20 April 2012
It will be interesting to see what eventuates from the commitments of participating states at the Open Government Partnership meeting in Brasilia. This first High Level meeting which wound up yesterday got underway earlier in the week with encouragement from Hillary Clinton.
The Secretary of State spoke of strengthening … “a global ethos of transparency and accountability… to help make the Open Government Partnership a leader in ensuring that the 21st century is an era of openness, transparency, accountability, freedom, democracy, and results for people everywhere.”
It was different from many international events because in addition to the usual member governments more than 200 civil society organisations took part. It was also different because of the poor showing from Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. Only Indonesia, South Korea and the Philippines were represented (and Russia if its Pacific credentials count.) Mongolia took part but otherwise no other country further “east’ than Azerbaijan – important in its own right as the first democratic and secular state in the Muslim world.
Australia and New Zealand, despite commitments to the accessibility of official data were notably absent from this conference to promote open government elsewhere in the world. A critical observation by the writer of the Australian Open and Shut blog is that countries are known by the company they keep – implying that the Australian and New Zealand absence aligns them with countries less interested in good government.
Another irony is that a blog was launched earlier this month to promote the conference and its proceedings. But no post has been added this week of the conference! Something has happened to participants’ enthusiasm for sharing information.
A symbolic action by Hillary Clinton was the announcement that she would… “be sending policy guidance to every U.S. Embassy worldwide on modernizing technology through diplomacy. We want to open up the State Department not only to U.S. citizens, but to people everywhere, because in keeping with the principles of open government and this partnership, we believe that when people are empowered to speak their minds and leaders are held to account for their actions, we all do better.”