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SÃO PAULO, Brazil – The common belief that corruption is capable of destroying a country’s democracy and wealth brought 55 countries together in the Brazilian capital of Brasília last week.
For the participants of the first annual meeting of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), the only way to combat poor public administration is through government transparency and citizen participation.
The OGP, an initiative led by Brazil and the United States, aims to spread the best practices for transparency and fighting corruption.
“We know corruption kills a country’s potential” said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the meeting held from April 17-18. “The cure for corruption is openness.”
While in Brazil, Clinton praised Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s efforts to combat corruption.
The conference took place the same week in which the Brazilian Congress debated the creation of a Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) to investigate allegations of a relationship between bookie Carlos Cachoeira and Sen. Demóstenes Torres, as well as other officials and business leaders.
At the conference’s opening ceremonies, Rousseff stressed she would not tolerate “any wrongdoing.”
“My administration is focused on efficiency in order to guarantee quality service to the people,” she said.
The perception of corruption has been decreasing among the Brazilian public. Brazil’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index climbed from 3.3 to 3.8 in five years, according to the annual survey conducted by the NGO Transparency International. The scale ranges from 0 (very corrupt) to 10 (very clean).
Still, in terms of perceived corruption, Brazil is in the same category as Burkina Faso in northwestern Africa.
During his speech, Jorge Hage, the chief minister for Brazil’s Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), said the conference signified a “renewal of the commitment to democracy as a universal value.”
Forty-two countries affirmed their participation with the partnership during the two-day event. In total, the OGP has 55 participating nations.
Hage, who represents the partnership in Brazil, said the government’s participation is voluntary and does not follow any set pattern. Each country proposes improvements based on its own set of standards.
Martin Tisne, a member of the OGP’s Steering Committee, said the most important result of this movement is stimulating society’s participation.
“In Uganda, increased access to information resulted in a 33% reduction in the mortality rate among children under 5 years of age,” said Tisne, who also serves as the policy director for the Omidyar Network, a U.S. investment company focused on social and philanthropic initiatives.
On May 16, a law facilitating access to public information will come into effect in Brazil.
The Access to Information Law establishes the people’s right to know about everything being done by government at the municipal, state and federal levels.
Hage said seven ministries already provide information on the Internet regarding their spending and hiring practices.
“There is still a lot to be done. The six-month period [between the enactment and the enforcement of the law] is incredibly short,” Hage says. “No other country has had to adapt so quickly.”
In the United Kingdom, a similar law took five years to come into effect. At the conference, Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office for the United Kingdom, spoke about the importance of the website www.data.gov.uk for their democracy.
“Opening up information is a valuable step forward for democracy, particularly when it is harder to achieve,” Maude said.