• 19 October 2017

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    Category : Opinion

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    Open Government, Open State

    Today, when corruption has become an endemic evil, we need more than ever to bring the country's institutions closer to its citizens, its legitimate creditors

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    The Open Government Partnership promotes a culture of transparency and accountability

    Today, when corruption has become an endemic evil that directly affects the democratic quality of our societies, we need more than ever to bring the country’s institutions closer to its citizens, its legitimate creditors. One thing that contributes to closing the gap between the public authorities and the public is undoubtedly promoting a culture of transparency and accountability to bring back the public’s trust in the public administrations.

     

    An interesting initiative along these lines is the Open Government Partnership (OGP) a multilateral initiative involving 69 countries, including Spain and Colombia, that seeks to improve government performance, promote the effective participation of civil society and improve the responsiveness of governments to their citizens.

     

    Each member state of the OGP undertakes to implement multi-year Action Plans that are applicable across the board to their institutions and, in particular, to government powers.

     

    Colombia has demonstrated its commitment to transparency by moving from an “Open Government” to an “Open State” perspective, by including the Judiciary in this initiative. ACTUE Colombia has spent three years working on this initiative in Colombia, giving support to the coordinating body, the Transparency Secretariat, including strengthening the technical capacities of civil society so that they can maintain an effective dialogue with the Colombian government.

     

    The OGP Action Plans are designed to be built with the participation of the different public administrations (General State, Regional and Local Administrations,) and civil society, in which the participation of the public plays an essential role in the development and success of the Partnership.

     

    Spain, which has been a member of the OGP since 2011, has implemented two Action Plans to date, for which civil society demanded more transparency and participation. These demands were included by the National Court in a recent ruling (NCR 3357/2017) in which it recognised the Right of Access of the organisation Access Info Europe, citing for this the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR 8.11.16 and 25.06.13), which understands this to be a fundamental right that merits a special sphere of protection, so that although in this country the right of access to information has not been recognised as being a fundamental right, in current practice we can speak of a promising situation in this regard.

     

    Similarly, the 3rd Open Government Plan, launched in June this year for the period 2017-19, introduced significant improvements, as recommended by the Partnership’s Independent Review Mechanism (Cooperation, Participation, Transparency, Accountability and Education). It includes proposals from the territorial administrations and ministries, as well as the participation of the public through the public information tool, whereby any citizen can present proposals via the transparency website and monitor all the stages of the 3rd Plan.

     

    A planned new feature will set up a Multi-Sector Forum with representatives from academia, civil society and the public administrations to monitor the 3rd Plan.

     

    Although there is still much to be done to achieve an open state, it seems clear that we are facing a paradigm shift in public policy building in which Access to Information and Transparency, Education in a culture of integrity and progress towards a government in line with these are key elements in making the public an active participant in public decision-making processes and policy building and in contributing to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our institutions.

     

    Carolina Dí­az is a Legal Technician for the European Union Anti-Corruption and Transparency Project for Colombia (ACTUE Colombia)

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.