Global Civil Society Movement for Budget Transparency, Accountability, and Participation

Budgets are the most critical tool that governments have to address problems like poverty, provide critical services like education and healthcare, and invest in their country’s future. When the political speeches end, it’s how governments actually manage funds to meet their promises and priorities that matters.

In 2011, nearly 100 civil society groups from as many countries and 12 international organizations, including the International Budget Partnership, Greenpeace, and the ONE Campaign, launched the Global Civil Society Movement for Budget Transparency, Accountability, and Participation. The movement was a global effort to make public budgets transparent, participatory, and accountable that centered on building an integrated and vibrant movement of organizations that worked at the local, national, and international level to promote government budgeting that is open and accountable to the public.

Though the organizations at the core of this initiative worked in different countries and on different issues, their shared experience showed that when civil society and the public are informed and involved they can improve budget decisions and outcomes, literally transforming lives in the process.

Turning Opportunities into Reality

The timing of this effort capitalized on a number of significant events that created a unique moment to substantially improve how governments operate, including how they manage public funds to meet their people’s needs and to address persistent challenges. The most dramatic of these events was the “Arab Spring,” which created an unprecedented opportunity for democratic and responsive government in the region but also sent a wake-up call to oppressive, “kleptocratic” regimes around the world – and a beacon of hope to their people. However, turning these revolutions into effective and efficient government requires that strong institutions and systems be developed, including transparent and accountable budget processes and systems that actively engage citizens.

The movement also coincided with the launch of two important international, multi-stakeholder initiatives that promote government that is open, democratic, responsive, and accountable: the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which brings together governments, civil society, and industry to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance; and the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), which engages governments, international organizations, oversight institutions, foundations, and civil society organizations to advance and institutionalize significant and continuous improvements in fiscal transparency, engagement, and accountability in countries around the world.

Recent Developments

  • GIFT and international principles and practices: civil society contributed to the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT) public participation principles, including translating them in national languages, and peer learning and exchanges. We welcome contributions for the GIFT guide and Award.
  • International indicators of public engagement: in line with the GIFT principles, civil society helped shape the Open Budget Survey indicators (Section 5 of the Open Budget Survey Questionnaire & Guidelines, available for download here). As we look ahead to the Open Budget Survey release in January 2018, we welcome ideas to advance budget openness at the national, regional and international level.
  • Open Government Partnership (OGP): In collaboration with GIFT, we have advanced commitments and action through OGP National Actions Plans and the Summit in December (Paris Declaration here). Data on budget transparency — an OGP eligibility criterion — are now available more frequently through the Open Budget Survey Tracker updates. We continue to engage in the OGP process at all levels to ensure fiscal openness commitments are fulfilled.
  • Engaging Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs): civil society has interacted with SAIs and the international organization INTOSAI, including contributing to their guidance materials and participating in an INTOSAI working group and international meetings. As these organizations open up (latest UN/INTOSAI recommendations here), we collaborate and share our calls for greater audit accountability and effectiveness.
  • 2030 Agenda and Financing for Development: building on our advocacy efforts in 2015, we have contributed to action-oriented research on MDG spending and lessons for the SDGs and brought stakeholders such as ministries of finance, SAIs, UN agencies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and NGOs together to foster policy coherence and develop practical ways forward for SDG budgeting, monitoring and accountability. Read a summary note of our efforts here. We look forward to continue working with actors at all levels to advance open budgeting, monitoring and accountability for the sustainable development agenda.