Skip to content

President Obama Talks Accountability, Leadership, and Change with Global Leaders in Ottawa

President Obama participates in a roundtable meeting with local leaders at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, on Friday, May 31, 2019.

Please credit "The Obama Foundation" when posting. The photographs may not be manipulated in any w

It’s been a busy week for us at the Foundation! On Tuesday, we hosted a roundtable conversation in Bogotá with President Obama and a small group of Colombian changemakers who are working tirelessly to transform their communities. Two days later, we traveled to Canada and hosted another conversation with President Obama and nine inspiring leaders from around the world who are committed to government transparency, inclusivity, and accountability.

President Obama Talks Change With Leaders in Ottawa

We were thrilled to host this conversation on the margins of the Open Government Partnership (Opens in a new tab) (OGP) Global Summit, which President Obama helped launch in 2011. The OGP helped us identify this talented group of leaders, who are forging bright futures for themselves and their communities in their natives Afghanistan, Argentina, Canada, Estonia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom.

It’s important to all of us that we hear directly from emerging leaders working on a range of issues in unique cultural and historical contexts. By listening to them, we’re able to incorporate their voices and experiences into carefully tailored programming that helps them expand their impact in meaningful ways. And that’s exactly what we did in Ottawa today.

Get to know the leaders below, then sign up for our email list so you don’t miss future Obama Foundation news and updates!

Sayed Ikram Afzali, a man with a light medium skin tone listens attentively. He has thinning dark brown hair and is wearing a denim colored suit jacket with a white shirt.
Sayed Ikram Afzali – Kabul, Afghanistan – Integrity Watch

“Afghanistan has great potential to become a responsive and accountable state to its own citizens and the international community. Our communities have proven that they are resilient and able to mobilize their own resources to fix problems on their own. At Integrity Watch, we believe in people and provide them with the space and support they need to hold their government accountable. On that note, if I could take President Obama somewhere in my community, I would take him to a school in Kapisa province where the local community has taken responsibility to fix the problems at their own school despite lack of resources and lack of government support.”

Natalia Carfi, a woman with a light medium skin tone, speaks at a conference. She has bangs, long brown hair, and is wearing a black shirt with a red hexagon necklace.
Natalia Carfi – Buenos Aires, Argentina – Open Data Charter

“My colleagues inspire me to do the work I do because I can work towards better and stronger democracies, but I can’t do it on my own. A huge part of what we do involves cultural change within governmental structures, and that—like all cultural change—takes a lot of time. Open data and open government have grown significantly around the world, but governmental structures can be so massive and have so many intricacies. You have to have a lot of patience and try to make every step count.”

A man with a light skin tone speaks at a conference. He has thinning blonde hair, a beard, and is wearing a blue suit jacket.
Joe Powell – London, United Kingdom – Open Government Partnership

“At the Open Government Partnership, we are fighting for citizens to have the tools they need to shape and oversee government beyond the ballot box. I’m responsible for supporting activists around the world and the work they do to give citizens a louder voice and say in how they are governed—I’m always surprised by how universal the concept of open government is.”

A group of three people with light skin tones with formal wear and listen attentively at a conference.
Teele Pehk – Tallinn, Estonia – Open Knowledge Estonia

“Since I’m quite impatient, I am always astounded by how long it takes for a cultural change to take root. Be it the use of the formerly-closed seaside in Tallinn or the shift to e-smart public services in Estonia, I’m driven to design collaborative and deliberative policy processes, educate citizens about public interest, and help the Estonian civil service be as open and citizen-friendly as possible.”

A woman with a light olive skin tone talks to President Obama. His back is to the camera. She has a short black bob, glasses, and is wearing red lipstick.
Mindy Denny – Eskasoni First Nation – Union of Nova Scotia Indians

“Data is so important to good governance, planning, and evaluation, but sophisticated information management systems and data architectures do not exist in indigenous communities. I work to change that. If President Obama were to visit, I would take him to our community schools to show him the faces of next Mi’kmaq generation. I would take him to the schools because these vulnerable young people depend on their leadership (us) to make informed, evidence-based decisions that will shape healthy and sustainable futures for them to enjoy.”

A woman with a light, warm peach skin tone smiles. She has long blonde hair and is wearing all black.
Anastasiya Kozlovtseva – Kyiv, Ukraine – Transparency International Ukraine

“The 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine inspires me to do the work I do in my community because it showed me that there are millions of people just like me who are ready to work hard to make our country better. I want to see people become more educated and engaged on the subjects that influence their lives as a citizen. It would help them understand what accountability is, how much power they have to control their local and national governments, and how they can participate in governing.”

An Asian woman with a light medium skin tone tallks to President Obama. His back is to the camera. She has short brown hair and is wearing a midnight blue blazer.
Aida Kasymalieva – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan – Kyrgyzstan Parliament

“I am the Deputy Speaker in Parliament, and I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing if it weren’t for my daughter. She inspires me to do the work I do because I want a better education for her, a better environment for her, and better rights for all women in our country. I know we can build a strong and developed Kyrgyzstan—this is our chance.”

A woman with a medium deep skin tone speaks at a conference. She has brown hair, wearing a leopard print scarf, and a bright red dress.
Stephanie Muchai – Nairobi, Kenya – Hivos East Africa

I am passionate about improving public accountability, transparency, and public participation in the delivery of public goods and services to citizens in Kenya. I believe we all have a shared responsibility for each other’s lives and that we can’t accomplish anything unless we do it together.”

A man with a light warm golden skin tone looks up. He has grey and brown-streaked hair and is wearing glasses and a black jean jacket with a light brown button up shirt. A Black woman with a deep skin tone sits next to him.
Jean-Noé Landry – Montréal, Québec, Canada – OpenNorth

“Through a collaborative local-to-global approach, I convene multi-stakeholder teams and peer-to-peer networks to build the open smart cities and communities of the future. This impacts all communities, especially indigenous communities, which require an openness to new ways of seeing, learning, and sharing information. Working alongside indigenous elders, I put together a primer on decolonizing data in Canada that helped bridge gaps in understandings of indigenous data sovereignty.”