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The Trust of the Americas discusses outcomes of Open Government Project

Open Governance, Transparency and Accountability are buzz words that have been around for some time. The terms are more dominant during an election season when numerous promises are made.  This next story looks at open governance minus the campaign season.  It is about a project dubbed, ‘promoting an open government ecosystem in Belize’.  This tripartite initiative was launched earlier this month via collaborations from the US Embassy, the Organization of American States and the Trust for the Americas.  The project’s aim has a lot to do with the services provided by the government to its people, as explained by Linda Eddleman, the Chief Executive Officer at Trust for the Americas.

Linda Eddleman – CEO of Trust for the Americas: “What we are trying to do in the Open Government Program is, we are trying to promote good governance across the hemisphere so we are trying to implement initiatives that are going to help governments work better and develop better services to their citizens because we feel and I think there is a lot of evidence to show that democracy is strengthened when people believe in their governance. People tend to believe in their governance when governments are proving the services that they are supposed to be providing so we trying to help people who have ideas, people from NGOs or Universities who have ideas of some initiatives that could be put into place that can make governments work better. Our philosophy is that innovations that make government services be provided more efficiently and effectively are ultimately going to increase support for governments and therefore increase support for democracy.”

The Trust for the Americas collaborated with government departments and civil society to establish innovative ideas that will promote open government. Henry Wade, the Local Coordinator for The Trust for the Americas in Belize spoke about some of the initiatives that they funded in order to promote greater transparency to foster open government.

Henry Wade – the Local Coordinator, The Trust for the Americas in Belize : “We funded eight subgrant teams across various disciplines, NGO communities, and civil society organizations. As Linda mentioned we have the Wildlife Conservation Society, we have the Ya’axche Conservation trust, both are environment based NGOs. We have academic groups; actually, we have groups representing the Belize High School, we have groups representing the Corozal Junior College and the University of Belize. We also have private sector based entities; the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry for example. It engages a wide array of different actors, we bring them to the table, we have them engage with their different government counterparts. To the end what Linda was mentioning for the promotion of better services by the government for all Belizeans, at the end of that day, that is pretty much the defining goal.”

Wade explained that since the idea was a foreign concept there was initially some reluctancy, but with time the new concept was embraced.

Henry Wade – the Local Coordinator, The Trust for the Americas in Belize: “It has been challenging in terms getting the doors open but we have been received with open arms by various government institutions, for example, the central IT office CITO. That is the IT arm of Government, they have been really instrumental in embracing open government and open data and the principles behind open government so we have had a very strong partnership with them. We have also engaged the Attorney General’s Ministry, we have engaged the Economic Development Council, that is situated in the office of the Prime Minister, we have engaged the Integrity Commission, we have engaged in different cross sections of government organizations and offices. Again the reception has been one where more information needs to be shared with them, it is going to take a while. It is a culture shift, understanding more about what open government is but the benefits, the tangible benefits that these Government Ministries and Departments can provide for average citizens, we believe that on the government side they are fully onboard to embrace those benefits to the benefit of all Belizeans.”

Now that the project has come to an end, it was able to establish several open government’s initiatives and it is hoped that the society will continue to demand an open government.