Along with many other civil society organisations Transparency International New Zealand has added its name to an international declaration on COVID-19 and its risks to open government.
Addressed to governments, donors and international organisations, the letter focuses on democratic values. It acknowledges that protecting lives and livelihoods, sustaining health-care systems and the resetting the economy have rightly become the most pressing priorities for the foreseeable future. But it calls to action on the protection of open, inclusive and accountable governance, with democratic standards and personal rights.
The letter notes that “we have already seen that governments that suppress facts, remove oversight and silence critical voices can escalate the crises and increase hardships. On the contrary, open, honest and inclusive governments are leveraging collective knowledge to improve critical services and create a shared sense of responsibility. This approach creates trust in government actions and empowers citizens to be active participants in the response and recovery. The world finds itself at a crossroad. We can either address this pandemic in a way that protects or even revives trust, democracy, open and inclusive governance — or we can ignore them and expect a deeper erosion of open governance, one that would be very hard to reverse.”
To promote the values that define democracy, this declaration calls on governments and inter-government organisations to undertake actions that protect democracy, including actions relating to the importance of parliament, oversight and monitoring of decisions, transparency of procurement and protection of free speech and privacy.
The full declaration can be viewed at this link, and is open for any civil society representatives to sign online.