LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Countries that are economically and politically open are best poised to tackle poverty, British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday, dismissing the idea that a country’s prosperity was determined by its geography, climate or religion.
Speaking before an audience of government officials and transparency activists at the opening of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) summit, Cameron said that “closed governments breed poverty.
“For years I've argued there is a golden thread of conditions which allows countries to thrive: the rule of law, the absence of conflict and corruption, the presence of strong property rights and institutions. And an open government should be woven deep into the heart of this thread,” Cameron said.
"There are those who say a nation's prosperity is determined by its geography, its climate, its religion. I say: nonsense.”
As world leaders craft a new agenda ahead of the 2015 expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight global goals agreed in 2000 to fight poverty - research indicates that citizens around the world want greater accountability and better governance just as much as they want health, education and nutrition.
“As the Millennium Development Goals come to be replaced, open government must be at the heart of our efforts to eradicate extreme poverty,” said Cameron, who is co-chair, with the presidents of Liberia and Indonesia, of a panel set up to advise the U.N. on global development beyond 2015.
“Look at Cuba and the United States, which way do the boats go?” he said, referring to the thousands of Cuban migrants who every year attempt to cross north through the Florida Straits. “As the two Koreas show, as all these examples show, countries rise and fall depending on the economic system they adopt. And an open inclusive economic system, backed by open, inclusive political institutions is the best guarantor of success.”
INFORMATION FOR WOMEN, TOO
During a later panel discussion, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete noted that while his country is unlikely to meet the MDG on improving maternal health, an initiative to create a more open government in Tanzania by providing information to pregnant women via mobile phones on topics such as the location of local clinics has helped make significant strides toward meeting the goal.
Yet while open government and transparency provide an opportunity to promote gender equality and empower women - the third MDG - there are potential dangers as well, British International Development Secretary Justine Greening told the panel.
“It’s an opportunity because I think openness and the transparency agenda can really help us make sure that, first of all, no one’s left behind… certainly not half of the people in a country,” Greening said.
“I think it’s a risk because we know that as of 2012, there were 300 million fewer women with mobile phones than there were men. So although information is out, we need to make sure that it’s shared equally and evenly… As technology moves on, we need to make sure that everybody has access to it.”