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Undersectretary Otero’s Remarks at the International Right to Know Day Celebration

Good afternoon. It’s a pleasure to be here with you all for the celebration of International Right to Know Day.

As you have heard, I am Maria Otero, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.

The Open Government Partnership — or OGP — has had a big month. In fact, with its formal launch just over a week ago, I’d venture to say that everyone who believes in the principles of open government has had a big month.

Last Tuesday, President Obama joined world leaders from forty six nations to launch OGP in a historic demonstration of commitments from governments to improve the way they do business in the service of their people.

This partnership was born out of President Obama’s 2010 speech to the UN General Assembly — just one year ago — in which he called on governments around the world to recommit to transparency and accountability, to increase civic engagement, and to harness new technologies in the pursuit of better governance and a better world.

But it was also born out of two decades of increasing attention and demands from civil society and government champions — many of whom are on the agenda here today — for governments to recognize that open is not scary or unattainable; but instead that open is good for everyone and well within our reach.

So here we are, one year later, and the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership — the US, Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, and Norway — we have welcomed no less than thirty eight countries as they join us in stretching the traditional notions of government in twenty first century.

Let me just say that again; because I think it’s remarkable. Thirty eight governments — in addition to the eight founding countries of OGP — have committed not only to open government in name and theory but also in action. Forty six total governments that, with the help of civil society and the private sector, will take concrete steps to make their governments work better, respond better, and serve better.

The really phenomenal point — even beyond the sheer number of countries — is that they have signed up voluntarily, entirely out of appreciation for OGP’s founding premise: that open is good for all of us, and that the tools of our digital, globalized age make it easier than ever for governments to be more accountable, more transparent and more engaged with citizens.

In President’s Obama’s words, open government is the essence of democracy. And we are seeing around the world how governments are returning to that essence. Many of you are familiar with the stand-out examples that are demonstrating what is possible through open government:

To start with, we celebrate today the fact that more than 85 countries now have government transparency laws, guaranteeing citizens the right to seek information.

One of those countries is Kenya, which is using technology to increase civic participation, to support innovation, and to make development more participatory and transparent. Earlier this summer, it became the first African country to launch an online portal that gives citizens access to government data.

In Latvia, citizens can introduce proposals to their parliament by collecting signatures through an online petition. The United States just launched a similar tool — “We the People” — as part of our OGP country action plan.

Another ground breaking example is Iceland, which this year updated its constitution by “crowd sourcing” the changes directly with citizens over social media.

And in Brazil, the expenses of government officials are posted online within 24 hours — meaning extravagant purchases will not go unnoticed and officials are sticking to honest, official expenses.

Thanks to the leadership of OGP’s steering committee — which itself is a partnership between governments and civil society — we are seizing the opportunity before us, and setting a new affirmative agenda for countries to follow suit. Let me outline the three ways we are doing this:

1. Through the OGP declaration — available on OGP’s new website — we affirm that openness can help us do our jobs better in serving and responding to our people.

2. Through country action plans that are informed by civil society, we are grounding this commitment in concrete steps. These plans will continue to evolve, but I can tell you that they are already making governments think, talk and act in new ways.

3. And we are generating momentum for a race to the top in good governance. The thirty eight countries we welcomed last week will now begin the development of their own action plans; and we look forward to welcoming more countries to the Partnership in the coming weeks and months.

As OGP continues to grow and develop, it will remain a unique international initiative for two reasons that I think are worth mentioning.

First, it is unique in that it relies on productive collaboration with civil society — from the Steering Committee itself, to the development and assessment of country action plans. As President Obama said last week, “our countries are stronger when we engage citizens beyond the halls of government…our civil society representatives [are a part of OGP] not as spectators, but as equal partners in this initiative.”

And second, OGP is unique in that it strengthens government accountability, not between OGP and a member country, but between the member country and its people — where accountability is most important. Through OGP, 46 nations are now committed their respective members of civil society to improve transparency, openness, and civic engagement.

Of course, just because we’ve set the process in motion, with great momentum, does not mean the path is fully forged. Governance will never be simple or easy. Many governments, including the United States, are still learning. Our country action plans may evolve as time goes on. But with the Open Government Partnership, we have taken a big step towards our shared goal of improving lives through better governance.

So I want to thank you for your support and look forward to working with you as we make governments more open around the world.

 


Undersecretary Otero’s Opening Remarks to the Power of Open Conference

Good morning. Thank you Alfred, for your generous hospitality today as we celebrate this momentous occasion: the formal launch of the Open Government Partnership. It’s wonderful to be here.

I especially want to thank Ginny Hunt, Michelle Rosen-Sapir, Phase One Consulting, and Julie McCarthy for putting together this top-notch event. We have a full day of the finest minds and people in this space, all of whom are in high-demand, not to mention during the UN General Assembly week. So it’s an honor to have you with us. I especially want to recognize and welcome President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines. Thank you for being here.

As you have heard, I am Maria Otero, the United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.

Today is a big day for us. Just one year ago, President Obama called on governments around the world to recommit to transparency and accountability, to increase civic engagement, and to harness new technologies in the pursuit of better governance and a better world.

And one year later, the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership welcomes no less than thirty eight countries as they join us in stretching the limits of government in twenty first century.

Let me just say that again; because I think it’s remarkable. Thirty eight governments—in addition to the eight founding countries of OGP—have committed not only to open government in name and theory but also in action. Forty six total governments that, with the help of civil society and the private sector, will take concrete steps to make their governments work better, respond better, and serve better.

The really phenomenal point — even beyond the sheer number of countries — is that they have signed up voluntarily, entirely out of appreciation for OGP’s founding premise — that open is good for all of us.

We are seeing this around the world:

Technology and social media are opening communications channels, increasing awareness and dialogue in every corridor of society.

Open source innovations are introducing new solutions to old bureaucracies, resulting in more access and knowledge between a government and its people.

And as we know, information is power. In the hands of citizens and officials alike, open information can mean change and progress.

Thanks to the leadership of OGP’s steering committee—many of whom are in this room—we are setting a new example for governments around the world.

We are demonstrating by our commitment to the OGP declaration—launching today on our new website—that openness can help us do our jobs better in serving and responding to our people.

We have crafted ambitious action plans grounded in concrete steps and informed by civil society. These plans will continue to evolve, but I can tell you that they are already making governments think, talk and act in new ways.

We have told the world about what we’re doing—and the world has responded. This afternoon, we will welcome those thirty eight countries to OGP not just in their commitment to open government but in their promise to work with civil society to develop their own plans towards greater openness.

Governance will never be simple or easy. But good governance should the foundation upon which we address the world’s problems. Today, with the launch of the Open Government Partnership, we embrace openness as one lever to our success, and we do so in the good company of those of you in this room.

So, thank you for your support and for your ideas. I wish you the best today and look forward to hearing from our distinguished panelists and speakers.

Now, it is my pleasure to turn it over to my co-chair, Minister Jorge Hage, Comptroller General of Brazil and lifelong advocate of transparency anti-corruption causes.

 


FACT SHEET: The Open Government Partnership

“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”

–President Obama, September 23, 2010

The Challenge

In his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010, President Obama spoke of open economies, open societies, and open governments as the “strongest foundation for human progress.” He recognized that the work of strengthening democratic government requires sustained commitment, and that countries around the world are taking innovative steps to better serve the people they represent. He issued a challenge to the leaders assembled in New York to gather together again in September of 2011 with specific commitments and plans of action to promote transparency, fight corruption, energize civil society, and to leverage new technologies.

Answering the Call

Responding to the President’s challenge, a group of governments and civil society organizations spanning the globe have come together to form the Open Government Partnership (OGP), a new multilateral initiative that supports national efforts to promote transparency, fight corruption, strengthen accountability, and empower citizens. At the core of the Partnership is a commitment from participating countries to undertake meaningful new steps as part of a concrete action plan, developed and implemented in close consultation with their citizens.

Led in its first year by the United States and Brazil, OGP is a unique partnership with a steering committee composed of governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and civil society organizations (Africa Center for Open Governance (Kenya), Instituto de Estudos Socioeconômicos (Brazil), Instituto Mexicano para la Competitividad (Mexico), International Budget Partnership (international), MKSS (India), National Security Archive (U.S.), Revenue Watch Institute (international), Transparency and Accountability Initiative (international), and Twaweza (Tanzania)).

The Launch of the Open Government Partnership

Today in New York, President Obama and President Rousseff hosted the formal launch of OGP at an event with Heads of State and senior officials from 46 countries. The high-level meeting focused attention on the shared challenge of improving governance, and demonstrated a strong political commitment around the world to the kinds of reforms necessary to enhance transparency, fight corruption, and strengthen mechanisms of democratic accountability.

The eight founding governments embraced an Open Government Declaration in which they pledged to advance the core principles of open government. And each government presented an action plan with concrete commitments to put the principles of the Declaration into practice.

The Partnership also welcomed the commitment of the following 38 governments to join OGP and deliver their own action plans in Brazil in March 2012: Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Georgia, Ghana, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Netherlands, Peru, the Republic of Korea, Romania, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uruguay.

Each of these countries has already demonstrated a commitment to open government across four key areas – fiscal and budget transparency, freedom of information, asset disclosures for public officials, and citizen engagement – and published a formal letter of intent to participate.

The Open Government Declaration

The Declaration is a high-level political statement by the leaders of the eight founding governments of the value of openness, and their commitment to:

Promote openness, because more information about governmental activities should be timely and freely available to people;

Engage citizens in decision-making, because this makes government more innovative and responsive;

Implement the highest standards of professional integrity, because those in power must serve the people and not themselves; and

Increase access to new technologies because of their unprecedented potential to help people realize their aspirations for access to information and a more powerful voice in how they are governed.

Eight Action Plans

Today, as part of the formal launch, the eight founding governments delivered action plans pledging new commitments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness the power of new technologies. Each action plan contains detailed commitments in a wide variety of areas, developed by governments in consultation with citizens. Among the highlights, the action plans include commitments to promote:

Effective management of natural resources revenues: The United States will join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) as an implementing country – forging a new partnership between government and industry to ensure that taxpayers receive every dollar they are due from the extraction of our natural resources. (You can view the full U.S. National Action Plan here.)

Delivering public information: Brazil will develop several activities toward increasing active transparency and open data, including restructuring the Transparency Portal and launching the Brazil Open Data Portal, in order to converge to the appropriate environment for future enactment of the Access to Information Law.

Gender equality: Norway will promote gender equality and women’s full participation in civic life, the private sector, public administration and political processes, including by: following up the recommendations of the government white paper on equal pay; launching an effort to have more women apply for top posts in the private sector; and undertaking an initiative to strengthen the role of women in local democracy and develop a gender equality program with all municipalities.

Open data: The United Kingdom will promote improvements in outcomes and accountability in the public sector by transforming the rights of citizens to obtain data from public authorities and establishing standards and frameworks to embed a culture of transparency in the UK.

Citizen participation: The Philippines will extend participatory budgeting across the government to 12 government departments and 6 government corporations by 2012; establish an empowerment fund to support bottom-up involvement in development planning and budgeting; and institutionalize social audits as a tool for monitoring the implementation of public infrastructure projects.

Service delivery: South Africa will enhance the capacity and capabilities of communities to access and claim their socio-economic rights through the roll-out of national public education campaigns and set up “Service Delivery Improvement Forums” in all nine provinces to provide timely citizen report cards on service delivery at the community level.

Public integrity: Indonesia will pursue an ambitious effort to bring greater transparency to range of critical areas that have been sources of corruption in the public sector, with commitments to publish basic information and performance data for the police and public prosecution service, the tax court, the immigration office, the customs office, and the land administration office. They will also increase the transparency of civil service recruitment.

Government transparency: Mexico will increase the publication of socially useful information in four key areas – budget allocation, security, education, and telecommunications – in order to strengthen public integrity and public participation, and to enhance the oversight of performance in the education sector to improve educational quality.

The Domestic Open Government Initiative

In addition to committing to implement EITI, among the highlights of the U.S. National Action Plan:

The White House recently announced the launch of the “We the People” petition platform to give Americans a direct line to voice their concerns to the Administration via online petitions. In addition, the White House plans to publish the source code of the recently announced “We the People” petition platform so that it is available to any government around the world that seeks to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public. This will foster greater participation in government.

The Administration will launch a platform called ExpertNet that will enable government officials to better communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. It will give members of the public an opportunity to participate in a public consultation relevant to their areas of interest and knowledge, and allow officials to pose questions to and interact with the public in order to receive useful and relevant feedback. ExpertNet will foster greater collaboration within government.

The Administration will continue work on a new civil service personnel category (or job series) for officials who specialize in administering FOIA and other information programs. It is important to recognize the professional nature of the work done by those administering FOIA. In addition, the Administration will expand the use of technology to achieve greater efficiencies in FOIA administration, including utilization of technology to assist in searching for and processing records.

Recently, Congress nearly enacted legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing whistleblower protections, provide protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms in the remedial process. The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation. But if Congress remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand whistleblower protections.

The Administration will launch an initiative that will recommend reforms and require reporting on current records management policies and practices. The initiative will consider changes to existing laws and ask how technology can be leveraged to improve records management while making it cost-effective. The initiative will seek a reformed, digital-era, governmentwide records management framework that promotes accountability and performance.

Brazil 2012 and Beyond

Six months from now, on March 5th and 6th, 2012, Brazil will host the second high-level meeting of OGP. A group of countries – including the 38 who expressed their formal intent to participate today – will endorse the Open Government Declaration and deliver their own action plans to strengthen the pillars of open and accountable government.

The founding governments are committed to continuing the Partnership beyond Brazil, with commitments from the United Kingdom, Indonesia, and Mexico to chair the effort in subsequent years. OGP will work actively to expand the ranks of participating countries, engage civil society and the private sector, and to help countries deliver meaningful reforms that increase government accountability, effectiveness, and efficiency.

 


David Luna on Reducing Illicit Arbitrage Opportunities for Cleaner Markets and Supply Chains

Good morning.

It is an honor as the 2011 APEC Anti-Corruption and Transparency (ACT) Working Group Chair to co-host this workshop with Rodrigo Roque, the APEC Intellectual Property Experts Group (IPEG) Chair.

Over the years, the ACT, IPEG, and other APEC sub-fora have been pathfinders in developing innovative cross-fora approaches to addressing numerous illicit trade issues that are important to APEC economies. Earlier this year at the APEC SOM I meetings, for example, we partnered to advance a dialogue on combating counterfeit medicines and other cross-border illicit threats that impact our economies, especially in areas where they threaten human health and safety.

Corruption and illicit trade are not only barriers to the integrated commercial, transportation, and transactional systems that facilitate free trade and the movement of people throughout legitimate markets, but they also weaken the entrepreneurial spirit that nurtures innovation, openness, and competitiveness and contributes to prosperous economies. Indeed, combating corruption and promoting good governance nurtures the overall business climate and promotes cleaner and more dynamic sectors.

Illicit market actors easily navigate between licit and illicit worlds, investing in legitimate industry and integrating themselves into communities, where they erode supply chain integrity and destabilize institutions through bribery, coercion, and corruption. In some cases, they even establish themselves as seemingly altruistic providers of security and basic services.

Criminal entrepreneurs and illicit networks also engage in bribery, fraud, and violence to corrupt or intimidate vital government institutions in order to gain the upper hand against competitive business. This cycle distort our markets, damaging the ability of legitimate firms to compete, and drives some legitimate small- and medium-sized enterprises out of the market in the APEC region.

In the case of counterfeit or falsified medicines, medical products, and other dangerous counterfeits and defective and tainted products, illicit trade imperils the safety of our people and shakes confidence across our markets. Fake medicines often contain inactive or toxic ingredients than can increase drug resistance, prolong patients’ suffering, and even cause death. The “entrepreneurs” behind these counterfeits and other illicit activities are rapacious opportunists who profit from the low level of risk for this type of criminal activity where regulatory and enforcement structures are weak or ill equipped to address this challenge.

In our fight against the spread of counterfeit medicines, APEC economies must work together and with the private sector and other stakeholder interests not only to investigate and prosecute the illicit actors who produce and distribute counterfeits, but to ensure that all communities have access to safe and effective medicines.

Excising corruption and illicit trade from the global market for goods and services requires all market actors—from businesses to governments to consumers—to act in harmony to restore supply chain control to legitimate businesses that have both the greatest knowledge of their supply chains and the greatest stake in their integrity. We applaud our growing partnership with the private sector and other stakeholders across APEC sub-fora to develop a full-spectrum approach to combating illicit trade that targets not only actors, but also the economic, political, and legal conditions that enable them to operate.

Today’s Workshop on Investigating and Prosecuting Corruption and Illicit Trade: Stemming the Flows of Counterfeits and Dismantling Illicit Networks continues to build upon the partnership we began at SOM 1 and is a model for what we hope will be many more vibrant partnerships across APEC sub-fora to combat corruption and illicit trade and plug vulnerabilities in supply chains and markets.

We can no longer allow illicit criminal networks to hijack our prosperity and twist the globalized value chain. We cannot allow our businesses to experience a loss of profits, a loss of brand identity and reputation, diminished product quality, stifled innovation, and other harmful economic consequences. APEC economies risk an increasingly unstable investment climate, weaker governance structures, and less transparent communities.

The United States is committed to working with our APEC partners in government, the private sector, and other stakeholders to develop communities of vigilance that will promote greater integrity at every step of the supply chain and to ensure that only quality products enter our markets. We must ensure integrity throughout the complex web of producers, manufacturers, re-packagers and distributors, from raw materials to finished products.

As U.S. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg underscored in March 2011 at our APEC SOM I dialogue on this issue in calling for us do everything that we can to prevent the entry of counterfeit, substandard or adulterated medical products into homes and health care facilities in our countries: “[a] supply chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the proliferation of additional handlers, suppliers and middlemen creates new points of entry through which contaminated, and otherwise falsified medicinal products can infiltrate the legitimate medical products supply.” We must dismantle illicit trade networks at every link in tainted supply chains and prosecute criminal entrepreneurs who arbitrage weak and corrupt law enforcement systems and exploit internal border controls for illicit gain.

On July 25th, 2011, the White House released the Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime. Breaking the corruptive power of transnational illicit networks globally is a key objective for the United States and we will work with international partners to attack the financial underpinnings of transnational criminal organizations; strip them of their illicit wealth; and sever their access to the financial system. In targeting illicit entrepreneurs and illicit networks that pose grave threats to our citizens’ safety—including those that sell and distribute substandard, tainted, and harmful counterfeits—we will also expose criminal activities hidden behind legitimate fronts and protect strategic markets, as well as the integrity of the global financial system.

Combined with a follow-up training, collaboration, and best practices initiative for APEC member economies’ law enforcement, this workshop is the first in a set of deliverables that is intended to promote the development of a harmonized approach to illicit trade and corruption in the APEC region.

Law enforcement tools such as the Illicit Trade Unit (ITU) that will be discussed by the United States will assist with detecting corruption, customs fraud, and counterfeits and can also positively contribute to our efforts to mitigate vulnerabilities, dismantle transnational illicit networks, and strengthen overall market resilience to thwart future threats at every phase of interconnected supply chains.

The presenters at this workshop will build on the themes that emerged in March 2011 at the APEC Dialogue on Corruption and Illicit Trade: Combating Counterfeit Medicines and Strengthening Supply Chain Integrity. I hope that our discussion today will help shape the deliverables that we would like to present to our Senior Officials and Leaders as we work our way to the APEC Summit in November.

Please allow me now to introduce Rodrigo Roque, the APEC Intellectual Property Experts Group (IPEG) Chair to deliver some brief remarks. Thank you.

 


Determination and Certification of the Colombian Government with Respect to Human Rights Related Conditions

On September 7, 2011, the Department of State determined and certified to Congress that the Colombian Government is meeting statutory criteria related to human rights. This determination and certification, pursuant to Section 7046(b) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010, as carried forward in the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011, permits the full balance of FY 2011 funds for the Colombian Armed Forces to be obligated.

During the certification period, the Colombian Government took a series of important steps to improve respect for human rights, both within the Armed Forces and in Colombia at large. Since taking office one year ago, President Santos signed a new Military Penal Code, facilitated the appointment of a Prosecutor General after a 16-month vacancy, supported judicial authorities’ efforts to vigorously combat corruption, strengthened efforts to dismantle illegal armed groups, and passed legislation stiffening penalties for crimes against human rights defenders, among other steps. The government also significantly improved respect for and recognition of human rights defenders by eliminating judgmental commentary by government officials about such groups and individuals, increasing outreach to NGOs, and publicly condemning threats and attacks against them. Most notably, in June, President Santos signed a historic Land and Victims’ Law that will provide assistance, reparations, and land restitution to approximately four million Colombians – including victims of state violence – over the next decade.

More remains to be done. Threats and attacks against human rights defenders continue to be a significant problem, as the Colombian government acknowledges. As the government has advanced its land restitution policy, criminal interests have targeted land activists; more than a dozen have been murdered this year. Despite a sizeable protection program, NGOs claim the government is not effectively protecting human rights defenders and have underlined the importance of designing and putting in place a comprehensive security strategy to ensure effective implementation of the Land and Victims’ Law without violence. NGOs rightly stress the importance of investigating and prosecuting threats and attacks against human rights defenders. The new Prosecutor General is committed to improving the administration of justice and to eliminating the backlog of pending human rights cases, including some 1,500 alleged cases of extrajudicial executions. It is essential that the Colombian government support her with appropriate resources and clear political will. Finally, while much progress has been made, it is important that the Armed Forces—both military and police—stay focused on the years-long process of building a human rights culture within their institutions, especially by rebuilding trust in those communities most affected by the conflict and where allegations of collusion with criminal groups persist.

The United States Government remains committed to engaging with the Colombian Government, international organizations, and human rights groups to improve the human rights performance of the Colombian Armed Forces and build respect for human rights throughout the country. President Santos’ commitment and energy present a unique opportunity for the government, civil society, and the international community to work together to find solutions to the remaining challenges in order to build a lasting peace in Colombia.

 


Secretary Clinton’s Remarks with Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota at the Open Government Partnership High-Level Meeting

Secretary Clinton and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota delivered remarks at the Open Government Partnership High-Level Meeting, at the Department of State. State Department Photo by Michael Gross

Secretary Clinton and Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota delivered remarks at the Open Government Partnership High-Level Meeting, at the Department of State. State Department Photo by Michael Gross

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, and welcome to the State Department. As you might tell from Under Secretary Otero’s remarks and those of you who were part of the meetings yesterday, we are very enthusiastic about this initiative. We believe this new global effort to improve governance, accelerate economic growth, and empower citizens worldwide is exactly what we should all be doing together in the 21st century. I particularly want to thank my colleague, the foreign minister, the minister of external affairs, Minister Patriota from Brazil, and also Minister Hage, who has been, along with Maria, really spearheading our efforts. And this has been a great pleasure to work so closely with Brazil because Brazil has been a leader in taking significant strides to make the work of its government more open and accessible to its people, and we are very proud to be serving with Brazil as the first co-chairs of this Open Government Partnership.

I also know that we have a number of high-level representatives from the countries represented here, and it is a great pleasure to have you with us as we prepare for the formal launch of the Open Government Partnership in New York in September. I’m also delighted that civil society is represented, because we know that we need a partnership between government and civil society and particularly representatives from the business community and NGOs. What you are doing to create economic opportunity, to hold governments accountable, to make sure they are open and transparent, is exactly the kind of work that we want to explore with you.

I think we can say without fear of contradiction that there is an undeniable connection between how a government operates and whether its people flourish. When a government invites its people to participate, when it is open as to how it makes decisions and allocates resources, when it administers justice equally and transparently, and when it takes a firm stance against corruption of all kinds, that government is, in the modern world, far more likely to succeed in designing and implementing effective policies and services. It is also more likely to harness the talents of its own people and to benefit from their ideas and experiences, and it is also more likely to succeed investing its resources where they are most likely to have the best return.

And so for us, as we look at many of the countries represented here today and see the progress that your countries, your governments, and your people have made, we do draw conclusions that we think are legitimate and credible. Because when a government hides its work from public view, hands out jobs and money to political cronies, administers unequal justice, looks away as corrupt bureaucrats and businessmen enrich themselves at the people’s expense, that government is failing its citizens. And it is failing to create an environment in which the best ideas are embraced and the most talented people have a chance to contribute. And it is also denying people often access to education, health care, electricity, or a justice system and a market economy that work for them.

And most importantly, that government is failing to earn and hold the trust of its people. And that lack of trust, in a world of instantaneous communication, means that the very fabric of society begins to fray and the foundation of governmental legitimacy begins to crumble.

As we have seen with the protests that have broken out around our world this year, when people are kept away from participating in the work of their governments or the actions of their leaders, when they have no idea how decisions are made or tax revenues are spent, when they have no voice in the political process, eventually they will say, “Enough.” And it might have been possible in the past – and by the past I mean 20 years ago, not so long ago – for governments to just refuse to be transparent because there were monopolies on sources of information and channels to people. But that is no longer the case.

And we’ve also seen the correlation between openness in government and success in the economic sphere. Countries committed to defending transparency and fighting corruption are often more attractive to entrepreneurs. And if you can create small and medium size businesses, you have a broader base for economic activity. At a time when global competition for trade and investment is fierce, openness is not just good for governance, it is also good for a sustainable growth in GDP.

I think we have a real opportunity here to tackle both openness in government and openness in the economy, and to look at the correlation between the two. Governments that have not gained the trust of their people struggle to generate the tax revenues necessary to fund sustainable development progress. I go around the world bragging on Brazil, so I’ll do it again here. But what Brazil has done over the last 25 years is remarkable, because it expanded its tax base, increased its revenues as a percentage of GDP, and then did not enrich a small elite, but spread those resources broadly among the Brazilian people in an effort that has lifted so many out of poverty while at the same time enhancing the even stronger establishment of democratic institutions and positive results.

I spoke about this at the OECD 50th anniversary in Paris in May, and I feel so strongly about it because we have such good examples in Latin America, in Africa, in Asia, and elsewhere.

In the coming weeks, I will issue policy guidance instructing every diplomat and every development officer at the State Department and USAID to elevate the fight against corruption as a focus of their work with other countries. We will also be establishing an innovation fund to create incentives and boost political support for transparency, anti-corruption efforts, and tax reform. And we will launch a pilot project to support a small number of countries in their efforts to make comprehensive, integrated reforms in all three areas.

The Open Government Partnership complements this work by representing a new global effort to do exactly that: promote transparency, fight corruption, and energize civic engagement. This is a partnership on three levels. First, it is a partnership among governments. We all face common challenges. We have a great deal to learn from each other, and so this is a two-way conversation where we are all sharing ideas and learning. Second, it is a partnership with civil society. And third, it is a partnership with the private sector.

We envision the Open Government Partnership as a network of support for those leaders and citizens working to bring more transparency and accountability to governments worldwide. This can be a lonely, sometimes even dangerous, task. But through this partnership, we hope to change that.

We also want to use this to build a network for disseminating successful innovations. Now, often ideas that work in one place can work in other places, and we need a better system for sharing best practices.

Look again at what Brazil has done. Brazil’s transparency portal, which gives every citizen an internet connection and therefore the chance to see how their government money is being spent, is an extraordinary innovation and one that we really admire. Or Indonesia’s development program, which allocates blocks of funding to villages and then invites villagers to join in deciding where the money should go, so it’s not just people sitting in government building in Jakarta, but it’s people on the ground looking at their own needs. Or the citizen monitoring websites that have been launched in both Kenya and Chile to publish the voting records of elected officials and the platforms of political parties to give citizens a channel for sharing their views, both positive and negative, with their leaders.

Now, some of these innovations were made possible by new connection technologies. Mobile phones, SMS messaging, social networks – these are 21st century tools. And we have a unique opportunity to put those 21st century tools to work on behalf of 21st century governance. So that is the promise that is represented by this Open Government Partnership.

Now the hard part starts: to translate that promise into reality; to sign on to the principles of this Open Government Declaration; to make concrete commitments to do more to ensure openness and accountability within our governments and societies; and then to do the difficult, but I believe very rewarding, work of fulfilling those commitments in the months ahead.

We have two months until we meet again in September for the official launch. The United States will join with Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, and the United Kingdom in announcing our own open government commitments at that time. And I would invite all of you to join us and signal your commitment with us on the margins of the UN General Assembly. We should send a clear message to the world that this community of nations coming together voluntarily – as Minister Hage reminds us, this is truly an open partnership for open government, no one is coerced or required to be here. But because we have come together, let us look for ways that we can send a message about what we are willing to do to get results.

I have been greatly privileged to meet with many leaders around the world over a number of years and particularly in the last two and a half years as Secretary of State. And oftentimes leaders are struggling to get the political support they need to make the hard decisions. I think that this Open Government Partnership can help support leaders who are trying to do the right things.

I met with a president of a country who’d been trying so hard to raise the tax revenues of his country. And basically, the rich of his country refused to pay anything for schools, for hospitals, for infrastructure. They just said no. And this president is trying so hard because he knows that he will never be able to lift his people out of poverty, put them on the right track, give them opportunities, have an open opportunity society, unless he can deliver results.

Well, I’m hoping that we will be able to take this message to the very business people in his country who may not fully grasp how important it is for their own self-interest to help make these investments in a better life in the future for their fellow citizens.

So let’s be creative, let’s be innovative, and let’s look for the way we can deliver results within our own countries, and through this partnership, encourage, motivate, facilitate others to do as well. I’m very proud to be working with you, and now it is my great pleasure to introduce Brazil’s Minister of External Affairs Antonio Patriota. (Applause.)

FOREIGN MINISTER PATRIOTA: Thank you. Let me start by thanking the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a good friend, for making me a part of this today, and I’m very proud to be here in Washington with Jorge Hage Sobrinho, who has been a true leader in Brazil in what concerns open government, transparency. He is minister of state, head of the office of the comptroller general. Greetings to my other good friends here in this room, and I see many friendly faces – ministers of state, heads of delegation, Ambassador Mauro Vieira of Brazil, Ms. Samantha Power, Under Secretary Maria Otero, members of the steering committee, representatives of invited countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a true pleasure to be in Washington together with my colleague, Minister Jorge Hage, and I thank the U.S. Government for hosting this event. I am honored to address with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton this meeting of the Open Government Partnership, a joint effort that can become useful in our shared commitment to improved and more transparent governance. We are fulfilling aspirations expressed last March in the joint communiqué by President Dilma Rousseff and Barack Obama issued on the occasion of President Obama’s visit to Brazil.

The Brazilian-North American co-presidency of the OGP group is an illustration of a bilateral relationship that grows deeper and becomes instrumental to stimulate and promote dialogue on issues related to global governance. The Open Government Partnership seeks to contribute to national efforts in governmental transparency through international cooperation. The idea is for countries to share experiences on transparency with a view to enhancing efficiency in the use of public resources, stimulating innovation, and improving the quality of public services offered to our societies at large.

The OGP is, thus, a process of self-knowledge and mutual support. We do not seek to develop a one-size-fits-all approach or to establish quality labels that might be used as preconditions for cooperation or technical assistance programs. We are here to assist each other as equal partners joined by common objectives. The OGP should be seen as a subsidiary exercise to the efforts being carried out through multilaterally negotiated conventions, especially the United Nations Convention against Corruption. The OGP will not replace or compete with initiatives under UN auspices. Such efforts and mechanisms constitute our priority, in fact. But it can represent a helpful tool to complement UN activity, which retains its central role.

In fact, a number of principles that have been included in the Doha declaration on the mechanism for overseeing the implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption apply to our exercise here – transparency, efficiency, non-interference, and impartiality. We will not produce rankings; rather, we will promote the exchange of views and experiences in a spirit of respect for the specific circumstances of each individual country. Our goals are to establish a compendium of best practices, to stimulate the development of mechanisms for promoting transparency, and to create an environment in which countries can evaluate the implementation of voluntary commitments in a technical, neutral, non-adversarial manner.

We need to be able to harmonize the public demand for greater participation and the use of new technological tools with the realities and managerial conditions of participants. On our part, Brazil is actively working domestically and internationally on issues of transparency and on the fight against corruption. Nationally, we have achieved important developments in promoting budgetary transparency, as the Secretary of State was referring to earlier. We have conceived and implemented an online system that makes it possible for any citizen to access relevant data related to government spending.

We have also created what we call the Transparency Portal – or a template – a website dedicated to publicize all federal expenses, including direct expenses and transfers made by the Federal Government through states, municipalities, and citizens. The portal is updated on a daily basis. In the portal, we also hold the national department list, a list with the names of companies sanctioned by the Federal Public Administration for committing misconducts or administrative offenses and tenders in public contracts. We have committed in our OGP action plan to improve the Transparency Portal and to develop new electronic tools of the same nature. Furthermore, we have launched specific portals for the 2014 soccer World Cup event – and I hope that many of you will attend that – and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

The road ahead will demand a continued engagement on the part of our governments on domestic and international fronts. The OGP can prove helpful in tackling the challenges to come. And we share the basic assumption that we all have lessons to learn. In the recent past, we have seen that even highly developed countries may present inadequacies in terms of transparency. The present exercise derives from a growing awareness since 2008 of the global importance of good practices in terms of transparency, governance, ultimately responsibility. With these assumptions in mind, we have initiated last January the development of a methodology that can offer, at the same time, the flexibility required by each state and the necessary systematization of best practices.

The OGP is thus structured into four pillars. The first is the declaration of principles, which will be open to accession at the next United Nations General Assembly. Each country will then present a plan of action with voluntary commitments and timetables. The third pillar is the reporting mechanism on the implementation of the plan of action. And fourthly, it is understood that participants in the OGP will promote the inclusion in the process of civil society as a whole.

Once again, it is important to highlight that commitments will be voluntary even though there are minimum standards to accede to the initiative. Ladies and gentlemen, Brazilian foreign policy is oriented towards the strengthening of multilateralism. We are fully engaged in the consolidation of more inclusive, legitimate, and effective mechanisms of global governance without reproducing asymmetries from the past. In a context where societies all over the world demand more democratic participation, we wish to foster international cooperation and promote economic development with social justice, thereby enhancing prospects for sustainable peace.

By the end of this exercise, we hope to have built an additional space of mutual understanding and cooperation. This is the spirit which gives sense to this Open Government Partnership, and I thank you. (Applause.)

 


Undersecretary Otero’s Remarks at Open Government Partnership Reception

As prepared

Good evening, and welcome to the Diplomatic Reception Rooms of the State Department. It is a distinct honor to have you all here with us this evening.

I am Maria Otero, the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.

I should start by saying that Secretary Clinton was planning on being here tonight, but was called away to attend the funeral of our former First Lady Betty Ford. And since the Secretary counts ‘First Lady’ among her former titles, it was particularly important that she be there to honor the wonderful life of Mrs. Ford.

This morning, Secretary Clinton joined Brazil’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Patriota, in announcing a new multilateral initiative — The Open Government Partnership — which brings together governments and civil society organizations to improve governance in the 21st century.

Now, many in this room have just come from a full day of thought-provoking presentations and discussions on open government. But before I attempt the difficult task of summarizing such a dynamic day, let me take a step back and say a word about why we are here.

There is no question that, in the 21st century, the tenants and aspirations of democracy are bolstered by the tools and technologies at our disposal. Communication technology and other innovations are knocking down the walls that once kept populations from reaching their elected officials and from influencing public discourse. Never before in the history of self government have we been quite so capable of enhancing transparency, increasing accountability, and promoting civic engagement. And governments around the world are responding in kind:

This morning, we heard about how the government of Iceland is using social media sites to engage citizens in the rewriting of their Constitution.

In Latvia, average citizens can propose ideas for consideration by Parliament, where innovation is translated into legislative reality.

Just last week, the government of Kenya moved bureaucratic mountains by launching a first class open data website. Brazil and South Africa are both pioneering innovative tools to promote budget transparency and foster citizen engagement in budget decision-making.

And around the world, more than 80 countries now have freedom of information laws, a vital step towards open government — up from only 13 in 1990.

Additionally, civil society groups are complimenting and in many cases fueling government efforts towards open government. NGO projects in Tanzania, Uganda, Indonesia, and the Philippines are proving we can decrease the likelihood of corruption in vital government services by encouraging citizens to monitor the disbursement of government funds.

It is this critical exchange and interaction between civil society and governments that makes the Open Government Partnership unique. In addition to being a new partnership among developed and developing nations from every region in the world, OGP is a collaboration between governments and civil society organizations that are committed to making democracies work better for the people. And we are proud that at today’s meeting, well over 60 civil society organizations were represented alongside high-level representatives from nearly 60 nations from every region in the world, all here to address issues of corruption, lack of transparency and lagging civic engagement.

What has become clear, over the course of the past several months and through the discussions here today, is that we are on the leading edge of a new chapter in governance — in which a growing chorus of citizen demands can be met with the tools and processes to answer them.

Gone are the days when mountains of paper files obscure the path to government transparency. Countries from Kenya to Estonia are clearing miles and years of bureaucracy by digitizing citizen records. In Honduras, the government has increased public participation in their budget process by holding public meetings with civil society and high-level government representation throughout the country. And in Mongolia, their Independent Agency Against Corruption is keeping government officials and processes accountable to the people they govern.

These are just a few examples of many in this room tonight. And, though not all countries are as far along as others, we know that a country’s ability to rise to this challenge has little to do with the number of years it has been a democracy. Even the youngest democracies are equipped to join the movement towards open government. Because at its foundation, the Open Government Partnership is nothing more, and nothing less, than the commitment of governments to serve citizens, using the best tools and practices at our disposal in this new era.

Now, let me be clear: this is not just about technology. It is about the responsibility of governments to their citizens. It is about creating organizational change. It is about building on existing practices, expanding them and refining them — so that we are cataloging and communicating in ways that befit the 21st century. It is about a dialogue between government and civil society specifically about opening up governments to its citizens.

I am pleased that several countries have already expressed their strong interest in joining the inaugural members of the Open Government Partnership, including Kenya, Chile, Thailand, Liberia, Moldova, Canada and Israel. Together with our civil society partners, The OGP community of nations will share best practices with one another, as we face shared challenges. Additionally, the Open Government Partnership will advance open government efforts by matching government needs to private sector providers. We are doing this through a new networking mechanism, developed by our partners Global Integrity and the World Bank Institute, which will connect member nations of OGP to private sector experts and resources.

Before I close, I do want to recognize the Steering Committee of the OGP and express our collective thanks. Ladies and Gentlemen, this is collection of extraordinary leaders in open government and I want to thank them for driving this effort forward.

But tonight is not just about the accomplishments of the steering committee. Instead, it is a call to action: To all the countries in this room and beyond who are seriously committed to improving their most basic functions, we invite you to join us.

As Minister Hage reminded us at lunch, democracy means more than regular elections. It also means active citizens; a free press; an independent judiciary and legislature; and transparent and responsive institutions that are accountable to all citizens and protect their rights equally and fairly. None of this is easy. And it is always a work in progress. But by committing together to developing new, better standards of democratic, open governance, we will strengthen our own democracy and do a enormous favor to future generations.

 
 

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