FOREIGN PRESS CENTER WITH MARIA OTERO, UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DEMOCRACY AND GLOBAL AFFAIRS
TOPIC: FIRST HIGH-LEVEL MEETING OF THE OPEN GOVERNMENT PARTNERSHIP MEETING
THURSDAY, APRIL 12, 2012, 3:30 P.M. EDT
THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.
MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today for this conference call, and we appreciate your patience. Today, the Washington Foreign Press Center is pleased to host Maria Otero, who is the Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. Today, she will be speaking about the first high-level meeting of the Open Government Partnership Meeting. She will start with some opening remarks and then it will be open to question and answers.
And with that, I will turn it over to Under Secretary Otero.
STAFF: I think we may have a problem. Let me just do the transfer really quick.
MODERATOR: Okay. Sorry.
STAFF: Sorry about that. (Phone rings.)
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Hello?
MODERATOR: Yes, Under Secretary Otero?
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Yes.
MODERATOR: Yes, hello. I’ve just introduced you to the call, so, as I stated, you are welcome to make some opening remarks and then we will open it up to question-and-answer period.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Thank you. Thank you very much. Good afternoon, everyone. Let me begin and start by thanking you for joining this call. I have just come from Secretary Clinton’s remarks on her upcoming trip to South America for the Latin American Summit, where I will be joining her. But this afternoon, I wanted to focus on one of the initiatives that Secretary Clinton mentioned today in her speech, and she – to which she will be going to Brazil for, and that is the Open Government Partnership, or OGP.
Now, the OGP grew out of President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s recognition that good governance in today’s world has to be about more than just elections. Obviously, elections are very important. Of course, we agree on that. But the sustainable governance of a country must be an expression of an open, ongoing conversation or interaction between the citizens of that country and their government. And in today’s digital era, it can incorporate the tools of technology, which, we are observing around the world, help increase the way in which democracy and communication and services around the world take place.
Now since President Obama and Brazilian President Rousseff launched the Open Government Partnership with six governments last September, this initiative has now grown to include 54 participating countries. Each of those countries, the government reformers in those countries are working together with civil society and with the private sector to come up with concrete steps and action plans that will improve the transparency of the government, that will help fight corruption, and that will increase the participation of citizens in the way in which their government operates.
In Brazil next week, over 800 people will gather in Brasilia for the Open Government Partnership, which is a high-level meeting. Forty-two countries will present action plans, which among them will include literally hundreds of unique ways – we’re calling them commitments – of addressing transparency and openness. And if we look at the countries that will be represented at this meeting, they will cover about one quarter of the world’s population. So for something that started about eight months ago, this is really a significant indication of the global appetite for openness in government.
What I have witnessed in co-chairing the steering committee for Open Government Partnership and in speaking with both government reformers and citizens – and part of what we see is that the way governments and citizens interact and relate to each other is evolving. It’s not static; it’s becoming, in some cases, less bureaucratic. We are seeing some indications of greater dynamism that is now demonstrating that instead of citizens going to a voting booth once a year as their only civic participation, they are also using technology to comment on legislation, to participate in local budgeting processes, to carry out activities that help a government put forth policies and regulations that are more responsive to its citizens.
In the United States, for example, we’ve introduced a new online petition tool through which Americans can propose new policies to the White House. We’ve seen governments like Estonia, which is the first country in the world to introduce a nationwide online voting for local and federal elections, and we’re seeing many countries developing what they are calling one-stop federal websites to streamline the access to services that citizens have. So through the OGP, we are seeing countries developing more and more these initiatives and then learning from each other as well on how to do it.
They are all responding to what we see as a changing reality, and a changing reality that involves new technology, new networks, and through which governments have the opportunity and do have the imperative to adapt. So OGP is right now a platform that motivates and gives a place to operate for those smart reformers within government and within civil society to share their experiences and to drive a race to the top.
So we’re looking forward to the next meeting in Brasilia with Secretary Clinton, President Rousseff, and I know there’s a great deal of information on the OGP website, which is one word, opengovpartnership.org. And for those of you that are not going to be able to go to Brasilia, I certainly encourage you to participate virtually in the live webcast that will take place that this meeting is undertaking.
So, thank you, and I am happy to take some of your questions now.
OPERATOR: As a reminder, if you would like to ask a question at this time, please press *1 on your phone and record your name. To withdraw the request, please press *2. Again, please press *1 at this time if you would like to ask a question. (No response.)
MODERATOR: Okay. Well, if there are no questions, then we will conclude this briefing. Any last opportunity for a question? (No response.)
Okay. Well, Under Secretary Otero, we thank you very much for your time today.
UNDER SECRETARY OTERO: Thank you. All right. Thank you very much.
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