Twaweza Head Speaks at Opening of the OGP Asia-Pacific Conference

The Head of Twaweza, Rakesh Rajani, spoke at the opening plenary session of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) Asia-Pacific Conference in Bali this week, alongside President SB Yudhoyono of Indonesia. Rakesh is the lead civil society co-chair of the OGP.

Some highlights of Rakesh’s remarks:

"An open government is a listening government. It is genuinely interested in people’s thinking. It wants to know the concerns, needs and priorities of the people, so that the government can respond. What matters more to people? Is it access to water, or is it the quality of the roads? Or is it the bad treatment they receive at the hands of the medical staff, or the fear they experience from the police? Or is it the freedom to live their lives and make personal choices without the government telling them that you can do this, or you cannot do that.

"A listening government asks for ideas from ordinary people and civil society. Imagine, for a moment, the power of that. For an old fisherman or bus driver or cook or teacher – who has been used to the government telling him or her what to do and not do – who is a little scared of government – to now experience government as truly interested in what he thinks or the suggestions she has to solve problems. Imagine what it does for the relationship between the state and the people, what it does to public trust.

"An open government informs and educates. It understands that it needs to explain to the public what is going on in the country, what the government is doing, and the basis of its policy and budget choices. When it is thoughtfully explaining the nature of trade-offs – such as why certain services can be free, and others not, or why hard decisions are being made – it both invites and informs public debates on those choices.

"An open government is also a government that protects. It protects all people, but in particular it protects those who have little power. Here I have two groups in mind. First, it is groups that are traditionally weaker in society or have had less power, that have been disenfranchised or marginalized. Second, an open government protects those who criticise: the whistleblowers who will point out that there is corruption in government, the people who will say in public that they disagree with the policies of the president, they disagree with the pronouncements of the Minister, or they do not agree with the reports that have just been issued and they believe that it does not tell the truth. A truly open government will be known by the attention it gives and the care it takes to protect dissent and those voices in its own society.

"Every member of the Open Government Partnership, every government leader, needs to be able to answer the question “what have I learned?”, “What do you realize you were wrong about?” And throughout, remembering the most important metric for why we are here, which is to ask what difference is this making in the lives of ordinary people.

"This is not easy. Changing the culture and practices of government is not easy. There are no blueprints or easy answers. It will take a lot of humility, curiosity and courage. But with these three things, which are probably the most important qualities of open government, we can move forward."

The full text of Rakesh's remarks, which differs slightly from the actual delivery, is available here.

And finally here's that video::

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