Top 'open government' initiatives from Asia Pacific showcased at regional dialogue

Jul 27, 2016

The dialogue was aimed at raising the ambition level of individual countries’ commitments to open governance, while promoting and deepening collaboration between government and civil society.

More than 100 civil society groups, civil servants and champions of open governance gathered at a dialogue in Manila last week to explore possibilities of how countries in Asia and the Pacific can learn from each other in ensuring transparent and efficient public services for their citizens.

The Open Government Partnership Support Unit and UNDP Bangkok Regional Hub, supported by IBM Philippines, co-organized the 2016 Asia-Pacific Regional Dialogue, hosted by the Asian Development Bank on July 21st and 22nd at their headquarters in Manila, Philippines.

The dialogue aimed at raising the ambition level of individual countries’ commitments to open governance, while promoting and deepening collaboration between government and civil society.

The Philippines Secretary of Budget and Management Benjamin Diokno delivered the keynote address. Local government leaders from Bojonegoro (Indonesia), the Seoul Metropolitan Government (Republic of South Korea) and Tbilisi (Georgia) attended the event and shared their experience of participating in OGP’s Pilot Program and how  it  helped them deliver better services for their citizens.

The workshop provided civil servants and civil society representatives with an opportunity to share challenges and opportunities to address pressing issues in their countries in their forthcoming 2016-2018 OGP National Action Plans.

The discussions covered a range of diverse topics, including open data, fiscal and legislative openness, openness in natural resources, public service delivery, how the implementation and monitoring of open government initiatives can be strengthened to deliver better results and how open governance can be used to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Open government is not an end, it is a means to engage citizens in the public affairs of their country, founded on the pillars of transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.

The linkages to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 16, whose targets also address access to information, inclusive, accountable and transparent institution, rule of law, are evident. However open governance brings opportunities for an improved public service delivery across all sectors, thus contributing to many other SDGs (health, education, gender equality, etc.).

As a result of a call for information from UNDP and OGP for “Transforming our world through open government” the following top three initiatives with the highest potential to achieve the SDGs were presented during the event by both OGP countries and non-participating countries:

1.    “Community initiatives for Common Understanding” in Nepal: This initiative, led by Saferworld, enhances community capacity, especially of youth and marginalized individuals, to engage in local development processes in 15 Village Development Committees across five districts.

2.    “Check my service” in Mongolia: This initiative, led by DEMO, has so far assessed 84 public services across different sectors by end-users through Community Score Cards. This approach has already proven its replicability in other countries in the region.

3.     “Citizen Satisfaction Index” in Pakistan:  This initiative, led by UNDP Pakistan, measures citizen satisfaction with a range of public sector services. The Index complements traditional supply side statistics and grounds government data in actual citizen experiences in public service delivery.

These three initiatives were selected because of their innovative approach to enhance transparency, accountability and people’s engagement, especially of disadvantaged and marginalized communities, in an effort to ensure that no one is left behind.

All of these initiatives had also managed to achieve tangible results in terms of improved service delivery thanks to a sound partnership between the government and the civil society where people were actively engaged in shaping the policies of their community through consultations and feedback mechanisms.

For example in Nepal, the setting up of “village development committees” enabled community members (including women and those from marginalized casts and ethnic groups) to identify the main problems afflicting their communities and work hand in hand with the local government in developing appropriate solutions.

On the other hand in Mongolia and Pakistan, the data collected from the service users – including those coming from the most marginalized areas – are utilized by government agencies for policy planning and for developing action plans to improve service delivery.

UNDP has been supporting globally open government efforts for many years, which initially focused on the use of new technologies for increasing transparency, improving efficiency of public service delivery and ensuring access to information. Currently more and more initiatives supported by UNDP aim at fostering civic engagement, empowering citizens to advocate for their rights, to demand quality of service, as well as to monitor government activities.

Phil Matsheza, Governance and Peacebuilding Team Leader for UNDP at the BRH, explained at the Regional Dialogue how “the UNDP architecture, which ensures presence at the global, regional and country level, makes it possible  to  support countries implementing social accountability initiatives and public service reforms”.

Service delivery is an area where impact can be huge as there is potential to reach the most marginalized.
“Today the SDGs give us an unprecedented opportunity to continue supporting countries to institutionalize governance and inclusive development. This will be possible especially at the local level, where the institutions are closer to the citizens, and their involvement can be maximized.”

“All the reformers present at the workshop”, Mr. Sanjay Pradhan, OGP CEO, said, “share a common passion: to amplify the voices of those who do not have a voice, to fulfil the primary goal that the governments really serve their people and not themselves”.

Meeting this challenge is not an easy task, as demonstrated by the low levels of implementation of the open government commitments. However, in less than five years OGP was able to grow extremely fast, in terms of the number of countries joining the initiative.

Now it is time to pursue results bringing forward impactful results and transformative change, which citizen will be able to experience in their everyday life, liaising with open, transparent, accountable and efficient institutions. Building strong coalitions among different stakeholders is fundamental, from Government to civil society, from private sector to media, with the support of development partners.

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