OECD Secretary-General

Roundtable for Ministers on Open Government - opening remarks


OECD Global Forum on Open Government

Roundtable for Ministers

Remarks by Angel Gurría,

OECD Secretary-General

OECD, Paris, 8 December 2016

(As prepared for delivery) 



Distinguished Ministers, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,


It is my pleasure to open this Roundtable on Open Government. Let me begin by thanking the Government of France, and in particular Minister of State Jean-Vincent Placé, and Mr. Sanjay Pradhan, the CEO of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), for co-hosting this important discussion. I would also like to thank Lord Francis Maude, a founding Minister of the OGP, for joining us today.


The presence here of more than 30 Ministers and 60 delegations from OECD Member and Partner countries shows the strength of our shared commitment to promote open governments. It also reveals the real importance of this topic for our governments.


Complex challenges still confront all countries


We’ve come together in a time of heightened uncertainty. World growth is still stumbling along at around 3%. Trade growth is slower still. Together with that, inflation remains below target almost everywhere, despite central bank policy rates remaining near or even below zero. Most of the signs of the ‘low-growth trap’ that we have been talking about for a long time are still there.


Meanwhile, poor growth outcomes combined with high inequality and stagnant incomes are further complicating the political environment and increasing challenges facing policy makers. Many countries are experiencing growing political disaffection, an erosion of trust, anti-market sentiment and disenchantment with globalisation, largely provoked by the anxiety of those who feel left out.


Governments are therefore facing growing pressure to deliver, to do more with scarce and to explain how they spend scares public resources. So today’s discussion on open governments to promote the well-being of citizens could not be more timely!


Significant progress has been made in achieving open governments


Over the past decade, countries have come a long way towards establishing the conditions for open governments, evolving from an initial focus on increasing transparency to more ambitious goals, such as fostering democracy and inclusive growth. As expressed yesterday evening by French Foreign Minister Ayrault, open government is an essential ingredient to achieving democracy and peace. 


This global movement was epitomised by the launch of the Open Government Partnership in 2011 under the leadership of Brazil and the United States, and today under the able Chairmanship of France.


And much has been achieved to this date. Italy, for example, has established a permanent Forum where 20 public administrations and 54 civil society organisations meet regularly to co-design public sector reforms.


Chile has created a one-stop shop for public services for citizens called “ChileAtiende”, and thanks to which ordinary Chileans have saved up to 2.2 million hours of their time between 2012 and 2014, the equivalent of USD 14.9 million in saved labour costs!


However, significant challenges persist


These are very important achievements, but we still face significant challenges. Until now, open government reforms and citizen participation initiatives have been built on loosely defined concepts, and implemented with inconsistent methodologies.


We launched the OECD’s new report “Open Government: The Global Context and the Way Forward” this morning. Thank you Minister Placé for joining us at this event. The report confirms that while almost half of all countries surveyed have a national open government strategy; however, only 54% of them evaluate the impact of their open government reforms.


This imbalance is also confirmed by our Regulatory Quality Indicators, which show that only 7 out of 34 OECD countries publish a performance report on their consultations on draft regulations.


This means that even though countries are starting to engage and consult with their national stakeholders, they don’t yet know if they are doing it in the most effective way or how to improve the process.


Towards a more and better open government


For open government reforms to achieve their full potential, we need the participation of all branches of power, the judiciary and legislative branches, as well as local governments and independent institutions. We need to shift from an ‘open government’ to an ‘open state’, a key recommendation of our Open Government report. There are examples of countries who are taking this road – in Costa Rica for instance. But more needs to be done.


As such, open government initiatives must serve a much wider range of policy objectives. For example, there are clear broader social benefits in the area of public procurement – which accounts for almost 30% of public spending on average in OECD countries. Around 57% of foreign bribery cases between 1999 and 2013 were linked to public procurement contracts.


By increasing the transparency of procurement processes, governments have levelled the playing field for businesses; countered corruption; and eliminated clientelism. This has led to increased competition, encouraging investment and ultimately lowering costs for the taxpayer and rebuilding trust in government.


UN Sustainable Development Goal 16 (on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) provides perhaps the most prominent example of how open government reforms can support broader objectives.


Indonesia, for instance, was among the first countries to link open government reform efforts to the SDGs. By creating bodies tasked with supporting open government reforms and the SDGs, and ensuring institutional linkages between those bodies, Indonesia is well-placed to demonstrate how governments can tie open government reforms to other broad reform efforts.


Despite these examples, in the absence of internationally recognised principles and benchmarks, countries are to exchange good practices and develop evidence-based policy making for an open state.


In this respect, we are establishing a task force to bring together OECD Member and Partner countries, civil society and international organisations, to define international principles on open state and relevant indicators to measure progress and impacts of open government reforms. I encourage all of you to join us!


Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, trust in government has declined to an average of only 43% in OECD countries. Open governments are fundamental to recover that trust and to build sustainable and inclusive economies. Count on the OECD to achieve this crucial endeavour. Thank you.