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Dutch civil society publishes 'Our Government, Our Information!' manifesto

Author: Adrian Offerman

Last week, a coalition of Dutch and international civil society organisations published the manifesto 'Onze Overheid, Onze Informatie!' (Our Government, Our Information!). In the document, the authors argue that, by paying and voting for the government, tax payers have the right to know how their votes are used and their money is spent. An open government is required from a perspective of democracy, engagement and accountability. Transparency contributes to the efficiency of government spending. Furthermore, an open government can — via open data, for example — result in new services and products.

The Open Government Vision and OGP Action Plan published by the Dutch government in 2013 is considered a positive first step by the authors of the manifesto, but there is still a lot to be done, they say.

In their manifesto the authors compile a list of eleven priorities for the Dutch government for the next two years:

  1. do what you promised to do;
  2. ratify the 2009 Tromsø treaty on access to official documents;
  3. step up the work on open data;
  4. actively publish specific categories of information and productions paid for with tax money;
  5. provide transparency on lobby organisations, relations with policy-makers, and activities;
  6. open up policy-making and decision-making processes;
  7. guarantee (digital) privacy;
  8. open spending;
  9. provide transparency on the 'ultimate beneficial ownership' of natural resources, on the companies that profit from public procurement, funding, and grants, and on corporate tax payments;
  10. make lessons on the interpretation, use and production of data part of the school curriculum;
  11. increase know-how on transparency and openness at decentralised governments.

Lack of effort, openness and ambition

Earlier this year, a (draft) progress report on the implementation of the Dutch OGP action plan was published. This report states that the action plan — focusing on initiatives to enhance access and accountability through online tools — was not specific enough, making it difficult to assess its progress and impact. Furthermore, the Dutch government has not been open in the participation process and its efforts were limited. The report stated that the plan failed to engage local governments and civil society as agents.

The author, Frans Jorna from the Saxion University of Applied Sciences, recommended that the Dutch government should work with civil society to create a measurable and ambitious action plan.