On behalf of the government of South Africa and the Open Government Partnership SA, I would like to thank all delegates and speakers that have travelled the length and breadth of this continent and the globe, to be part of the crucial conversations we have had over the past three days.
This illustrates the commitment we have as partners on the Open Government Partnership, to ensure that we improve the lives of citizens across the continent and globe through upholding the principles of the OGP which seek to place the global citizen at the heart of government action.
Increasingly across the globe we are witnessing a burning desire from ordinary citizens for governments to be more transparent in the manner in which they tackle critical issues of economic inclusion, unemployment, extreme poverty amongst other challenges.
Through the adoption of the "Declaration on Open Government for the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development", we as the Open Government Partnership have undertaken to tackle these issues head on.
Our ongoing commitment towards combating inequalities within and among countries; to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies; to protect human rights and promote gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls; and to ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources has resulted in our advocacy for the inclusion of the sustainable goals in our country action plans.
Given the linkages between the principles of the Open Government Partnership and the Sustainable Development Goals, it is therefore fitting that we hosted this third Africa Regional Meeting under the theme: "Open Government for Sustainable Development in Africa".
This Regional Meeting has provided us with numerous opportunities for peer learning and exchange on a number of significant issues, and we know from the shared experiences that Africa stands to greatly benefit.
Our conversations have also covered the issue of how the interests of the people are represented on the Open Government Partnership and it is therefore crucial that we had a panel discussion that focused on engaging legislatures, as true representatives of the people, to deepen and expand the participatory democracy which we advocate for.
The view from this discussion is that increased legislative engagement in the Open Government Partnership will both help OGP achieve its transformational potential and increase the openness of the legislative institution itself. In line with this view, civil society can provide valuable support to legislatures as they pursue openness reform, consistent with the spirit of OGP. An increased collaboration with civil society can support reform efforts, though such engagement can strain limited parliamentary resources and requires investment from the legislature.
The overwhelming view has been that civil society must work together across the African continent to address issues of civic space as the discussions indicated that challenges to civic space were similar. Civil society and government should work together to ensure that issues affecting communities, grassroots groups and those working in rural areas are addressed and that their needs are taken into account when developing and implementing policy.
The view is that even though relations between civil society and the government may be challenging, this should not preclude us from working together.
Some of the issues raised by civil society is the question of a contracted civic space, not having access to government information and not having the tools to effectively participate in governance programmes not only for civil society but for citizens. Obviously, like some of our speakers in the past two days reminded us, this is a political space that we must all navigate with caution, determination, focus and an open mind.
In line with the theme of what brought us together in the past three days, it is critical for us to sustain the collective assertion that for Africa to achieve its regional goals on sustainable development, multilateral initiatives and partnerships such as the OGP need to resonate with the continent's own priorities and vision that has, as its core, the improvement of our people's lives.
As we do so, we need to act on some of the sentiments that echoed in some of our discussions such as advocating for synergies and linkages between the OGP and APRM. However, we need to rationalise, harmonise and evaluate the impact of such collective and collaborative efforts in order to maximise the potential to make our people's lives better.
Both the APRM and OGP are making it clear that governments need to do more to mobilise and sustain citizen participation in national structures and processes; as it is now an open secret that no government has the monopoly of ideas.
There is a general consensus based on the discussions we have had, that the APRM and OGP should not be seen as in competition, as both have strengths and can held with governance challenges. Another issue raised, is the need to coordinate to avoid a reporting burden becoming too big, as governments needs time to implement action plans.
On fiscal openness and transparency, the dialogue has been centred on the need for collaboration to support and learn from each other's experiences and challenges.
We have noted how one of the OGP's biggest contributions in Ghana has been the creation of a space where for the first time in many years government and civil society can communicate without confrontation in the fiscal space. This illustrates how the OGP continues to serve as an enabling tool. The recent Constitution in Kenya has created much more space for public participation; subnational governments that are closer to the communities has more autonomy.
The highlight for South Africa during this session, has been the launch of our 3rd Country Action Plan. This is an ambitious plan, one that dares us to introduce a level of innovation in how we address the daily issues that affect our people.
Extremely challenging for us as we action this commitment, will be the implementation of South Africa's action plan on the G20 High Level Principles on Beneficial Ownership. This is significant commitment in that it acknowledges that improving the transparency of legal persons and arrangements is important to protect the integrity and transparency of the global financial system.
This commitment will prevent the misuse of these entities for illicit purposes such as corruption, tax evasion and money laundering supports the G20 objectives of increasing growth through private sector investment.
We are confident that in collaboration with governments and civil society from across the continent, we will be able to deliver on this commitment.
This is unchartered ground for us, and we will rely on learning together as countries on the G20 and the continent who can provide valuable input on how this significant commitment can be met.
As we conclude this session, it is important for both government and civil society to continue to find each other, as we seek with the common purpose, to improve the quality of life for all global citizens.