New at the OGP Summit: OpenOwnership and UK Government launch a major collective action platform, and we scale up our help for implementers

Dr Loren Treisman · May 2019

We’re delighted that today the UK Anti-Corruption Champion John Penrose is launching a new Beneficial Ownership Leadership Group at the Open Government Partnership Summit in Ottawa. This transnational coalition of governments will drive a global policy shift towards free, open beneficial ownership data and set ambitious best practice. OpenOwnership will coordinate key Leadership Group activities, facilitate discussions on international best practice and produce related guidance.

Let’s start with some background. In July 2018, we launched the Beneficial Ownership Transparency Network in partnership with the Open Government Partnership (OGP). The first meeting brought together national government pathfinders from Nigeria, Kenya, Ukraine, Slovakia, Indonesia, Denmark and the UK to exchange approaches to verifying beneficial ownership data. This made it clear that there is a strong desire to share knowledge with peers and receive practical guidance.

The Network convened once more alongside the International Anti-Corruption Conference in Copenhagen, and we took the opportunity to pitch an idea to expand our informal network into a government-led coalition - the Leadership Group - that is supported by our policy and technical expertise, and works closely with civil society.

Norms change requires clear, bold, and collective leadership - that’s why we think that the Leadership Group is an ideal tool for driving greater corporate transparency around the world. Members will be governments that are united by a common vision of simple access by business, civil society, and other government actors to public, open data of corporate beneficial ownership that is linked transnationally.

Money laundering through corporate structures is a borderless problem that requires a borderless solution. Transnational collaboration through the Leadership Group will help ensure that open beneficial ownership data allows us to “follow the money” across borders.

Members of the Leadership Group work towards this by committing to implement a set of Disclosure Principles, which were drafted by OpenOwnership, the UK Government and OGP. As Zosia Sztykowski, our Head of Policy explains, “We’re really excited to see cross-national collaboration on this issue become a reality through the Leadership Group. It is politically innovative, and will help deliver good beneficial ownership data by aligning top-level political support with technical capacity to implement political commitments.”

Over the coming months we will be coordinating the Leadership Group and facilitating discussions on international best practice. We’ll also provide bespoke technical assistance to Leadership Group members to support national implementations of beneficial ownership transparency. At this week’s OGP Summit, we’re excited to launch a new product to support this work: A Guide to Implementing Beneficial Ownership Transparency.

The Guide is designed to support both Leadership Group members and other governments implementing beneficial ownership transparency. It includes practical tools for policy and technical experts, shares emerging good practice on key issues such as verification, and provides thought leadership to address common implementation hurdles, such as privacy concerns.

As our Program Manager Louise Russell-Prywata explains, “To achieve policy impact, beneficial ownership data needs to be used by stakeholders across government, civil society and business; this means increasing the focus on how the data is published and who will use it. Our Guide brings together lessons, tools and good practice from the policy advice and technical assistance we’ve provided to governments around the world, in particular countries implementing open data registers using the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard. We hope the Guide will help Leadership Group members and other governments as they implement, as well as support those in civil society who play a crucial role in driving progress towards a global norm of beneficial ownership transparency.”

The Guide breaks down implementation into six focus areas, with dedicated resources for each:

1 - Consider: Foundational resources to understand and make the case for beneficial ownership transparency

2 - Commit: Making public commitments to beneficial ownership transparency, both through the Leadership Group, OGP and other international fora

3 - Legal: Designing and putting in place legislation and regulation

4 - Systems: Designing and building systems and software to collect, store and publish data to the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard

5 - Data: Steps to improve data quality, including verification and sanctions

6 - Publish: How to publish beneficial ownership data that drives policy impact

Going forward, the Leadership Group will become a hub for building best practice on all these aspects of implementing beneficial ownership transparency, and will connect high level political support with the technical capacity to make it happen. Through this work, and our ongoing technical assistance to governments, we will continue to refine and extend the tools and resources in our guide.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with governments, civil society, businesses and journalists to move towards a world in which knowledge about who owns and controls companies is open and impactful. As always, we welcome your feedback on how we can improve what we do and better support the growing community that is working to make beneficial ownership transparency a global norm.

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