Promoting Transparent and Accountable Government

 

On December 9th, the OpenGov Hub hosted Promoting Transparent and Open Government, a panel discussion organized by the International Republican Institute (IRI), Sunlight Foundation, and Open Government Partnership (OGP) marking International Anti-Corruption Day. Each organization shared unique examples of tools in their work that can be used to advance integrity and combat corruption around the world. Participants discussed the challenges and opportunities for outside organizations to promote anti-corruption measures with local buy-in, and underscored the need for reform advocates to maintain a long-term approach to achieve systemic changes.

 

Ambassador Mark Green (President, IRI) opened the discussion by highlighting IRI’s mission to advance citizen-centered government around the world.  Then, Joe Powell (Interim Executive Director, OGP) shared how OGP works with member countries to create stronger enabling environments to address corruption. He shared that anti-corruption commitments are slightly less successfully implemented than other types of OGP commitments, but nearly half of all OGP anti-corruption commitments have been implemented. Powell concluded that there are many ways governance advocates can use the vehicle of OGP to further anti-corruption efforts, including:

 

  • Introduce anti-corruption commitments in OGP National Action Plans (a major opportunity as 52 of 69 OGP countries are issuing new National Action Plans in 2016)
  • Leverage OGP to follow through on other international anti-corruption efforts (ex: commitments that will be made at the UK Anti-Corruption Summit May 2016)
  • Examine country-specific IRM Reports to understand progress on anti-corruption measures, and use the OGP Explorer to research data on anti-corruption efforts on a global scale

Lindsey Ferris (Senior International Policy Analyst, Sunlight Foundation) discussed Sunlight’s efforts to track and follow influence and money in politics as a valuable approach to addressing corruption.  She shared examples of this work locally and globally, including Opensecrets.org work to analyze and publish information on lobbying, campaign finance, and political influence in the U.S., and Political Ad Sleuth, a tool that aggregates political advertising data. Internationally, Farris highlighted Quien Manda in Spain that maps relationships of political actors, and Open Duka (Open Institute) in Kenya that visualizes private and public relationships to enable citizens to monitor and combat corruption.  

Next, Rima Kawas (Deputy Governance Director, IRI) shared IRI’s work to help countries combat corruption. The goal of IRI’s governance programs is to create responsive, transparent, and effective institutions and close citizen-government feedback loops. Much of IRI’s governance work is at the local level, where government is closest and there is more potential for agility and innovation. Kawas shared examples of three replicable governance tools IRI has honed:

  • Transparency Offices - physical offices that allow citizens to access basic information on government activity, file questions and complaints
  • One Stop Shops - offices that streamline delivery of basic services (ex: applying for a driver’s license), which can be an unthreatening entry point to help address waste and corruption even in difficult political environments.
  • Identifying Risks/Vulnerable Areas to Corruption - IRI will publish a toolkit on this in the coming months

The robust group discussion that followed highlighted the need to tailor all anti-corruption measures to local context. It also focused on the challenges for outside actors to determine that context and to best advance this work. Participants agreed that local buy in from domestic reformers is necessary to succeed. They also agreed it is important to effectively frame and message this work to donors and local stakeholders alike. This can be done by highlighting major societal benefits of tackling corruption (ex: improved service delivery), showcasing individual success stories, but also realistically acknowledging that major impact can only happen in the long term. The American government and other international donors can help by speaking openly about their experiences implementing their own governance reforms domestically.

Participants concluded that one year from now on International Anti-Corruption Day 2016, the hope is for everyone involved in this work to recognize that effectively tackling corruption requires long-term engagement on complex issues, and that while new tools (including technology-based ones) can be attractive, we must focus more on the overarching issues for systemic change, not only the means to get there.

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