News 27th June 2013

Publication of the UK’s Draft Open Government Action Plan: Statement from the UK Open Government Partnership civil society network

by Tim Hughes

Tim is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network.

Today (27 June 2013) sees the publication of the UK’s draft Open Government Action Plan, which has been developed with extensive input from members of this civil society network.

The draft plan sets out the case for enhanced transparency, participation and accountability in government, acknowledges the need for the UK to take a lead in pushing forward open government internationally, and includes a number of important open government commitments. We welcome the commitments the UK Government has made to open government through the Open Government Partnership and other domestic and international forums, and are eager to see these move forward into concerted action.

That said, there are a number of areas in which we feel the Government can and needs to do more. These issues are outlined in Annex A of the plan, and members of the civil society network will be issuing responses to the plan on areas of concern to them. Over the coming months we hope to work with government departments to agree commitments on a number of these issues for inclusion in the final plan.

As stated in the plan:

Through regular meetings at the Open Data Institute and online collaboration, the draft action plan, and subsequently the commitments, has been drafted with extensive participation from civil society, with notes of meetings and working documents published along the way to ensure transparency and facilitate engagement.

The process of developing this draft action plan has, in many ways, illustrated the promise and challenge of open government. The engagement of members of the civil society network in the development of the action plan has, we believe, resulted in a broader and more ambitious draft plan than would otherwise have been the case. However, the process has reinforced the importance of having realistic expectations of what can be achieved, recognising that collaboration and engagement requires time and resources, and the need to challenge ourselves to be ever more open and inclusive.

While we have found agreement on some issues, there are other areas in which we feel the Government is in serious danger of undermining its open government credentials if it continues on its current path.

In the next phase of the drafting of the National Action Plan, we will devote our attention to:

  • Engaging more people from civil society and government in the process of finalising the National Action Plan.

  • Widening the open government conversation beyond civil society organisations and into businesses and the public

  • Working with government ministers and officials to develop commitments in areas where there is prospect for agreement.

  • Campaigning and challenging the government in the areas that it is not making progress or moving in the wrong direction.

Signed by:

Simon Burall & Tim Hughes, Involve (UK OGP civil society network coordinators)

Tim Davies, Practical Participation

Anthony Zacharzewski, Democratic Society

Alan Hudson, ONE

Andrew Palmer, Development Initiatives

Melissa Lawson, Tearfund

David Hall-Matthews, Publish What You Fund

Anne Thurston, International Records Management Trust

Emily Gerrard, Development Research and Training

Javier Ruiz, Open Rights Group

Cathy James & Andrew Parsons, Public Concern at Work

Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay UK

Rachel Davies, Transparency International UK

Claire Schouten, Integrity Action

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