8 May 2014, by Vincent Lazatin and Andreas Pavlou.
Opening up government and tackling corruption are two sides of the same coin that help governments become more accountable and more transparent and help increase citizen participation in government. The Open Government Partnership and the United Nations Convention against Corruption, two different instruments that work to tackle these issues, are both prominent platforms where civil society can work together to promote these shared goals.
Whilst officially the UNCAC and OGP work separately, overlaps mean that many civil society actors and organisations follow and are already engaged in both mechanisms. Indeed, some civil society initiatives such as the Open Government Standards have looked towards linking these kinds of international instruments together via standards on transparency, accountability and participation.
From a civil society perspective, it is logical for both communities to leverage each other’s work to achieve shared goals. Members of the UNCAC Coalition, the foremost network of organisations working on the UN Convention against Corruption, could push for commitments in OGP national action plans which tackle difficult corruption issues. The persuasive economic and social benefits of non-corrupt and open administrations can be championed by open government organisations that would encourage governments to prevent corruption by opening up.
For governments, realising the requirements for UNCAC implementation and going further by adding the open element to it in OGP national action plans not only means they implement international standards and agreements, but they also can increase the benefits beyond those originally envisaged. All of this can be achieved using a constructive relationship with civil society promoted by the OGP and by the UNCAC Coalition as opposed to an us-versus-them mentality.
Consultations and ongoing open dialogue are the key OGP process through which governments engage with a broad number of relevant civil society organisations and actors, and could include members of the UNCAC Coalition, and others. The cyclical process of the UNCAC mechanism means governments work on certain areas to tackle corruption helping them focus resources, and indirectly, the campaigning activities of civil society, too.
Both can be used to maximise the quality and the stretch of commitments governments make in implementing the UNCAC and the second round of OGP national action plans. These may include working towards a code of conduct for public officials, an access to information law that meets the highest international standards, increasing the quantity and quality of proactively published data and information, or even the implementation of transparent public procurement processes and management of public finances.
What we are trying to say is that we are already all working towards the same goals and with the same level of ambition. Whilst some focus on preventing corruption, others focus on opening government so what better way to achieve our common goals of more transparency, more accountability and more citizen participation than to collaborate and push for solid commitments in second OGP national action plans.
About the Authors
Vincent Lazatin is Executive Director of Transparency and Accountability Network and Chair of UNCAC Coalition.
Andreas Pavlou is Communications and Community Coordinator of Access Info Europe.