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Upholding Democratic Values Through Open Government: 12 Highlights from European Champions

Protegiendo los valores democráticos a través del gobierno abierto: 12 mensajes clave desde Europa

Last month open government reformers from across Europe gathered for the OGP Europe Regional Meeting in Rome, Italy to build political support for open government and find solutions to tackle our common regional challenges. Europe is currently on the frontlines to defend democracy, most visibly seen in the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but also in a broader struggle between autocracy and democracy, between closed and open societies. 

Following a long hiatus of in-person events due to the pandemic, the energy and vibrancy of the community was palpable. Co-hosted by the governments of Italy and Estonia, the regional meeting consisted of over 240 participants. There were 20 sessions featuring 72 different speakers, focusing on how we can strengthen democracies through anti-corruption measures, open and inclusive digital innovation, and innovative public participation methods. OGP national and local members exchanged ideas and lessons learned on OGP co-creation processes through a series of workshops. 

In the opening plenary, speakers from the community shone a spotlight on the role of open government in upholding democratic values. In a rich dialogue on reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine, reformers inside and outside the government spoke passionately about their support for democracy and open government whilst defending their country against Russia’s war.

The meeting also came at a moment when OGP is co-creating its new 5-year strategy. Participants shared their thoughts for the strategy, building on many of the ideas shared across the two days. One of the main conclusions emerging was that while the OGP approach works, it needs to scale and have more impact by mainstreaming open government beyond the Partnership, and ensure that reformers are equipped with the right resources, methodologies, and tools to make this happen.

At the regional meeting, the outgoing co-chairs of the Steering Committee, the Government of Italy and Aidan Eyakuze, transferred leadership to the incoming co-chairs, the Government of Estonia and Anabel Cruz. The new co-chair agenda aims to mobilize and energize the community for OGP’s new strategy; elevate OGP’s global profile through the 8th OGP Global Summit, which will take place in Tallinn, Estonia in 2023; incentivize collective action on pressing global issues; and support civil society resilience and sustainability.

The Government of Italy and Aidan Eyakuze hand over the leadership of OGP to the Government of Estonia and Anabel Cruz.PHOTO: Credit: OGP

Across the two days, this is a summary of what we heard:

Strengthening our Democracies

1. Participation and inclusion are central to strengthening our democracies. Open government reforms and democratic tools need to be usable for everyone. As a movement, we must reach out, listen to and connect to communities – like anti-democratic forces have done with success – to rebuild trust.

2. We must seize windows of political opportunity. Democracy is not in retreat by default: we should continue to build support among political champions and open governments reformers across the region.

3. Democracy flourishes at the local level. Given the proximity to citizens’ lived realities, local OGP processes can empower citizens to participate in processes and decisions that impact them. Local communities can also become more resilient to threats to democracy.

The OGP Local community from Europe at the Europe Regional Meeting 2022PHOTO: Credit: OGP

The Importance of Civil Society

4. Civil society is a ‘secret’ weapon. Civil society is working as a partner of government, not only monitoring and holding governments accountable. Their role cannot be underestimated.

Panel Discussion: “Open Government for Reconstruction & Recovery in Ukraine”PHOTO: Credit: OGP

5. Yet civil society needs more resourcing. The lack of sustainable funding options for civil society across the region not only threatens the functioning of OGP processes but our democracies more broadly. For civil society to work effectively as partners, it needs funding and a strong, active network of reformers to engage with.

6. Trust is a two-way street. We often speak of open approaches as a means to increase trust in government. However, governments also need to put trust in citizens and civil society to participate, make decisions, and work as equal partners.

Advancing European Thematic Priorities

7. Transparency of beneficial owners is more important than ever. We must ensure that ill-gotten wealth from Russia and other countries cannot move freely around the world. OGP members’ progress on beneficial ownership transparency must continue.

8. Tackling disinformation requires collaborative approaches. Governments, civil society, social media platforms, journalists, and fact checkers must work together to tackle this threat to democracy. OGP can play a strong role in convening these communities.

9. OGP can act as a bridge between the climate and open government communities. We can work with partners to develop better guidance on how to use participatory mechanisms in climate policymaking.

10. Open data still needs work. While open data has been one of the longest-standing policy areas among OGP members, data frequently lacks in usefulness, usability, and operability. We need to increase the quality of open data, continue developing the skills of government officials and civil society to use open data tools, ​​whilst maintaining a citizen-centric approach.

The Future of the Open Government Partnership

Participants at the OGP Europe Regional Meeting 2022PHOTO: Credit: OGP

11. We need to move OGP from a platform to the mainstream. Our goal should be to spread open government norms far beyond the Partnership to mainstream open government values and to work collectively towards democratic renewal.

12. We need to branch out. We need a more political partnership, with a broader base of open government champions working with, and across, all levels and branches of government.

While our collective challenges can often feel insurmountable, if we enter 2023 with bold ideas and an ambitious co-chair agenda, the OGP community in Europe could be well-positioned to take forward and scale our successes to date.

We are looking forward to meeting again in Tallinn next year at the 8th OGP Global Summit, where we will bring together our diverse community who champion open government and democracy in all regions of the world. Until then, we are energized to finalize the new strategy, support our community of reformers, and deliver ambitious commitments using the OGP platform.



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