Executive Summary

Democracy is facing a challenging period, marked by low trust in government and widespread citizen dissatisfaction with democratic institutions. These issues have complex and interconnected causes, including concerns related to the current geo-political context, economic and social tensions, rising political and social polarisation, and the growing spread of misinformation. In this critical moment for democracies, there is an urgent need to rethink how the public sector operates and to strengthen the focus on serving the public interest.

Evidence indicates that a bold transition towards an open government culture can help enhance the democratic model of governance. The 2017 OECD Recommendation on Open Government provides countries with a comprehensive framework for developing open government strategies and initiatives that have a positive impact on people’s lives. This report takes stock of the progress made in implementing the ten provisions of the Recommendation and reflects on emerging trends and challenges, including ways in which open government policies and practices can better contribute to reinforcing democracy.

Open government matters. Policies and practices that aim to foster government-citizen relationships – the core of the concept of open government – are capturing increasing public attention. Results from the 2021 OECD Survey on the Drivers of Trust in Public Institutions confirm that open government policies are key drivers of citizens’ confidence in government. The Trust Survey results underscore that governments must do better in giving all people a voice and in responding to these voices to meet evolving public expectations.

Countries are increasingly opening their governments to citizens’ inputs and scrutiny. Many countries that have adhered to the Recommendation have made progress in allowing for a more informed debate and participation by making larger quantities of information and data more readily available for the public. Some countries are also proactively publishing increasing amounts of information online and others have improved their capacity to communicate and respond to requests for information. Many countries are now encouraging citizens to provide inputs and feedback and contribute to decision making.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) has played a key role in shaping countries’ open government agendas. Founded in 2011 by eight countries and nine civil society leaders, the OGP is an international partnership between governments and civil society to promote open government reforms. Today, 29 out of the 38 OECD Member countries and 34 out of 43 Adherents to the Recommendation are part of the OGP and the recurring action plans they have to design and implement are a key part of their national open government agendas.

Open government, intended as a multiplicity of cross-cutting whole-of-government efforts, has gradually transitioned towards new horizons. Open government approaches, policies and practices are increasingly mainstreamed across the branches of the state (“open state”), in critical policy domains (such as public budgeting, government procurement and public investment) and in sectors with a greater impact on service delivery and public integrity (such as extractive industries and the justice sector). The report also shows a greater emphasis on local level applications of open government policies, especially in cities.

Some pioneering countries are moving towards integrated open government agendas. More and more countries are designing and implementing comprehensive open government strategies/policies (e.g., Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Finland, Romania) as an integrated whole-of-government roadmap for their open government agendas. Open government strategies have the potential to raise the political and institutional profile of open government and lead to the creation of new steering mechanisms, as well as increased monitoring and evaluation.

The medium- and long-term impacts of open government policies and practices are not yet fully documented. The global open government movement currently relies heavily on “impact stories” rather than robust and comparable quantitative evidence. There continues to be a strong need to develop better measurements and indicators of the impact of open government reforms.

Civic space, now widely recognised as a pre-condition for, and an integral element of, an open, government, is under pressure in a lot of countries. As highlighted by the results of the 2022 OECD report The Protection and Promotion of Civic Space: Strengthening Alignment with International Standards and Guidance, the foundations for the protection of civic space in OECD Members are generally strong, but changing demographics, tensions related to immigration, polarisation due to mis- and disinformation and threats such as COVID-19 are compounding challenges to civic space. Online civic space is increasingly affected by the prevalence of mis- and disinformation and hate speech and media freedom has seen a significant decline around the world.

The report concludes with eight high-level policy recommendations for countries to consider in order to strengthen open government in a time of polycrisis and great geopolitical turbulence.

  • Foster sustainable long-term commitment to open government, including by to institutionalising open government policies and practices and by more effectively communicating the value of open government both within and outside government.

  • Continue protecting and promoting access to information, and to ensure that its implementation in practice matches the legal frameworks that serve to safeguard it, including by making access to information processes more inclusive and accessible for all social demographics, including marginalised groups.

  • Implement additional reforms and measures to ensure the sustainability, inclusion, quality, and impact of participatory processes. These should enable all interested citizens and stakeholders to effectively influence the activities and decisions of the government and actively participate in the public lives of their countries in all sectors and at all levels.

  • Foster and institutionalise mechanisms for public accountability, including by strengthening complaint mechanisms, independent oversight bodies and ombudsmen institutions, while identifying incentives for government to provide feedback to citizens and CSOs.

  • Design and implement comprehensive and integrated open government strategies. These strategies should provide an umbrella to existing but scattered initiatives (“add-up”). They should also bring the commitment to open government to a more political level and link open government policies and practices with objectives relating to reinforcing democracy (“scale-up”).

  • Continue to protect and promote civic space as a key enabler of open government reforms. These efforts should include reviewing policies, laws, institutions and practices relevant to the protection of civic space, both offline and online, and to ensure that they are in line with international standards. More efforts should be made to collect better data to monitor the effective implementation of civic freedoms to identify challenges and remedial actions.

  • Ramp up efforts to measure, monitor and evaluate the impacts of open government reforms, including by designing comparable indicators and measurement tools such as maturity models.

  • Continue the move towards an open state, broadening open government reforms beyond the executive branch, including by designing joint initiatives and reforms with subnational governments and the other branches of the state and by working with actors such as the media in related efforts.

These high-level priority areas are also relevant in the context of the OECD Action Plan on Enhancing Representation, Participation and Openness in Public Life which is an integral part of the OECD Reinforcing Democracy Initiative.


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