Obama to UN: Bring commitments to transparency, fight corruption and leverage technology


President Obama is speaking to the General Assembly of the United Nations right now. He spoke out on the need to increase transparency and use technologies to increase democratic participation. Here’s the relevant quote–full text here:

Each of these countries gives life to democratic principles in their own way. And even as some governments roll back reform, we also celebrate the courage of a President in Colombia who willingly steps aside, or the promise of a new Constitution in Kenya. The common thread of progress is the principle that government is accountable to its citizens. The diversity in this room makes clear – no one country has all the answers, but all of us must answer to our own people. In all parts of the world, we see the promise of innovation to make government more open and accountable. Now, we must build on that progress. And when we gather back here next year, we should bring specific commitments to promote transparency; to fight corruption; to energize civic engagement; and to leverage new technologies so that we strengthen the foundation of freedom in our own countries, while living up to ideals that can light the world.

(Emphasis mine.)

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  • I think this is a laudable initiative. White House staff have started reaching out to civil society groups and Governments seeking bring together transparency and accountability leaders to develop the initiative further. If Government make commitments to improve transparency and accountability, these should be measurable, timebound and additive. They should be monitored by civil society and reported on regularly. Otherwise, there is a possibility that the committments will be hollow and trigger a race to the bottom.