Fighting Exclusion, Inequality and Distrust: The Open Government Challenge

Remarks by Manish Bapna delivered at the Open Government Partnership Global Summit: “To the many heads of state, ministers, mayors, civil society colleagues gathered in this great hall, this is an important moment to reflect on the remarkable challenges of the past year.

We have seen the rise of various forms of populism and nationalism in the United States, Britain, the Philippines, Italy, and many other countries. This has led to surprise election results and an increase in anti-immigrant and anti-government movements.

We have seen the tragic results of conflict-driven migration, as captured in the iconic image of a three-year-old boy whose body washed up on the Turkish shore.

We have seen governments struggle to respond to the refugee crisis. Some open their arms while others close their doors.

We have seen deadly terrorist attacks in cities around the world – including this one — that have forced governments to walk a fine line between the need to protect their people and the risk of infringing on their civil liberties.

And we continue to confront two inter-linked challenges: the moral challenge of 700 million people in extreme poverty, living on less than $2 a day, and the existential challenge of a changing climate.

All of these point to a failure of governance and, if we are honest, to a lack of open government that truly connects, engages and meets the needs of all people.

World’s Problems Can’t Be Solved Without Open Government

The crux of the matter is this: While open government alone can’t fix the world’s problems, they can’t be solved without it.

Too many people feel excluded and marginalized. They believe that only elites reap the benefits of growth and globalization. They feel left out of decision-making. They distrust public institutions.

How we collectively confront these challenges will be OGP’s most important test….

Here are five essential steps we can take – we, the people here today – to help accelerate the shift toward open government.

The first step: We must protect civic space – the rights to free speech, assembly and association – because these bedrock rights are at the heart of a functioning society. Serious violations of these rights have been recently reported by CIVICUS in over 100 countries. In 25 active OGP countries, these rights are repressed or obstructed….

The second step: We must foster citizen-centered governance.

We cherish OGP as a unique platform where government and civil society are equal partners in a way that amplifies the concerns of ordinary citizens.

We commend the many OGP countries that have made significant strides. But we recognize that for others, this remains a major struggle.

As heads of state and ministers, we need you to embrace the concept of co-creation. …

The third step: We must make changes that are transformational, not incremental.

Drawing on our commitment to open government and the urgency of this moment, we must be willing to go further, faster…..

Transforming government brings us to the fourth step.

We need to make a real difference in people’s lives.

This is our Partnership’s ultimate aim. Because when open government works, it improves every facet of people’s lives.

• This means giving all people safe drinking water and clean air.
• It means reliable electricity so children can have light to do homework and play.
• It means health clinics where the sick can go to get quality care, where medicines are available
• And it means building trust in public officials who are untainted by corruption….

The fifth and final step: We need to reinvigorate the Partnership’s political leadership….(More)”