“In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. And now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundations of freedom in our own countries, while living up to the ideals that can light the world.”
--President Barack Obama, September 23, 2010
On September 23, 2010, President Obama challenged the members of the United Nations General Assembly to work together to make all governments more open and accountable to their people. To meet that challenge, in July 2011, the United States and Brazil announced the creation of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) – a global initiative that supports efforts to promote more transparent, effective, and accountable institutions globally. The OGP effort builds directly on steps President Obama has taken since the first full day of his Administration to strengthen democracy and promote a more efficient and effective government through greater openness.
And today, as part the OGP effort, the U.S. and other members of the OGP Steering Committee are coming together in New York to welcome new members to the partnership and to unveil Open Government National Action Plans. As we developed a U.S. National Action Plan (“National Plan”), the Federal Government engaged in extensive consultations with external stakeholders, including a broad range of civil society groups and members of the private sector. We solicited input from the Administration’s own Open Government Working Group, comprised of senior-level representatives from executive branch departments and agencies. White House policymakers also engaged the public via a series of blog posts, requesting ideas about how to focus Open Government efforts on increasing public integrity, more effectively managing public resources, and improving public services.
Among the highlights of the Plan:
- “We the People.” The White House announced the launch of the “We the People” petition platform to give Americans a direct line to voice their concerns to the Administration via online petitions. In addition, the Administration plans to publish the source code of the new “We the People” petition platform so that it is available to any government around the world that seeks to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public.
- Whistleblower Protection. Recently, Congress nearly enacted whistleblower legislation that would eliminate loopholes in existing protections, provide protections for employees in the intelligence community, and create pilot programs to explore potential structural reforms in the remedial process. The Administration will continue to work with Congress to enact this legislation. But if Congress remains deadlocked, the Administration will explore options for utilizing executive branch authority to strengthen and expand whistleblower protections.
- Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. The U.S. is committing to implementing the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI). EITI requires governments to publicly disclose their revenues from oil, gas, and mining assets, and for companies to make parallel disclosures regarding payments. By signing onto the global standard that EITI sets, the U.S. Government can help ensure that American taxpayers are receiving every dollar due for the extraction of these valuable public resources.
Other initiatives include: expanding the use of technology to achieve greater efficiencies in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) administration; overhaul the public participation interface on regulations.gov to help the public find, follow, and participate in Federal rulemakings; and launching ExpertNet, a platform to communicate with citizens who have expertise on a pertinent topic. There are a lot of exciting initiatives in our Plan – too many to recount in this post – but you can view the full plan here .
At the President’s State of the Union Address in January 2011, he said that the American people deserve a government that is “open and competent.” Building on the efforts inaugurated by the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the President’s continued leadership, we look forward to the work ahead.