2018’s corruption-focused summits must turn promises into action

Corruption continued to dominate headlines across the world in 2017. It ended political careers, motivated citizens to organize and advocate for reform, and was spurred by another major leak of documents revealing money laundering and elite capture in the Paradise Papers.

It is one of the most challenging open government topics facing the world today.

In 2018 the international summit architecture has turned its focus to corruption. At the end of January, the African Union meeting theme was “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”, and this will be continued in the mid-year follow-up summit in Mauritania.

This trend continues to Paris for the OECD forum in March, to Lima in April where the Summit of the Americas is focused on “Democratic Governance against Corruption”, to the OGP Global Summit in Georgia in July, to the International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC) in Denmark in October, and finally to the G20 at the end of 2018 in Argentina.

These should be important moments to secure high-level commitments that shift the incentives and political dynamics that are at the heart of corruption, yet often global summits result in little more than communiques with warm words but too little action.

The Open Government Partnership presents an opportunity to do things differently. The Government of Georgia and civil society leader Mukelani Dimba have made integrating anti-corruption reforms into OGP one of their co-chair priorities. 76 OGP members (56 national and 20 subnational) will be drafting new open government action plans in 2018.

These plans are co-created by government and civil society, and typically contain reforms designed to tackle corruption. They focus on the implementation of specific reforms, making them the ideal places to translate high level international commitments into real action and reform.

In fact, OGP has a track record of being this global-local transmission mechanism around the London Anti-Corruption Summit in 2016. Close to 20 countries advanced their summit pronouncements in the form of concrete commitments in their OGP action plans, ensuring accountability for their implementation.

These ranged from commitments to establish beneficial ownership registers in Kenya and Nigeria, to Italy creating the data infrastructure to implement the Open Data Charter.

OGP has also increasingly prioritised anti-corruption as a theme. The OGP 2016 Paris Declaration, which uniquely for a summit communique was co-created by governments and civil society, identified at least four major areas of anti-corruption reform that the partnership wants to see progress on:

  • Transparency on lobbying and on the role of money in politics;
  • Ending abuse of anonymous companies
  • Transparency and accountability in the extractives sector
  • Open contracting.

In 2018, OGP is encouraging all its partners in government and civil society to be more ambitious in terms of anti-corruption reform, to help rebuild trust with citizens and tackle elite capture and grand corruption that is perpetuating inequality.

Given 2018 has this helpful combination of high-level summits and OGP action plans, there is a huge opportunity to make progress on these four topics.

An ideal year of progress would begin with Heads of State and senior ministers from Africa, the Americas and OECD countries signalling their intent to prioritise anti-corruption reforms, in particular around procurement, politics, lobbying and the abuse of anonymous companies.

In early May most of the 76 OGP members will have started their co-creation of 2018 action plans, and during a soon-to-be-announced global Open Gov Week where we encourage civil society to show up and advocate for ambitious anti-corruption reforms to be included.

In July the OGP community comes together in Georgia, where we will host a track of summit sessions on anti-corruption and include practical trainings and peer learning events on OGP’s four priority areas.

Finally, leading OGP members will be invited to the IACC to showcase the most transformative anti-corruption reforms they are implementing. The G20 can similarly act as a global to local moment, with countries giving updates on their anti-corruption work and pledging to use OGP to follow up.

By the end of 2018, if the open government community grasps this opportunity, there will be a significant increase in the number of transformative anti-corruption reforms being implemented which get to the heart of the current challenges many countries are facing.

Powell is Deputy CEO of Open Government Partnership (OGP)

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