Acceptance Remarks by President Jacob Zuma, on being Co-Chair of the Open Government Partnership, at the OGP Heads of State and Government Level Side Event, at the 69th United Nations General Assembly, New York, 24 September 2014
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, of Indonesia;
President Peña Nieto, of Mexico;
OGP civil society co-chairs;
OGP community of nations;
I rise on behalf of the people of South Africa with whom we have worked hard in the last twenty years to build a truly, democratic and free society.
We are proud of the remarkable progress we have made, though we still have many challenges to address.
We pride ourselves of the fact that since 1994 our country has been electing its governments through the popular will of the people.
Our Constitution, which was designed with the solemn idea of bringing about a particular value system on which South African society could develop and prosper, continues to guide our work as government.
Our democracy is based on the rule of law, transparency and openness; it guarantees the freedom of expression, including freedom of the press and other media.
Apart from having an effective separation of powers, which ensures healthy checks and balances among the three arms of the state, we have another distinct feature in our system; namely institutions supporting our constitutional democracy.
Over the past twenty years, we have made every effort to fully integrate into the world; playing a significant role in global political and economic affairs.
We recognise the need to build and maintain sound international solidarity around issues of open governance which are fundamental in our efforts to address the burden of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Therefore our engagement with the international community is a vital part of our strategy to construct broad partnerships for development through clean governance.
These partnerships, in our view, must move from the premise that all countries have a role to play in world affairs.
As the incoming OGP co-chair, we are alive to the calls from people all over the world for more transparent, responsive, accountable and effective government; and for greater civil society participation in public affairs.
It is in this connection that the chairs of the OGP are required to safeguard the values and principles of the partnership as well as to strengthen government-citizen relations.
Our appreciation of the role that South Africa will endeavour to mobilise all countries participating in the partnership around a common vision of promoting open governance as an important lever of sustainable development.
We are inspired by the progress this partnership has made, as well as by the theme for this year’s United Nations General Assembly, on whose margins this meeting has been convened, which is: "Delivering on and Implementing a Transformative Post-2015 Development Agenda".
South Africa will advocate for governance with a ‘human face’; in other words, the pursuit of open governance to produce the results of ethics, equity, inclusion, human security, and sustainable development.
Any pursuit of open governance must respond to the needs of the voiceless; the marginalised in society; especially women, the youth and people with disabilities.
At the same time our endeavours must necessarily benefit from the ideas of these people as part of deepening public participation.
South Africa believes that open governance is not necessarily an easy ideal to achieve in totality. It requires on-going and sustained commitment.
As one of the founding members of the OGP we are happy that, within just three years, membership to this partnership has grown from 8 to 64 countries.
We are also appreciative of the growth of civil society organisations that are actively participating in OGP country processes.
We must also state that it is impressive to note that a number of countries working on their second OGP action plans are making significant improvements from the first plans, thus signalling the seriousness with which they take Independent Review Mechanisms (IRM).
We, however, are strongly of the view that a need exists to spell out in clearer detail the mandate of the IRM, so that this mechanism does not, unwittingly, extend to issues which fall outside the scope of OGP country commitments.
It is equally important to continue articulating the character and nature of the OGP as a non-binding voluntary initiative.
The character of the OGP should, therefore, direct participating countries to adopt a negotiation, persuasion and consensus approach.
As South Africa we are deeply humbled and honoured by the confidence shown in us to play a leading role in the OGP.
We are, however, hopeful, that the collective of everybody in the OGP stands ready to support both lead chair (Mexico) and ourselves as the co-chair in discharging our responsibilities to the world.
I thank you.