On December 2, 2016, Open Government Partnership (OGP) held an information session about its work to push for governments to become more open and transparent during the event “The Case for Space: Youth at the Centre of 2030 Agenda.”
While 70 governments around the world have joined the Open Government Partnership, few countries in the Asia Pacific have joined. In South Asia and Southeast Asia, only Indonesia, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka have joined.
Nepal is one of the countries that is not a member of the OGP. Brabim Kumar, 30, a former president of Nepal’s National Youth Organization, thinks that Nepal should join Open Government Partnership to ensure a better management of donations pouring into the country after the earthquake in 2015.
Speaking at the conference, Kumar said: “After the earthquake, more than 500,000 people were left homeless. A lot of money came into the government and NGOs in Nepal. But we don’t know how the money is managed. It makes sense to have our system be more transparent.”
University student Vineet John Samuel, 20, from Hyderabad, India, believes that transparency is necessary for a peaceful future. He also thinks that it is difficult to push for transparency when the government prohibits public assembly, the only way to effect change from his perspective.
“If you have even half of [India’s 1.2 billion] people disenfranchised, if they believe that the government isn’t acting in their interest but in the interest of a few select families and corporates, they have no reason to go out there to vote, and they have no reason to support the government,” says John Samuel. “And if that continues for a long time, there’s a very good chance that they will get exasperated and turn to violent means, and that has happened in several parts of the country already.”
Open Government Partnership (OGP) was launched in 2011 to provide an international platform for domestic reformers committed to approaching and pushing their governments to become more open, accountable, transparent and responsive to citizens.
Membership of OGP does not mean that a government has achieved concrete steps towards more transparency and openness, however. Shreya Basu, OGP’s Regional Civil Society Coordinator for Asia Pacific says during the information session:
“I would like to emphasize that entry into the Open Government Partnership is not a seal of approval of how open the government is, but rather a test of whether you at least have basic institutions required to make this partnership work in the first place.”
Raisa Serafica, 24, a journalist at Rappler Philippines, is optimistic about the future of more open and more transparent governance.
“Like in every other effort, the Philippines is still in the process of taking baby steps towards effectively establishing the mechanisms to actually promote transparency for example. We’re getting there, I’m sure, and eventually we’ll be able to see long-term effects and positive results of open government in the Philippines,” Serafica says.
Sarem Rim, 27, a representative from the Indigenous Peoples’ Network in Cambodia, is less optimistic.
Rim, a person of Kuy ethnicity from northern Kampong Thom province, says he does not believe that Cambodia’s implementation of Sustainable Development Goals will have any effect on Cambodia’s indigenous communities.
“We indigenous people are left behind. We feel that we are not getting any information from the government. They hide something from us and they don’t give information to us,” says Rim. “For example, when the government wants to have a Development Zone in the provinces, they just approve the project and don’t ask the people about the project. That’s why it’s not transparent.”
This December, France will host its fourth OGP Global Summit 2016 in Paris, where the 70 member countries and hundreds of civil society organizations will share their experiences and push for an agenda for open government in light of global challenges.
(Copyright: UNESCO/Heng Oudom & Peera Songkünnatham — this content was first published as part of the Youth Newsroom of the Regional Roundtable “Youth at the Heart of the Agenda 2030: The Case for Space” here: http://www.case4space.org/newsroom)