Mission: The mission of the Fiscal Governance program (FGP) is to promote greater openness,
accountability, and equity in the fiscal and economic systems of countries where OSF works. Specifically,
we work to address the ways in which corruption, plutocracy and populism can undermine public finance
management and economic policy-making in ways that hurt society’s poorest and most vulnerable.
To address these three challenges, FGP supports partners that work to:
• Increase the transparency of government finances and economic policy-making;
• Promote poverty-reducing and equity-enhancing polices on government taxation, expenditure and investment;
• Identify and seek accountability for instances of financial corruption, waste, and mismanagement, as well as support legal and institutional reforms that aim to reduce corruption;
The Landscape: The rise of nationalist agendas in the U.S. and Europe has coincided with a retrenchment
in commitments to global governance norms and institutions that are central to achieving progress on
financial transparency, accountability and anti-corruption. As its first legislative act, the new U.S.
Administration scrapped a long-fought for anti-corruption measure in the extractive industries (the
implementing rule for Dodd Frank Section 1504) and recently halted domestic implementation of the
Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
Globally we have seen a growing intolerance for grand corruption—including in the U.S.—and a related
surge in anti-corruption social movements, which offers new sources of hope for countries long plagued
by unaccountable governance. At the same time, this new attention to corruption risks undermining faith
in democratic institutions unless governments respond to this civic discontent more transformational
reforms. Recent extractive commodity price crashes have dramatically affected the finances of resource
rich countries in a variety of ways—new austerity measures across the board, in some cases more
repressive government tactics to quell dissent, and elsewhere, more openness to external pressure for
More open, participatory and inclusive economic governance is increasingly recognized as a
global norm, however, major outliers remain, with trade governance being one of the most prominent.
Negotiations of several recent major plurilateral agreements in the U.S. and Europe have raised
significant concerns about excessive secrecy and outsized corporate influence in negotiating and
enforcing agreements with huge consequences for democracy and social policy.
Technology continues to represent a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it offers new opportunities for
real time civic oversight, the ability crowdsource more inclusive voices in public policy and the potential
for public scandals to rapidly gain momentum and reach political tipping points. On the other, it provides
new avenues for abuse and misuse of personal information, bringing the importance of privacy
protections and civil liberties in an age of big data and automated decision-making into sharp relief. More
broadly, the global trend towards closing civic space is posing new and growing challenges for partners in
the field in more historically open contexts.
Our Place in the Field: Given our small U.S.-based team, our approach will continue to rely heavily on
large grants to international NGOs with the capacity to work globally and locally at scale in our
respective fields of work. We will also place greater emphasis on strengthening collaboration with OSF
foundations to implement local programs in strategic countries, while keeping a strong focus on
transnational governance concerns that our global nature and bird’s eye view position us well to address.
Fields of Work
I. Natural Resource Governance: Natural Resource Governance will continue to be FGP’s largest
portfolio, and our work will remain focused on the problems of finite natural resources being poorly
managed by political elites; secrecy enabling corruption of an exceptional size and scale; corporations not
paying their “fair share” for these resources and people in resource-rich countries not benefiting from and
often being harmed by resource extraction. Our three medium term goals for work in this field are to (1)
Mainstream norms of transparent generation and management of extractive industry revenues to reduce
opportunities for corruption and increase opportunities for public oversight and policy influence; (2) Hold
government officials and corporations more regularly accountable for instances of grand corruption and
financial abuse and (3) Improve more low income governments’ ability to maximize natural resource
wealth and translate it into public goods.
Ninety percent of our budget in this field will continue to go to five core anchor grantees: the Natural
Resource Governance Institute (NRGI), Publish What You Pay (PWYP), Oxfam America, Global
Witness, and the ONE Campaign. Following the U.S. Congress’s decision in early 2017 to void the
implementing regulation of Dodd-Frank Section 1504 (which mandated that all publicly traded oil, gas
and mining companies disclose payments they make to governments), we will continue to support
grantees weighing various options for moving forward. We will also continue efforts to defend and
possibly improve the European Union Accounting Directive as it undergoes review in 2018. Given the
drop in commodity prices, we will seek to exploit new political openings for extractive governance
improvements in partnership with local foundations. Lastly, we will continue to support the Columbia
Center for Sustainable Investment (CCSI) in running an Executive Sessions project on the Political
Economy of the Extractive Industries, with which we hope will stimulate new strategic innovation and
thought leadership in the field.
II. Equitable and Accountable Fiscal Systems: For this new strategy cycle, we have combined our tax
and budget portfolios into one larger body of work focused on promoting more equitable and accountable
fiscal systems, with a special focus on low and middle income countries. Our two medium-term goals
for this portfolio of work are to (1) Expand the reach and impact of civil society organizations in Africa,
Asia and Latin America that are promoting more open, accountable and equity enhancing approaches to
public taxation and spending and; (2) Support the development and implementation of global rules and
norms that enable more responsible and accountable corporate tax practices, improve low income
countries’ ability to mobilize domestic resources and incentivize them to spend them accountably
Under objective one, we will continue to support the International Budget Partnership (IBP) as an anchor
partner, while also continuing to explore other international NGOs as potential additional partners to scale
our support for local civil society work on fiscal systems. Building on recent grants in Brazil, South
Africa and Kenya, we will also provide direct support field-leading country-level organizations that excel
at technical analysis of tax and budget issues, and that also work to build the capacity of non-expert actors
to engage on fiscal equity and accountability issues related to reducing poverty and inequality. We will
focus our efforts on places where OSF’s foundations and thematic programs are investing more broadly
on issues of economic advancement and government accountability. For groups working on tax related
issues, we will continue to seek partners that balance an interest in transnational tax governance with a
focus on domestic reforms to outdated/inequitable tax systems.
Under objective two, we will continue trying to influence global norms and regulations around tax
governance and fiscal transparency, participation and oversight. This work includes continued support for
advocates promoting more comprehensive public tax reporting by multinational companies on a country
by country basis, with an initial focus on Europe. Building on the recent OECD Base Erosion and Profit
Shifting (BEPS) process, FGP will also explore ways to support low income countries and regional
groupings seeking to develop their own coordinated solutions to issues such as strengthening antiavoidance rules, enhanced information exchange, and reducing destructive tax competition. The norms
work may also include support for innovative corporate efforts to develop new voluntary norms around
responsible tax practices. We will likewise continue to support efforts to strengthen global norms around
open, accountable and inclusive budgeting and service delivery, for example through the Open
III. Anti-Corruption: To date, FGP, along with the broader fiscal governance field, have relied too
heavily on proactive transparency alone as a bulwark against corruption, at the expense of more targeted
accountability and enforcement efforts. In this strategy cycle, we will sharpen our focus on anticorruption with a new portfolio that specifically targets individual and corporate accountability for grand
corruption at the national and transnational levels. We have an ambitious strategy that we hope to devote
additional resources in the years to come.
In close partnership with other relevant OSF programs and foundations, FGP’s work in this field will
focus on the four medium term goals: (1) Strengthening Global Anti-Corruption Rules, Norms and
Implementation; (2) Strengthening Civil Society’s Ability to Combat the Transnational Dimensions of
Grand Corruption; (3) Seizing National Level Opportunities for Anti-Corruption Reforms and; (4)
Enhancing Peer Learning and Exchange on Corruption Reform to Accelerate Progress in Countries at a
First, we will promote the disclosure, uptake, and use of corruption-relevant information, beginning with
a focus on procurement and shell-company ownership information, by civil society and journalists
undertaking corruption related investigations and policy analysis. With respect to the ultimate,
“beneficial” owners (BO) of companies, trusts, and other legal vehicles, we will continue to support
reform advocacy in G7 countries where political traction is substantial and/or the impact of reform would
be significant for the field. We will complement this work with targeted support to civil society in
resource-rich countries that are required to implement BO reforms by 2020 under the new EITI standard
and/or via OGP commitments.
We will continue supporting the Open Contracting Partnership and its work to spread open-contracting norms, secure new commitments, and support reform implementation.
Second, we will pursue new work to combat the transnational dimensions of corruption by strengthening
linkages among key accountability actors. This will include providing field support to organizations
pursuing legal remedies for grand corruption, building on the Open Society Justice Initiative’s
longstanding work and FGP’s own recent forays into this space. We will also support regional civil
society networking around anti-corruption issues, including potential work with OSF’s Latin America
Program to support accountability groups in countries beyond Brazil affected by the Lava Jato scandal.
Third, FGP will work closely with OSF geographic entities—incorporating available evidence about
conditions for success in anti-corruption reform—to identify and support emerging opportunities for
potentially impactful national level anti-corruption reform efforts. Depending on the context, such
reforms could take various forms, including institutional or rule-of-law strengthening efforts, preventive
transparency requirements, or efforts to improve enforcement of existing laws/regulations, among others.
Initially we will seek to identify one to two countries in which to invest in this work in 2018, working
closely with an interested local OSF foundation/regional program to seize opportunities for anticorruption mobilization and reform, and hopefully expand this work to additional countries in 2019-2021.
Fourth and finally, we will devote a small amount of resources to supporting cross-country learning about
how best to harness public support for reforms to combat corruption.
IV. Trade Governance: FGP’s field support to groups working on trade governance is nascent and we
have chosen to approach this large and complex issue through the relatively narrow lens of outsized
corporate influence in the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements. We believe that if a
broader set of stakeholders can access and inform the core principles that guide trade negotiations, the
resulting agreements will have more equitable impacts and stronger public ownership.
The first step in this long-term process is advocating for more open and participatory negotiation
processes. We will support groups in the U.S. and Europe that are exploring different models of more
democratic negotiations processes, while still being mindful of necessary privacy concerns of the
Concurrently, we will support groups promoting alternatives to the current Investor State Dispute
Settlement (ISDS) mechanism, which heavily favors corporate interests, often at the expense of the public
interest. This issue was a flashpoint in both the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic
Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreements, with unprecedented public outcry over this deeply
entrenched practice. We will support partners looking to seize political openings to push for alternatives
that allow non-corporate actors to also seek redress for harms they have suffered, particularly
marginalized communities. We will also push for more explicit and effective public policy exceptions that
allow sovereign governments to establish their own economic, social, environmental, labor, and human
rights policies without fear of costly arbitration. Finally, we will support groups exploring what it would
mean to do away with ISDS altogether, to further inform global policy debates.
We will also support new trade voices in the United States, which will be essential in order to formulate
the progressive policies that we hope to see in the next generation of bilateral and multilateral trade
agreements. We aim to further build out a constituency of those who value the positive potential impacts
of trade liberalization, while seeking to mitigate the negative impacts on human rights and economic
equality that these agreements can often have.