Last month the Open Government Partnership (OGP) celebrated its fifth birthday in the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York. It was an exciting milestone for an organisation which has grown over five short years from an ambitious start-up, run from a single desk, to a truly global movement.
Today the OGP numbers 70 country members and involves hundreds of civil society organisations. Since the Partnership’s launch in 2011, OGP countries have published more than 130 National Action Plans which together include over 3,000 commitments to opening government. This is a remarkable achievement.
As one of the OGP’s eight founding countries, and as a member and former co-chair of the OGP’s Steering Committee, we in the UK take a particular interest and pride in its success. The diversity of countries represented at the OGP meetings and events in New York - including heads of state and government from across the word - is testament to its global appeal and the resonance OGP has with political leaders.
The essence of OGP is its capacity to bring people with passion, optimism and talent together to share and generate ideas and then, most importantly, turn them into concrete actions. Government and civil society must work together in developing National Action Plans, which are published every two years and set out ambitious reforms in each member country. That requires frank and open discussions - and an acceptance that government and civil society won’t agree on everything. But the end result is better and more ambitious policy.
We published our third National Action Plan, developed in collaboration with the Open Government Network, in May this year alongside the Anti-Corruption Summit in London. Today we have published our report showing the progress we have made on the commitments in our second plan, which ran from 2013 to 2015.
And there has been considerable progress. Among the commitments delivered, we have created a publicly-accessible central register of company beneficial ownership information so that it is clear who ultimately owns and controls UK companies; we have issued a transparency code for local authorities, requiring councils to publish a range of data, including on how car parking revenue is spent, grants are awarded to community organisations, and the authority’s constitution. This make it easier for people to shape their local public services. And we have created a cross-government anti-corruption plan to both prevent corruption and enforce penalties against illegal practices.
As we look ahead, our focus turns to implementing the ambitious commitments contained in our third National Action Plan - including plans to substantially improve the quality and transparency of data on government contracts, and to strengthen our national information infrastructure by developing open registers of vital information, including on countries, regions, schools and local authorities. We will continue to work closely with the Open Government Network to monitor the delivery of these commitments, but also to identify and develop new policies that can further strengthen our ambition to be the most open government in the world.
We’re proud of our achievements to date, but aware of how much work remains to be done. The OGP has been an important part of the UK’s open government story - and we look forward to continuing to learn from the OGP community and pushing for even more ambitious commitments in the years to come.