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Next week, the Summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) will be held in London. Established in 2011, under American and Brazilian leadership, the OGP is a group of 60 countries, including the US, the UK, Brazil and 6 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania) that have made a commitment to work with civil society to promote more transparency, participation and accountability. In its first year OGP achieved a staggering amount and has continued its impressive record into 2013.
ONE has been an enthusiastic supporter and a constructive critic of the OGP right from the start. We supported the New York launch in 2011 and in 2012, we attended the OGP Summit in Brazil , and worked to shape the UK’s National Action Plan, encouraging the UK Government to realise Prime Minister Cameron’s ambition of making the UK government the most transparent and open in the world. In 2013, we began to engage with African governments, encouraging them to take advantage of the opportunity provided by the OGP.
For ONE and our NGO partners, the OGP is an opportunity to drive policy change in key areas – including aid transparency, budget transparency, extractives transparency, tax and beneficial ownership transparency, and open data - and to promote a coherent development agenda and narrative about enabling citizens to follow the money. If people can’t follow the money, then government isn’t open. If people can follow the money, they can hold governments to account and help to ensure that public monies are invested in meeting citizens’ needs and promoting socially inclusive growth, rather than being wasted and lost to corruption.
The real action takes place at country level but the London Summit can play an important role - allowing open government enthusiasts from around the world to share their insights and to learn from each other as they (and we) tackle similar challenges. Here’s what we want to see London deliver:
- A summit that maintains the momentum on transparency, building on the transparency wins secured at the G8 Summit back in June, looking forward to the Australian G20 Presidency and ensuring that those shaping the agenda include countries - civil society organisations as well as governments - beyond the G8 and G20;
- An increased focus amongst members of the Open Government Partnership on what they can do to ensure that the benefits of natural resources benefit the many rather than the few, with commitments to transparency on extractives, tax and company ownership the talk of the town;
- A strengthening of the open government movement, with more open airing of transparency’s tricky issues - questions of privacy and surveillance - and a greater emphasis on enabling citizens to follow the money;
- Effective engagement from existing African members - Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania - with other countries from Africa, Europe ,Asia and Latin America also exploring the benefits of joining OGP;
- A clear commitment by the UK’s Prime Minister, in his role as chair of the OGP, to make information about who owns and controls companies and trusts publicly accessible, and a determination to take the fight for greater transparency in this sphere to the European Union. This would deliver on his personal ambition to see the whole world move towards public registers of beneficial ownership – a significant step in the fight against anonymous shell companies aka Phantom Firms. By taking action against the scourge of Phantom Firms, the European Union - with the UK playing an important role - would help citizens in developing countries to lift the veil of secrecy on the dodgy deals that rob their countries of much-needed resources.
Progress on all these fronts will be challenging, but if achieved it will be an important step forward in the transparency revolution, empowering citizens with the information that they need to follow the money and hold governments to account so that resources are used effectively in the fight against poverty reduction.