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The acts and decisions taken by public institutions and administrations are based on criteria of what is right or wrong. Public ethics analyses these criteria to see how to ensure that regulations, policies and public practices contribute to the common good, through social justice and integration of diversity.
Today, public ethics does not only focus on the integrity of public officials, political and institutional representatives, civil servants... but it also analyses the social and political infrastructure that influences these people’s behaviour. It also includes the private sector.
For example, corruption affects public representatives or officials but cannot be analysed outside the scope of private companies.
There are also private organisations that have the capacity to influence public sector decisions, promoting changes in their policies, such as NGOs or universities. To be credible, they must also open up ways for society to see the social goodness of their mission.
One of the current trends in public ethics is what is called open government. These are processes in which the State incorporates social actors, such as NGOs or associations, in the decisión-making process and policy monitoring. This model helps citizens, through organisations, to play a role in shaping and monitoring government.
The Center for Applied Ethics focuses its research in this area. Its objective is to understand and facilitate these processes. Some of its projects include the monitoring of the drafting and implementation process of the 2019-2020 Basque Country Open Government Action Plan. A group of researchers has been appointed to propose recommendations to improve the transparency of the Administration, citizen participation and accountability.