Pranav Budhathoki in Kathmandu
So, after 3 months of groundwork in London; followed by 9 months of grit-work in Kathmandu; meeting and consulting with folks as far and wide as Berlin, Geneva and Kampala; and video conferences that spanned four continents, Local Interventions Group has finally been launched in London and Kathmandu.
London office will oversee our program development and international relations components and Kathmandu office will administer programmes on the ground. More like the grit work for us wretched lot in Kathmandu.
Fine, we hear ourselves say, for we have a big dollop of schadenfreude helping for ourselves when we know that whoever mans our London office has to tolerate that medieval Tube, dreary weather, skull-crushingly expensive inebriating liquids and industrial chicken tikka masalas every single day for the rest of his or her metaphysical life.
Our first policy salvo is Open Government. Why? Because we believe it is the world’s hottest silver bullet against Gulag-like governments of Nepal and Pakistan. It also democratises information, increases transparency, allows effective public oversight, and lowers the barriers for people to collaborate. Cut out the middleman and watch corruption fall to its knees!
Besides, strike while the iron is hot, or so goes the old adage. There has been extraordinary momentum at the global leadership level ever since US President Obama signed the Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government on his first day in office.
President Obama’s memo snowballed into what we have today; 8 governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, Philippines, South Africa, United Kingdom, and United States) endorsed an Open Government Declaration, announced their country action plans, welcomed the commitment of 38 governments to join and formally launched the Open Government Partnership on September 20, 2011.
Open Government Partnership is not a free-for-all brouhaha of the rich elites. It is a solemn leadership of US, UK and Brazil that has the potential to revolutionise the poorer parts of the world, by forcing their governments to be more accountable to their people.
UK plans to “earmark 5% of its donations to the budgets of developing countries to fund the strengthening of local accountability, making government openness a partial criterion when choosing nations to which it will provide aid”. That is £ 16.55 million extra over four years from April 2011 to March 2015 for Nepal, and £ 17.5 million extra every year for Pakistan. Count the number of schools and hospitals we could build with that.
We will only be consigning ourselves to a collective morgue of development failures if our countries fail to take advantage of this drive.