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Government and civil society "condemned" to be together...

Twaweza had a seat on the world stage last week, at the latest summit of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), with around 1,500 delegates from 75 countries present. In his capacity as co-chair of the OGP, Rakesh Rajani, the Head of Twaweza, shared a platform with UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete, among others.

As part of that opening plenary session (full video here), Rakesh and President Kikwete were interviewed by British TV journalist, Rageh Omaar:

(Video edited from original by Ikulu Communications Department.)

The President began by speaking very positively in favour of open government, and of the role of civil society:

“Transparency, openness and accountability are critical both for government and the people, because, when the government is open, the people know what is going on, and they can hold their government accountable, and the government has the urge to deliver.”

Rakesh also gave his views on the OGP in Tanzania:

“The key question now is delivery. We have a good set of plans, the big question is will we deliver, will the government deliver? One thing, as the President has emphasised is, how do we know whether things are working? We need to have very good feedback, very good data systems.”

But it was the President’s announcement later in the interview that drew the biggest headlines:

“We are now working on enacting a freedom of information law. We think by April next year we will send to parliament this bill and have it enacted. It is now giving the right of the common man, the common Tanzanian citizen, the right to have information from government.”

“When they ask for this information, they should not be seen as trying to venture into territories which are not theirs.”

“If people want information on how medicines are distributed, if people want information about budgets to their primary school, they should have the right to know this. When are they going to get their water supply – these are issues where they should have the right to get this.”

To which Rakesh was invited to respond:

“This is brilliant news, one of the best things I heard President Kikwete say. If we achieve this I think it will be wonderful. So we’re going to make sure this comes and that it’s a progressive law.”

“First, what this does is institutionalise the right to information. It doesn’t depend on us having a progressive president … but it institutionalises in law. I think that’s important.”

“Second, it sets a new norm. It sets a new norm on the relationship between state and citizens. … The devil will be in the details – what are the institutions that are done? The good news is there are countries in the world – India, South Africa, Mexico and others – where we can learn from, we are not starting from scratch.”

“Third, if we do this right, it creates new possibilities of governments and citizens to come together to realise common goals. And in a way that I think will be much more effective than some of the reforms we’ve been doing like local government reforms, this will actually make the rubber hit the road, and I think that’s really powerful.”

“So we will work with the President and his team to make sure we have a world class, brilliant law.”

Finally, the President, responded to a question about how he finds working in partnership with civil society, and with Rakesh in particular, with a joke:

“Well, essentially, we are condemned to be together.”

“We have to work together because he is working with civil society, they are making a useful contribution to how a country should be governed, to how issues should be managed in the country. We cannot take offence for that, definitely. All of us are there to help, at the end of the day, the people of Tanzania, so definitely we have to be together, we cannot choose to do otherwise.”

Besides the opening plenary discussion, both Twaweza and Tanzania featured prominently elsewhere in and around the summit, including:

Also, though not directly related to Twaweza or to East Africa, the following links relating to the summit may well be interesting:

A number of participants also wrote about the civil society day

Resources

Some interesting organisations and initiatives related to the OGP:

Read more: Open Government Partnership Rakesh Rajani Tanzania

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