Summary of the Meeting of the National Security Transparency Advisory Group (NS-TAG) - January 20, 2021
Held via Videoconference
- Michèle Audette
- William Baker
- Khadija Cajee
- Mary Francoli
- Harpreet Jhinjar
- Thomas Juneau (co-chair)
- Justin Mohammed
- Bessma Momani
- Dominic Rochon (co-chair)
- Jeffrey Roy
“Transparency by Design”: Definition, Evaluation and Institutionalization of National Security Transparency – Part Three
Invited Guests and Speakers:
- James Cohen - Executive Director, Transparency International Canada
- Suzanne Piotrowski – Associate Professor and Director, Transparency and Governance Center, Rutgers School of Public Affairs and Administration
National Security Community Members Present (as observers):
Canada Revenue Agency, Communications Security Establishment, Department of National Defence, Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada, Global Affairs Canada, Public Safety Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Treasury Board Secretariat.
- Opening of the Meeting and Roll Call
- Discussion Session with Guests: “Transparency by Design”: Definition, Evaluation and Institutionalization of National Security Transparency – Part Three
- NS-TAG’s Initial Report: Discussion on outreach efforts following the Report’s publication
- Information Update and Closing
The seventh virtual NS-TAG meeting took place on January 20, 2021, on the theme, “Transparency by Design: Definition, Evaluation and Institutionalization of National Security Transparency – Part Three.”
During the first session of the meeting,the two guest speakers shared their views on how to build transparency in organizations, how to improve access to information, and the relationship between accountability, integrity and transparency.
During the second session, NS-TAG members discussed outreach activities they conducted following the publication of their initial report last month. This included two outreach video sessions on January 14, interviews with social media and written publications in media.
The January 14 sessions were organized by Harpreet Jhinjar and Khadija Cajee. The objective was to inform stakeholders about the work of the NS-TAG, enhance public dialogue around national security, build relationships with various communities, and listen to concerns. Sixteen participants in total attended the two outreach sessions. This first outreach experience highlighted the need (for the NS-TAG and the national security community) to have a space for engagement and dialogue with various stakeholders, and the importance and value of holding such sessions with a variety of groups to get views and feedback from diverse communities on how to improve national security transparency.
During the third session, the Group discussed programming for upcoming meetings. It was agreed that they would continue to work on the current theme for the next two meetings, and in March the Group will decide if members are ready to move to the next theme. The Group also agreed to set aside some time during upcoming meetings to plan and discuss their next report.
Key Takeaways of the Discussion with Guests:
- Guests discussed several means of building transparency into an organization’s practices, such as:
- Incorporating transparency into an organization’s mission statement, goals and values;
- Including a management performance indicator related to transparency;
- Transparency performance measures should be adapted to the programs of each organizations;
- Reporting by organizations on transparency performance indicators through appropriate accountability mechanisms;
- Providing practical, regular training with front-line examples that illustrate the importance of transparency in day-to-day work, and does not only come from a regulatory perspective;
- Creating knowledge hubs;
- Ensuring that any bodies responsible for oversight on transparency issues have a direct line to senior management;
- Getting early/easy “wins” to demonstrate that integrating transparency is doable;
- Considering that peer-to-peer comparisons on results and achievements may resonate better;
- Establishing at the most senior leadership levels of an organization that transparency is a priority.
- Experts also shared that ensuring that already existing/released information is accessible, getting the word out, is an easy first step to improve transparency. Other good steps include: improving the timeliness and usability of information, providing context to information; ensuring that information can be easily understood and; highlighting how can the public make a difference.
- According to some research, increased transparency does not necessarily lead to increased trust – at least with respect to access to information systems. For example, after research participants were educated on the U.S.’s Freedom of Information Act system, they later reported less trust, perhaps because of a perceived need to have to go through significant effort for the government to be transparent at all.
- Transparency, accountability and integrity form a foundational triangle of trust. Trust of the public is mission critical. One possible approach is to target enhanced trust in processes.
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