A meeting of United Cities and Local Governments’ (UCLG) Community of Practice on Transparency and Accountability, that works to develop knowledge and awareness initiatives on an issue, which is key for local and regional governments, took place in Madrid on the 12th of April 2018. The goal of this meeting was to establish a joint framework, which would allow for capacity development on open governance and public integrity at the local level, as well as generating partnerships both in the national and international spheres.
Many representatives of provincial governments members of UCLG such as Guipúzcoa, Barcelona, Navarra, attended the meeting signalling the important role to be played by this intermediary level of government as hub for capacity building and service provision.
Promoting transparency and open government with participatory policies is a priority for local and regional governments. With this challenge in mind, the UCLG World Council in Hangzhou established the Community of Practices on Transparency and Accountability, under the leadership of FEMP (the Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces), with the support of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and UN-Habitat.
"Open government goes beyond publishing data. It implies making it understandable and useful for everyone. The community of practice aims at getting more local governments on board. Mapping what we do and bringing transparency to the political agenda of UCLG as key instrument to achieve SDG 16”, said Juana López, Head of International Area and European Projects at FEMP (Spanish Federation of Municipalities and Provinces).
The goal of the meeting of this Community of Practice was to promote the cooperation and the exchange of experiences in regards to transparency and open government, as well as promoting the link between local and regional governments in the work agenda of the Community of Practices. The environment was conducive for a dialogue between authorities, networks, institutions and experts on governments more open to the citizens on various perspectives.
Moving forward towards a joint concept of transparency and accountability
This meeting acted as a space to exchange experiences in which participants had the chance to comment recommendations and priorities, highlighting concrete actions, which are already taking place at the local and regional levels in regards to transparency.
Local governments, as the sphere of government closest to citizens, have certain particular characteristics and face a series of challenges when it comes to developing a transparency and accountability agenda. Throughout the meeting, participants explored the role of local governments, as well as their current situation and how to move towards developing a joint concept of transparency at the local level. Enhancing local capacities in the areas of transparency and accountability (with measures such as developing good practices or tools for spreading the word) in order to better develop transparency government was also debated.
"It is critical to ensure that local governments participating in the community of practice are provided with a reference tool that allows the assess their situation and progress", outlined the representative of Open Government Partnership.
An important part of developing the Community of Practice is to identify and build spaces to expand the transparency and accountability agenda (both in the UCLG framework as well as with other networks and national and international organisms), as well as how to advocate for open government. In the session on advocacy and awareness, the key issues were where to find those spaces and how to build relationships with these actors in order to fully implement the transparency and accountability agenda.
In order to strengthen cooperation in this regard, a work agenda was developed for the year 2018 with the goal of establishing short-term goals in the lines of action of this Community of Practice.
"The structural collaboration between the Open Government Partnership and UCLG can make a true difference in the involvement of local governments in the action plans that member states are developing. The community of practice is an important vehicle to trigger political dialogue on the one hand and learning on the other", said Emilia Saiz, UCLG Secretary General
With the creation of this Community of Practice, local and regional governments reaffirmed the commitment towards the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 16 (building effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels of government) and placing transparency, accountability and citizen participation at the core of local and global agendas, with policies closer to citizens.