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Open Government Partnership: Achieving Sustainable Development Goals through Accountability and Transparency

The Open Government Partnership (OGP), a unique coalition of governments and civil society organizations (CSOs) dedicated to making governments more open, accountable and responsive to citizens, is hosting its Global Summit in Mexico City this week. The OGP recognizes that governments are more likely to be effective and credible if they are open to public consultation and oversight.

A key objective of the Summit is to support implementation of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to eradicate extreme poverty while growing economies and sustaining natural resources. It’s an apt theme—the OGP has already made major progress in making governments more open, and its own mission is squarely aligned with many of the targets set out in the SDGs. In fact, the OGP can be a powerful mechanism for deepening commitment to good governance in the context of sustainable development throughout the world.

Achieving Impact and Deepening Commitments

In just four years since OGP’s launch, its membership has grown from eight to 66 countries, with hundreds of CSOs participating in the OGP process at the country level. Governments from these countries have made more than 2,500 commitments to open government and transparency—many of which have already been delivered. For example, in their first years as OGP members, five countries passed new or improved Freedom of Information legislation, four undertook reforms to improve transparency in public expenditures, two enacted political finance reforms and three developed new initiatives to strengthen corporate accountability.

Several countries have also scaled up their commitments since submitting their first round of national action plans. For example, the UK took the OGP review mechanism’s recommendation on engaging in deeper consultations with civil society, while Brazil, South Africa and the United States all included ambitious new commitments in their updated action plans.

And the progress continues. Several new countries in Africa and Asia have expressed interesting joining OGP at the Global Summit. Moreover, OGP is poised to ratify the inclusion of cities and subnational governments, which will open fresh opportunities for engagement and cross-learning on transparency and open government at the local level.

OGP and the SDGs

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides a tremendous opportunity to enhance the impact of the OGP by establishing a set of global priorities to help eradicate extreme poverty and shift all countries toward inclusive, sustainable development. Improving government transparency is a critical component of achieving many of the 17 newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals. The 2030 Agenda incorporates OGP principles of transparency, civic participation, accountable public institutions, and technological innovation in three ways:

  • First, open government principles are explicitly addressed in Goal 16, which aims to “build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels,” and in other targets across other goals. These targets provide specific language on what governments and their citizens need to do to advance open government specifically and good governance more broadly. They are especially valuable for the connection between OGP and SDGs as they underline the importance of open, responsive government as an end in itself.

  • Second, the principles of open government are embedded across numerous SDGs where transparency, public participation and accountable public institutions are instrumental to achieving a particular target. For example, goals related to income, poverty, water, education, energy and cities all include targets for the provision of public services and universal access to these services. Open government is often an essential element of high quality and universal service provision. Services from education to infrastructure, which are indispensable for poverty eradication, are strengthened by citizen input and oversight.

  • Third, implementation of the 2030 Agenda rests on core OGP principles. The 2030 Agenda calls for follow-up and review processes that are “open, inclusive, participatory and transparent for all people and [that] will support the reporting by all relevant stakeholders.” At the national level, it calls on countries to conduct regular evaluations of progress against the goals and targets, and incorporate input from all stakeholders. By promoting more open, inclusive and participatory decision-making, OGP can help create the right enabling environment for successful implementation of the SDGs. More specifically, open data, which is closely related to the transparency objectives of the OGP, has been increasingly recognized as important for development.

Moving OGP and the SDGs forward

There are considerable complementary objectives between the OGP and the SDGs. The “Open Government for the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” Declaration is a political statement made by OGP steering committee members. The Declaration affirms that the rule of law, principles of transparency and open government and citizen participation are important tools for effectively implementing the 2030 Agenda and achieving the SDGs.

Specific OGP commitments and actions that are of direct relevance to the SDGs include: adopting relevant commitments in OGP national action plans, promoting transparency and citizen participation, and integrating open government into monitoring the Agenda. The OGP Declaration encourages integrating open government principles into the official indicators that will measure the Agenda’s progress.

Why Is WRI Engaged in These Agendas?

Open data, transparency and accountability lie at the heart of the WRI’s approach to achieving ambitious outcomes in climate, land, forests and water. Through this engagement, WRI aims to help OGP member countries strengthen their national commitments on climate and environment, engage cities and subnational governments in improving transparency, and build on the opportunities presented by new global agreements on development finance, climate change and sustainable development.

The SDGs set out targets for the next 15 years that are nothing short of ambitious—ending extreme poverty, halving food waste, reining in runaway greenhouse gas emissions and much more. Achieving these goals is possible—and essential—but it will take concerted efforts at the local, national and international levels. Research organizations like WRI and global transparency initiatives like OGP will have a role in moving the goals forward. In fact, they’re critical to their success.

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