Obama signs global Open Government Partnership charter

In advance of the United Nation's General Assembly, world leaders congregated Sept. 20 at New York City's Waldorf Astoria hotel to formally launch a new initiative called the Open Government Partnership through a day of discussion and the unveiling and signing of its "declaration of principles."

At last year's General Assembly, President Obama called upon world leaders to make "specific commitments to promote transparency," and in July the United States and Brazil announced the global initiative to promote more transparent, effective and accountable institutions worldwide.

As of Sept. 20 eight countries have endorsed OGP's declaration and member countries are publically releasing open government plans. The OGP website offers recommendations for countries hoping to formulate an open government plan, a template for plans and suggests that countries wanting to join aim to present their plan at an OGP meeting in Brazil in March 2012.

According to the declaration, participating countries commit to increasing the availability of information about governmental activities, supporting civic participation, implementing the highest standards of professional integrity throughout their administrations and increasing access to new technologies for openness and accountability.

"We pledge to lead by example and contribute to advancing open government in other countries by sharing best practices and expertise and by undertaking the commitments expressed in this declaration on a non-binding, voluntary basis," says the declaration.

"Our goal is to foster innovation and spur progress, and not to define standards to be used as a precondition for cooperation or assistance or to rank countries," it adds.

The United States' involvement with OGP "builds directly on steps President Obama has taken since the first full day of his Administration to strengthen democracy and promote a more efficient and effective government through greater openness," wrote Federal Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra in a Sept. 20 blog post on WhiteHouse.gov.

In his remarks at the meeting, Obama said the United States has done much to make government more open and responsive than ever before. The United States' National Action Plan (.pdf), which was unveiled at the meeting, largely highlights open government efforts already underway, such as the "We the People" Petition Platform, the declassification of national security information and the expansion of whistleblower protections for government workers.

The action plan does add that the administration's "We the People" project will publish the source code so that any government can create a similar platform to solicit and respond to the concerns of the public.

In a State Department backgrounder, the department said it would "recommit" to its open government plans and highlighted its internationally-focused open government efforts, such as HumanRights.gov, ForeignAssistance.gov and the Virtual Student Foreign Service.

For more:
- visit the Open Government Partnership website
- see the White House blog post
- see the National Action Plan for the United States (.pdf)
- see a backgrounder from the State Department
- watch a video of President Obama's remarks at the launch event

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