María Otero is the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. On behalf of the United States, she serves as the founding co-chair of the Open Government Partnership.
What was once the beginning of a chapter will graduate to what is really the beginning of a new era of good governance—the era of open.
Good governance 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. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) hews closely to these principles. It is, at its core, about the relationship between a government and its citizens—a relationship that is defined by mutual responsibility and facilitated by dialogue.
Undeniably, technology and access are changing the relationship between a government and its people. Communication networks are enabling citizens to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms, participate in the democratic process, and organize social movements that alter the face of entire regions. As citizens call for change, governments are responding by opening their doors and their data. In this context, governments at the national and local levels have the opportunity to harness citizen input, more easily identify and address inefficiencies and obstacles in service delivery, and create greater impact through public policy and services.
But this trend towards openness goes further than opportunity—to imperative.
At OGP’s first outreach meeting in July 2011, Secretary Clinton elaborated on the dangers of closed societies. She stressed that the failure of government “to earn and hold the trust of its people… 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.” The reality before us is that open government is not just good government; it is smart and sustainable government. That’s why President Obama and Secretary Clinton have made open government a top priority for the United States, both domestically and internationally.
OGP is helping governments respond to the opportunity and the imperative before us. And, significantly, it is enabling us to go beyond the walls of government—to partners in civil society and the private sector—to find and implement the world’s best ideas when it comes to open, efficient, and effective government.
Through OGP, governments and citizens of the world are reviving the linkages that bind them to one another. In September, we witnessed the beginning of a historic chapter in the story of good governance when OGP’s eight founding governments launched their action plans. In April, what was eight will graduate to over 50. And what was once the beginning of a chapter will graduate to what is really the beginning of a new era of good governance—the era of open.