News 5th November 2013

Publication of the UK’s second Open Government Partnership National Action Plan

by Tim Hughes

Tim is coordinator of the UK Open Government Network.

At last week’s Open Government Partnership (OGP) Summit, the UK published its second OGP National Action Plan. This marked the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work by government officials and civil society network members to develop, scrutinise and reach compromise on the commitments to be included in the plan. The final result can be found at this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/open-government-partnership-uk-national-action-plan-2013/open-government-partnership-uk-national-action-plan-2013-to-2015

Here is the civil society network’s foreword to the action plan:

Open government is critical to the wellbeing and empowerment of citizens around the world. It helps to ensure that those who take decisions that affect people’s lives are properly accountable and responsive to the public – supporting the effective, equitable and sustainable use of resources, delivery of public services and exercise of authority.

Citizens around the world are demanding ever more openness from their governments and other powerful actors in society. This is no less true in the UK than anywhere else. The UK public are demanding to know, and to have a say in, how public money is spent, how decisions are made and who influences them, who the owners of companies are and how much tax they pay, how UK companies operate overseas, and how public services are delivered and what their results are.

We welcome the progress made by the government in this National Action Plan on a number of important open government issues. Areas where we especially endorse the government’s commitments include beneficial ownership, transparency of aid flows and the global extractive (oil, gas and mining) industries. We had hoped to reach stronger and more ambitious commitments in several areas, and there are some issues, such as freedom of information and lobbying transparency, on which many of us disagree with the government and urge it to reconsider its current position.

Overall, however, we believe that the commitments included in this plan represent positive steps towards greater openness.

We particularly commend the commitment to openness demonstrated in the development of this plan by officials from the Cabinet Office Transparency Team, as well as government teams involved in drafting commitments. While not every commitment in the plan has been endorsed by every named organisation, we have all participated in a process of dialogue with government on the contents of this action plan. As is recognised by the Open Government Partnership, civil society has a critical role to play in promoting the rights and interests of citizens and challenging governments to be more accountable and responsive to the public. The formation of country national action plans provides governments with the opportunity to put into practice the principles of open government by including voices from civil society.

While the development of this plan has not been without its challenges and disagreements, we believe the process has itself demonstrated the benefits of greater openness. The result is a set of stronger and better thought through commitments with greater prospects for delivery than would otherwise have been the case. We commit to continue to work with and constructively challenge the government to fulfil our shared ambition of becoming the “most open and transparent government in the world”.

Signatories:

Article 19
CAFOD
Campaign for Freedom of Information
Compact Voice
Construction Sector Transparency Initiative
The Democratic Society
Development Initiatives
Global Witness
Institution of Civil Engineers
Integrity Action
International Records Management Trust
Involve
Macmillan Cancer Support
ONE
OpenCorporates
Open Knowledge Foundation
Open Rights Group
Oxfam
Public Concern At Work
Publish What You Fund
Publish What You Pay UK
Tearfund
Transparency International UK

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