Minister-Delegate Moubdi, Mr. Forst, Mr. Neves, and Honored Guests:
I am very pleased to be here today to participate in the opening of Morocco’s Open Government Steering Group meeting. A little more than three years ago, the United States and seven other nations, along with eight civil society organizations, launched this Open Government Partnership (OGP) to promote transparency, fight corruption, and energize civic engagement and to leverage new technologies to increase government accountability. The critical element of this initiative was and is its focus on ensuring governments are open and responsive to their citizens. Since its inception, the OGP partnership has grown to include 64 nations, and it is changing the paradigm of how governments interact with civil society. The OGP is fostering a model where governments view their citizens as partners. As a result of this new approach, more citizens are petitioning their governments online, more citizens are participating directly in policymaking, and more entrepreneurs are using open data to innovate and start new businesses. There is more transparency on how tax dollars are spent. And more governments are partnering with civil society to find new ways to improve good governance and expose corruption.
This OGP is important not just for the citizens of countries who yearn to take a more active role in how their countries are governed. It is important for the leaders of those countries, for their governments, and institutions. History has shown that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies flourish. They become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful. By contrast, those governments and leaders that fail to embrace the importance of openness and the aspirations of their people for greater freedom and participation in society find it increasingly difficult to maintain peace and security. This reality extends to the economic sphere as well. As someone who was a businessman for 30 years before becoming Ambassador, I can attest that those countries that attempt to monopolize economic activity or fail to establish a strong, fair, efficient, and transparent business climate will find it increasingly hard to prosper in a more open global economy.
In the United States, we’ve been trying to lead by example. We’ve committed to more than two dozen initiatives designed to increase public integrity, promote public participation, and improve public services. For example, we’re working to open up and share more data with entrepreneurs so they can pursue the new innovations and businesses that create jobs. We’re working to modernize our Freedom of Information Act so that it’s easier for Americans to get information on the workings of their government. Several of our initiatives are designed to have impact both domestically and abroad. Since we know that an open government needs an educated and informed citizenry as its partner, we’re working to help people around the world, especially students, access the incredible online educational tools and resources that we have in the United States. Moreover, although we already have laws in place prohibiting our businesses from engaging in foreign corrupt practices, we are ready to do more as part of our leadership in the global fight against corruption. We are reaching out to American businesses to develop a national plan to promote responsible and transparent business conduct overseas. This plan will be good for everybody – our businesses and the foreign countries in which they operate. After all, where businesses know rule of law exists and is respected, they’re more likely to invest, and that means more jobs and prosperity for everybody.
Turning to Morocco, I am very pleased to see such a strong commitment here to promoting the Open Government Partnership. I expect that there will be a healthy discussion today of the OECD’s Open Government Review of Morocco. How the process of review and how the process for developing an Action Plan are carried out will determine in large part whether the aspirations of OGP will be met. I can’t stress enough how important it is for the Moroccan government to engage civil society fully as it works on its Access to Information Law and prepares to apply for OGP membership. The consultation needs to be broad. It needs to be deep. And it needs to be continuous throughout the process. Moreover, the OGP should not be a stand-alone plan that risks succeeding or failing on its own. Rather it should become a framework on which other government strategies and initiatives are built, fusing the Open Government DNA into Morocco’s governance structure. Accession to the OGP is a serious step and it requires both concerted action and a strong commitment by all involved, particularly the government, if it is to be realized.
So the work ahead for Morocco will be challenging and at times difficult. After all, governments that embrace the OGP are not just entering into a partnership with other OGP governments, but into a partnership with their citizens. At times, this can be frustrating. At times, it can be contentious. Governments think they’re doing what’s right, and they don’t always like to be questioned and certainly don’t like to be criticized. But the OGP process invites questions and provokes criticism – some of it fair and some of it unfounded. It’s a process, however, that leads to self-reflection and ensures that key questions are asked. While the process is challenging, the rewards are real and highly beneficial. Open and honest collaboration with citizens
and civil society over the long term – no matter how uncomfortable
it is – makes countries stronger and it makes countries more successful.
A true partnership between government and its citizens creates more prosperous economies, more just societies, and more opportunity for citizens. And that’s what I – and what the entire U.S. government – want for Morocco.