UK Minister Stresses Tying Aid to Transparency

6 February 2012

A top United Kingdom minister Jan. 30 said progress on transparency will be an important factor in British foreign aid decisions.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, spoke at the World Bank about the ascendency of transparency in the U.K. and internationally. The U.K. is in line to co-chair the Open Government Partnership, a multilateral effort by 52 countries to commit to more openness.

“So we have brought the principles of the Open Government Partnership into our aid programme to ensure when deciding whether governments will receive UK budget support, progress against Open Government Partnership will be an important factor,” Maude stated, according to an advance text of his speech. (Watch the video at here.)

He also said:

We are at the beginning of global movement towards transparency. And it’s forcing governments out of their comfort zone. By enabling citizens to hold them to account on a day to day basis not just at election time.

Citing a variety of examples, Maude said, “Governments are finding transparency risky, difficult and uncomfortable. But transparency sticks – it’s irreversible once you start. And I believe transparency will become the defining characteristic of future public policy.” 

He said “the theme of our leadership [of the OGP] will be transparency driving prosperity and combating poverty.”

After reviewing open data efforts in the U.K. and their advantages, Maude said:

These are the first formative years of this new Age of Open Data. And there are risks and challenges ahead. But the prize is effective personalised 21st century democracy.

Transparency will create empowered citizens that can expose corruption, get the best value out of their governments and have equal access to valuable raw data.

Going forward, he said:

We need a much better international source book that supports Open Government Partnership members engaging with transparency.

We should be importing and exporting our transparency techniques, our Open Data challenges and the lessons we have learnt from our mistakes.

And finally we are moving from Open Government to an Open Society.

There is increasing pressure on businesses and voluntary groups and charities to be open and transparent. At home we are currently debating whether businesses should publish executive pay.

But businesses and other organisations have much to gain from releasing their data. Many are already finding that outsourcing data to academics and developers for free will gain them cutting edge techniques and new perspectives.

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In this column, Washington, D.C.-based journalist Toby J. McIntosh reports on the latest developments in information disclosure in International Financial and Trade Institutions (IFTI).
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