Opening Remarks to the Power of Open Conference

Maria Otero
Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs 
New York City
September 20, 2011

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning. Thank you Alfred, for your generous hospitality today as we celebrate this momentous occasion: the formal launch of the Open Government Partnership. It's wonderful to be here.

I especially want to thank Ginny Hunt, Michelle Rosen-Sapir, Phase One Consulting, and Julie McCarthy for putting together this top-notch event. We have a full day of the finest minds and people in this space, all of whom are in high-demand, not to mention during the UN General Assembly week. So it’s an honor to have you with us. I especially want to recognize and welcome President Benigno Aquino of the Philippines. Thank you for being here.

As you have heard, I am Maria Otero, the United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, and I have the pleasure of serving as co-chair of the Open Government Partnership with Minister Jorge Hage of Brazil.

Today is a big day for us. Just one year ago, President Obama called on governments around the world to recommit to transparency and accountability, to increase civic engagement, and to harness new technologies in the pursuit of better governance and a better world.

And one year later, the steering committee of the Open Government Partnership welcomes no less than thirty eight countries as they join us in stretching the limits of government in twenty first century.

Let me just say that again; because I think it's remarkable. Thirty eight governments—in addition to the eight founding countries of OGP—have committed not only to open government in name and theory but also in action. Forty six total governments that, with the help of civil society and the private sector, will take concrete steps to make their governments work better, respond better, and serve better.

The really phenomenal point -- even beyond the sheer number of countries -- is that they have signed up voluntarily, entirely out of appreciation for OGP’s founding premise -- that open is good for all of us.

We are seeing this around the world:

Technology and social media are opening communications channels, increasing awareness and dialogue in every corridor of society.

Open source innovations are introducing new solutions to old bureaucracies, resulting in more access and knowledge between a government and its people.

And as we know, information is power. In the hands of citizens and officials alike, open information can mean change and progress.

Thanks to the leadership of OGP’s steering committee—many of whom are in this room—we are setting a new example for governments around the world.

  • We are demonstrating by our commitment to the OGP declaration—launching today on our new website—that openness can help us do our jobs better in serving and responding to our people.
  • We have crafted ambitious action plans grounded in concrete steps and informed by civil society. These plans will continue to evolve, but I can tell you that they are already making governments think, talk and act in new ways.
  • We have told the world about what we’re doing—and the world has responded. This afternoon, we will welcome those thirty eight countries to OGP not just in their commitment to open government but in their promise to work with civil society to develop their own plans towards greater openness.

Governance will never be simple or easy. But good governance should the foundation upon which we address the world’s problems. Today, with the launch of the Open Government Partnership, we embrace openness as one lever to our success, and we do so in the good company of those of you in this room.  

So, thank you for your support and for your ideas. I wish you the best today and look forward to hearing from our distinguished panelists and speakers.  

Now, it is my pleasure to turn it over to my co-chair, Minister Jorge Hage, Comptroller General of Brazil and lifelong advocate of transparency anti-corruption causes.