Charities combine to put pressure on governments to be more open

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A project made up of third sector organisations in each of the UK’s four nations has been awarded cash to empower citizens to question government decisions

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5th December 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A UK wide partnership of charities has been granted half a million pounds to empower citizens to hold their governments to account and force them to be more open about the decisions they make.

The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) has joined forces with the Wales Council for Voluntary Organisations (WCVA), Northern Ireland Environment Link and public participation charity Involve UK to create the Open Government Pioneers Project which has been awarded £500,000 from the Big Lottery Fund.

The UK partners will work together over two years to help people access the tools, techniques and resources required to engage and challenge their governments to serve them better.

The project is formally linked to the International Open Government Partnership, where governments and civil society of 70 countries are working together to make their governments more open, accountable, and responsive to citizens

This is an exciting opportunity to work with partners right across the UK to encourage more people and organisations to play an active role in their governments

It is hoped that if government processes, such as tendering, are more transparent and open, then progress will be made quicker towards meeting the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of eradicating poverty, tackling inequality and sustaining natural resources at home and abroad by 2030.

Lucy McTernan, deputy chief executive at SCVO, said the UK project will allow people to have an impact on important decisions that affect their lives.

She said: “This is an exciting opportunity to work with partners right across the UK to encourage more people and organisations to play an active role in their governments and to hold the UK and devolved governments to account on their commitment to be more open and transparent.

“We’ll bring people together and give them the knowledge and skills they need to have a real influence on government policy.”

Maureen McGinn, Big Lottery Fund Scotland chair and a member of the fund’s UK board, said it believes the partnership project will help citizens, including those whose voices are less often heard, have a say in decisions which affect their lives.

McGinn added: “The Big Lottery Fund believes people should be in the lead in improving their lives and communities.

“Through working in partnership, within the UK and beyond, civil society will learn from, and inform, international practice on how people can shape progress towards these goals in an ambitious and inclusive way.”

Ruth Marks, WCVA’s chief executive, said it is important that charities, voluntary groups, volunteers, and citizens have an opportunity to engage with the democratic process.

“In Wales, we hope to build on the good relationship civil society networks already have with the National Assembly for Wales and Welsh Government.

“The pioneers project resonates with us particularly strongly as we have recently published our new strategic framework for the next five years, which commits us to working in a more open and inclusive way.”

Dr Jonathan Bell, policy officer at Northern Ireland Environment Link, said he hoped the project would create opportunities for further collaboration between the countries’ open government networks.
He continued: “This is an important Initiative that will help to raise awareness around the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“It will enable citizens to connect with government and take an active role in the implementation of the goals in Northern Ireland.”

Tim Hughes, open government programme manager at Involve, added: “Through this project we will continue to build a stronger and more diverse civil society coalition that works to give citizens more control over the issues that matter to their lives."