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Transparency, Accountability, and Participation

Goal: To improve the responsiveness of government to citizens’ needs.

The process of getting services to people, particularly to the poor, is often hobbled by corruption and inefficiency. This can be true even when governments have sufficient resources to make a difference.

We support organizations that work to foster a strong and dynamic relationship between citizens and their governments with the goal of ensuring that public policies and programs are designed, funded, and implemented in ways that respond to citizens’ needs. This begins with efforts to encourage greater transparency by public agencies and officials, a prerequisite to accountability. But we also believe that citizens must have opportunities to make use of information by giving feedback to the agencies that provide services including education, health care and housing.

Grantees use the public budget process as a critical tool to advocate for greater transparency by governments. Democratic oversight is possible only if citizens have access to appropriate information about how public funds are collected, allocated, and spent. Without oversight, public services invariably suffer. We support groups working at both the global and the national level to increase access to timely, understandable information about sources of government revenue—particularly revenues from extractive resources like oil, gas, or minerals—and we push for transparency in how government funds are disbursed and used.

All too often governments will allocate money for a specific service, such as health or education, only to drop the ball when it comes to implementation. In many countries, for example, funding is allocated to pay teachers who are frequently absent from class. To help address such problems, we support efforts to collect and analyze direct feedback from citizens on the quality of services actually delivered. Several of our grantees conduct surveys to assess children’s reading and math abilities at home, for example. This gives parents immediate feedback on their children’s performance, while the aggregate findings can be used to push for higher-quality education.

Transparency can also be advanced through international institutions and programs that promote shared standards and generate peer pressure for greater openness. One such effort is the Open Government Partnership, which brings governments and civil society organizations together to design plans that embrace transparency, accountability, and citizen participation. The Open Government Partnership pushes national governments and large donor institutions to implement a host of global norms on transparency, including the International Aid Transparency Initiative, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the Natural Resource Charter, and the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency.