Statement by President Jacob Zuma at the Heads of State launch of the Open Government Partnership held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, New York
20 September 2011
Excellency President Obama
Excellency President Rousseff;
Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Members of the Open Government Partnership International Steering Committee;
Representatives of civil society partners;
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you for this opportunity to participate in this important discussion on open government.
We would like to thank President Obama and President Rousseff for hosting this crucial initiative.
The Open Government initiative is in line with the African Union's African Peer Review Mechanism, which encourages African governments to improve governance, including openness and service delivery to their populations.
Open government in the South African case, is premised on our progressive and transformative Constitution which enshrines a Bill of Rights and the principles of open governance.
Chapter 9 of our Constitution specifically provides for the establishment of independent institutions to safeguard and enforce openness, transparency, accountability, responsiveness, and ethical governance in the public and private spheres.
These institutions are the offices of the Public Protector, South African Human Rights Commission, Auditor General, Independent Electoral Commission, the South African Human Rights Commission, a Gender Commission and a Commission on Traditional, Linguistic and Religious Communities.
These institutions are an important armoury in promoting and protecting the rights of our citizens.
We also regard the development of an efficient, effective and development orientated public service and an informed and empowered citizenry as key tools in the promotion of open government.
We promote citizen engagement and participation through direct contact with citizens by undertaking visits to hear their suggestions and concerns and to monitor service delivery.
Also key to open government and creating an open society is a free media. We pride ourselves on having freedom of expression and media freedom that are enshrined in the Constitution. This makes ours a vibrant democracy with a healthy exchange of ideas in society.
Also important in promoting open government, is the fight against corruption.
We have a number of institutions with specific mandates of preventing and investigating acts of corruption, as this is one of our key national priorities.
The South African Government is therefore unambiguously committed to espousing the principles of open governance. We consulted with civil society in drafting an open government country action plan.
The consultation process will continue until we finalise this plan.
We also continue to participate in continental initiatives that assess our performance in this regard, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism as mentioned.
Working with our people, we will deliver on our undertakings to create a society where all, including the poor, have a voice and participate in processes to determine and improve how they are governed.
We would like to thank the Steering Committee members and representatives of Governments for having made this open government process a reality.
I thank you.