The Open Government Pioneers Project has been set up to build the capacity of citizens and civil society across the United Kingdom to contribute and input to policy-making and service delivery in progressing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), in partnership with the Wales Council for Voluntary Organisations (WCVA), Involve, and Northern Ireland Environment Link, has been awarded a £500k Big Lottery Fund grant to work together over two years to support people to engage and challenge their governments to serve them better. There will be a particular focus in supporting people who are not normally heard in the decisions that affect them, and the connection between citizens and devolved governments of the UK home nations.
The project is formally linked to the international Open Government Partnership, where governments and civil society have been given an equal say in the commitments made by 70 countries to be more open. It will use open government commitments to help people secure progress towards the SDGs to eradicate poverty, tackle inequality and sustain natural resources at home and abroad.
How the project will work
We will focus on our core belief, that everyone should have the opportunity to take part in the decisions that will shape their future. To put it simply, we want to see people have more of a say in the issues that matter to them. We want to see that nobody gets left behind.
In doing so, we will use the UK’s membership in the Open Government Partnership, and Scotland’s new status as a pioneer for open government, as a mechanism for promoting and securing dialogue and debate between people, communities and government in the pursuit of the Global Goals.
The Open Government Partnership is a global platform launched in 2011 to promote transparency, accountability and openness in all aspects of government. In May 2016, Scotland – alongside cities like Paris and San Paolo and states including Ontario and Jalisco – was announced as one of 15 ‘sub-national’ governments and civil society partnerships worldwide invited into the partnership to be part of a pioneer programme of open government.
This gives Scotland a prominent role at the devolved level in championing citizen participation, co-production of policy and services, and techniques such as participatory budgeting, which are designed to make government and public resources more responsive to people’s needs and interests. This development takes the principles of open government to levels of governance closer to citizen’s everyday interests.
Open government is critical to the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals in a number of ways:
- Social justice - At the heart of pursuing the SDGs are fundamental issues of politics and power, which affect the prioritisation of outcomes and distribution of resources. The institutions that make these trade-offs must be open, responsive and accountable to citizens, particularly those who are typically excluded.
- Complex problems - It's widely recognised that complex outcomes, such as those outlined in the SDGs, require concerted action from a multiple actors, including governments and civil society to achieve. Governments must therefore partner with, and support, citizens and civil society towards the goals.
- Better outcomes - There is a growing body of evidence which reveals that good open government reforms result in better, more equitable decisions, improved public services, and better outcomes for citizens.
What the project will do
Our approach will be multi-channelled and collaborative, working with different audiences in building a network of people and organisations to support opening up the process through which government works towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
In doing so, we hope to remove the barriers and structures that prevent a conversation between government and people from taking place. We will do so by:
- Building confidence, awareness and solidarity between people on challenging and engaging their governments
- Raising Interest, awareness and understanding of how a more open government approach can improve the operating environment for organisations and the people they support.
- Supporting a cultural change within government towards more open government approaches in building a better society
By promoting the principles of accountability, participation and openness, the process by which the UK and devolved nations pursue the 2030 Agenda will become more manageable and effective with people and communities better understanding the choices that affect them and feeling more control over those that are made
Background to Sustainable Development Goals and Open Government
Launched by the United Nations in November 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, encompass an ambitious set of social, economic and environmental targets. Based on human rights, and unlike their predecessors the Millennium Development Goals, they apply universally, with developing and developed countries alike required to take action to eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and manage their impact on energy use and climate.
The Open Government Partnership is global platform launched at the United Nations in September 2011, designed to promote transparency, accountability and openness in all aspects of governance, including information and data, policy and decision-making, and public service delivery. Uniquely, to participate, governments MUST partner on an equal basis with civil society. More than 70 countries have so far committed to its ambitious reform aims and it is increasingly being viewed as an important means by which countries will achieve their SDG targets.
The UK government was one of the founding members of the Open Government Partnership. In response, civil society in the UK formed the UK Open Government Network to collaborate with and challenge the UK Government to introduce robust and ambitious reforms. Since then, engagement with the OGP has broadened to the devolved nations, with civil society networks being formed in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and governments agreeing to contribute commitments towards a joint UK Open Government Action Plan. This presents a solid foundation on which to build towards open governance reform, and progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, in May 2016 Scotland was announced as one of 15 ‘sub-national’ governments and civil society partnerships worldwide to be part of a pioneer programme to take the principles of open government to levels of governance closer to citizen’s everyday interests. Alongside cities like Paris, France and San Paolo, Brazil, rural regions of Indonesia and Kenya, and states such as Ontario, Canada and Jalisco, Mexico, Scotland will have a prominent role in championing citizen participation, co-production of policy and services, and techniques such as participatory budgeting, which are designed to make government and public resources more responsive to people’s needs and interests.
This global pioneer status gives us a phenomenal and ground-breaking opportunity to lead the world in social change. In Scotland, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations is the lead civil society ‘point of contact’ for the pioneer programme and is being encouraged and supported by our sister organisations and open government civil society networks elsewhere in the UK and Ireland, to lead from the front in the ‘race to the top’ of global practice.