Highlights of Remarks of Twaweza Executive Director, Aidan Eyakuze, at #OGPAfrica opening session

“The OGP is not a perfect movement or process, and it is not without its critics. For some it is a smokescreen that provides good PR for governments who have no real intention to reform. Such criticism cannot be dismissed out of hand.”

“I want to highlight what I see as the key element to the OGP’s success: partnership. It is a principle that is so deeply embedded in the OGP, it makes up one-third of its name. That is significant. Because it is as a partnership between government and civil society that the OGP will succeed, or fail.”

“Partnership requires effort on all sides. It requires that governments make space for meaningful dialogue on major issues of open government policy and practice. Sometimes that dialogue can be uncomfortable, especially when those outside government raise challenges. But without government creating space for that dialogue, the Open Government Partnership cannot hope to succeed.”

“On the part of civil society, we must accept the reality that setbacks will happen as we journey towards a changed culture of governance. Open government calls for such a fundamental change to how government operates that it cannot be a completely smooth process.”

“Here in Tanzania, this meeting could not be more timely – both for the goal of open government, and for the principle of partnership. As you may be aware, the government here recently passed two bills that have attracted concerted criticism – the Statistics Act and the Cyber Crime Act. Two further bills – an Access to Information Bill and a Media Services Bill – are before parliament.”

“As written in the versions of the Bills presented to Parliament, certain clauses in the four bills are problematic. They challenge the freedom of conscience and expression enshrined in Article 18 of our Constitution. The clauses are inconsistent with the principles of open government. They threaten to undermine Tanzania’s reputation as a leader in the field of open government.”

“And yet, Your Excellency, this moment also presents the perfect opportunity for the OGP, and for the Tanzanian government, to demonstrate true partnership in practice. Your government can turn this around, invite civil society to bring their ideas, and make amendments to the bills that would protect space for public engagement, debate and freedom of expression.”

“So, is the Open Government Partnership a smokescreen, a charade, a game of “let’s pretend”?”

“I do not believe so and we have the perfect opportunity over the next two days to prove this…together.”

“Let us demonstrate, during this African gathering, that the OGP is a powerful platform for effective engagement between citizens and their governments. Let us demonstrate today, that public commitments to open government are not just exercises in sophisticated public relations. Let us demonstrate bold and courageous ambition.”

“And to make it all work, let us both, government and civil society, demonstrate a deep, serious, candid, and open partnership.”

The full remarks are available here. Highlights of President Kikwete’s speech are available here

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