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Why Cities are at the Forefront of Openness

Por qué las ciudades están a la vanguardia de la apertura

Clorinda Romo|

As we face challenges that affect our democracies—such as the climate crisis, a global pandemic, regression of civic freedoms, and more—the need to integrate a local perspective to identify innovative solutions to the most pressing issues cities face is more evident than ever.

The first Cities Summit of the Americas was designed with this in mind, bringing together over 2,000 individuals from local governments, civil society organizations, international organizations, academia, and the private sector. The Summit created spaces to exchange ideas and experiences among local government leaders and other sectors on various policy areas, including climate and environment, finance and investment, democracy and inclusion, digital governance, and more.

Here are three reasons why cities and other local jurisdictions are leading the way in openness:

They co-create public policies: Cities like Buenos Aires (Argentina), Los Angeles (USA), Quintana Roo (Mexico), Peñalolén (Chile), and Santo Domingo de Tsáchilas (Chile) are working on reforms that contribute to governments strengthened by solutions co-created with civil society organizations. 

During the Summit, mayors, secretaries, and executive directors of civil society organizations representing these jurisdictions emphasized the need for greater citizen involvement to generate concrete and better-performing actions for change, andto ensure their sustainability, going beyond administrative changes. Recent research indicates that when government commitments are co-created with citizens, reforms tend to be more ambitious and have a greater impact.

They innovate to address future challenges: Cities like Bogota (Colombia) are leading the way in addressing migration by granting temporary protection permits, and ensuring immigrants have access to fundamental rights and basic services. 

Several cities shared strategies they are implementing to address climate change. Scotland (UK) and Buenos Aires (Argentina) are also promoting a community of practice to share reforms that tackle the crisis from a comprehensive perspective. We invite you to participate in the upcoming gathering here.

During the Summit, urban development and housing initiatives were also highlighted, such as The Shift’s work on adequate housing in Canadian municipalities. Other cities are addressing this issue through open data and evidence to develop public policies that ensure access to decent housing, particularly for individuals experiencing homelessness.

They advance transparency and accountability: These fundamental values of open government were exemplified through the initiative led by Karewa, a civil society organization and member of the multi-stakeholder forum of the Municipality of Chihuahua, Mexico. They successfully opened up information about public procurement and made the process of awarding contracts and expenditures more transparent. This is clearly a mechanism that contributes to the fight against corruption, a topic addressed by mayors, ambassadors, and representatives of international organizations during the Summit. They also emphasized the connections between various levels of municipal corruption and how governments, the private sector, and civil society can work together to combat them through transparency and other means.

What’s next?

Local government members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) have produced some of the most innovative and citizen-focused reforms in recent years. In its new strategy for the next five years, OGP aims to sustainably grow OGP Local as a cohort of champions and innovators leading ambitious open government reforms and inspiring action elsewhere. Membership processes will be open to local jurisdictions from participating and eligible OGP countries.

In the words of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, “Cities, when you come down to it, are where democracy is closest to its people. And when cities are responsive to the needs of residents, they demonstrate democracy’s greatest strength: its ability to improve on itself, to empower citizens to hold their leaders accountable, to try out different solutions, and to allow the best ideas to rise to the top.” This agenda will continue to be strengthened through the “Cities Forward” initiative and the upcoming summit in the Dominican Republic in 2024.

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