The demand from citizens for open, honest and accountable governments is common across the world. Any government that does not respond risks its legitimacy.
Today, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which has civic participation at its core, is launching a prize to recognize innovation in citizen engagement from the 63 participating countries. The Open Government Awards will become an annual event, and this year’s winners will be announced at a high-level event in September on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.
No government has a monopoly on good ideas or can thrive without feedback. The Awards will recognize government reformers and their civil society partners who are finding creative ways to open up government to citizen input and oversight. This is never an easy process. It challenges both government and civil society to take risks, but the returns can be immense. By establishing cultures and practices of public engagement, welcoming criticism and new ideas, governments can spur growth and development and foster greater trust.
In practice, this means providing citizens and civil society access to government information, personnel and decision-making processes. By requiring governments to consult with civil society in developing and implementing OGP national action plans, OGP provides a useful platform for collaboration. In keeping with this spirit, the OGP Awards strongly encourage joint applications from government and civil society, and require at least one letter of validation from a civil society organization. An independent panel of judges – including experts from government, civil society, and the private sector – will select the winners.
Our guiding principle for this year’s Awards is that every initiative has to demonstrate marked improvements in the design or implementation of public policies and services – and show how it did so through engaging citizens. So while the Awards seek to reward innovation, they are equally about results. From the outset, we have understood that the most important metric of success in OGP is not lofty commitments, but real change in the lives of people. By showcasing real examples of progress in open government, we hope to inspire learning and action and delivery in a ‘race to the top’ across member countries.
Opening up government to citizen’ ideas and oversight is not easy and not always popular. This is a chance for government reformers and civil society partners to be recognized internationally for their efforts, and to build political support for sustaining their work. You can help identify these efforts on the Awards website. Registration must be completed by the end of May so we encourage applications to start soon.
Dr Kuntoro Mangkusubroto is Head of the President's Delivery Unit for Development, Monitoring & Oversight in Indonesia, and government co-chair of OGP.
Rakesh Rajani is Head of Twaweza, and civil-society co-chair of OGP.