples that I invite you to look at to customize and scale up in your countries.  The UK’s National Health Service (NHS), Uruguay’s ATuServicio, and Tanzania’s open data education portal are innovative open government actions that disclose performance of health and education providers so citizens can make an informed choice.

Service Delivery with Feedback Loops.  Beyond transparency, the most exciting area is citizen feedback. Did the teachers and textbooks show up in school? What was the quality of service delivery? Government response to that feedback closes the feedback loop.  There are inspiring examples here that we need to scale up in the next phase of OGP:

  • In the UK’s NHS, citizens provide feedback on a family and friends test – whether they would recommend a health practitioner to family and friends.
  • In Indonesia, Lapor is an integrated and accessible portal for citizen complaints. In the region of Bojonegoro, one of the OGP subnational pilots, the government is required  to respond to citizen complaints within five days.
  • In Jakarta region of Indonesia, they have a mobile app called Qlue wherein citizens can give feedback, including with photos and videos, which line agencies respond to and the governor monitors line agencies’ responsiveness in an electronic dashboard.
  • In the Philippines, Check-My-School provides an electronic platform where parents and community volunteers can provide real time feedback on whether teachers and textbooks are showing up in schools.
  • Albania has a mobile app where citizens can report bribes demanded by police or others and upload photo, video or other evidence for governmental action to be tracked online.
  • The city of Maldonado in Uruguay has an online grievance mechanism for citizens where they can track government response.
  • In Sri Lanka, 15 local governments are carrying out Citizen Report Cards through an Android app, wherein citizens provide feedback on key government services in the form of a measurable, comparable report card, that government agencies then respond to with corrective actions.

If the next phase of OGP can scale up these innovations, wherein government commits to responding to citizen feedback, we can truly deliver transformative impact that will make a difference in the lives of ordinary citizens and the poor.  The Subnational OGP pilots provide tremendous promise to incorporate and scale these innovations in government responsiveness to citizen feedback in service delivery.

Anticorruption.  Citizens care not just about service delivery and petty corruption, but about grand corruption as well.  Here we are seeing OGP action plans push the frontiers on tackling corruption in procurement through open contracting – open, competitive contracting with disclosure of the terms of contract and monitoring by civil society.  Ukraine’s Prozorro platform reduced procurement costs by 19% using open contracting data standards.

In the aftermath of Panama Papers, another hugely important area for anticorruption is beneficial ownership transparency.  A number of OGP countries, like the UK, Norway, South Africa, France and Kenya are joining together to disclose public registers of companies.  Let us collectively challenge ourselves that there will be no anonymous companies in our OGP countries in Asia, promised through OGP NAPs over the next five years.

Countries are also pushing deeper into the deeper sources of political corruption.  For instance, the Georgia and Mongolia NAPs have committed to publishing political party financing data.  Chile and Ireland have commitments to shine a light on donations and lobbying to curb influence peddling.

Closing

I have taken you on a journey around the world to give glimpses of commitments that can deliver transformative impact for citizens.  These are vital but difficult reforms.  Yet OGP’s four key attributes outlined above give hope, energy and tools to overcome obstacles.  Underlying it all, the real promise of OGP gets realized when reformers in government and civil society join together to overcome formidable odds.  As President Obama said at the White House Summit on Global Development on July 20, through OGP we can empower reformers in government and civil society, so governments serve the citizens rather than the other way around.

We should seek to unleash a global movement so governments truly serve ordinary citizens, and key reformers like yourselves from government and civil society – and many more –  join hands to turn that promise into a tangible reality in the lives of millions around the globe!

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