One year and a half ago, concepts like, good governance, openness, rule of law, transparency, accountability, zero-corruption tolerance sounded hollow and hazy words that meant nothing for Tunisian people
In his opening speech at the Brasilia 2012 OGP annual conference, Hedi Ben Abbes, Tunisian Secretary of State Foreign Affairs for the Americas and Asia, said that “open government” is a revolutionary concept in his country.
However, things are slowly changing, and the Arab Spring has been as much a revolution about politics as it has been a revolution about ideas and concepts. Open government is certainly one of them.
Today, the Secretary of State underlined, the very quality of life of the Tunisian people depends on those words, and it is up to the government to redefine them with them. For him citizens should be able to feel the advantages of an open government in their daily life. Ben Abbess mentioned in an interview (NB: in French) a very good example: a citizen who knows the budget and expenses of his or her municipality, and has the possibility to discuss decisions relating to them, is a more responsible citizen, who will pay taxes more willingly and will be more involved.
Ben Abbes said that to date a number of public policy measures have been implemented to demonstrate the government’s commitment to open government. To start with, a Ministry of good governance has been created to fight corruption and to introduce regulatory mechanisms which will improve the overall transparency of activities such as public procurement. Individual open-government measures in the past month have included an online public consultation on working hours and the publication of government budgets online. The Tunisian government is also looking beyond its borders, as it is aware of the importance of a transparent and open environment to attract foreign investments. Transparency is also a key area of discussion in Tunisia-EU partnership agreement.
A series of private initiatives have also developed which call for more openness and transparency. Within the newly established Constituent Assembly a new group was set up, called OpengovTN. This group of activists, which includes members from all political parties and non-parliamentarians, created the campaign “7ell!” which means “Open Up!”. In the Assembly, if a law contradicts the concept of open governance, representatives put up a sign that says “7ell”, “Open up!”. The objective is a government that works with the citizens to develop policies together.
Tunisia will present its action plan at the next annual meeting, which will take place in London in the spring 2013. In the meanwhile, Ben Abbes suggested that, to involve civil society in the process, it would be good to open an OGP office in Tunis for the region, managed by civil society and completely independent from the government.
The video clip above was made during Brasilia 2012, the Open Government Partnership Annual conference held in Brasilia on 17th and 18th of April. It is part of a series of video clips that we will be posting in the course of the year. You can find the other 50+ videos on the OGP YouTube channel.