The public comment period for this legislation has ended.

Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

7 bill comments, 126 section comments

Please use the buttons on the left side of the page to navigate different sections and provisions of the draft document. To comment on a specific provision (Section), click on the topic (Title) that the provision is under, then scroll down to the provision you'd like to comment on, and click 'Add a Comment on Section X.' Use the comment boxes at the bottom of the page to comment on the document as a whole.

Executive Summary

This Declaration on Parliamentary Openness is a call to national parliaments by civil society parliamentary monitoring organizations (PMOs) for an increased commitment to openness and to citizen engagement in parliamentary work. PMOs are increasingly recognized for playing important roles in helping make parliamentary information more accessible to citizens, strengthening the capacity of citizens to participate in parliamentary processes, and improving parliamentary accountability. While PMOs have a strong interest in greater access to governmental and parliamentary information, they also recognize the need for increased collaborative dialogue with the world’s parliaments on issues of parliamentary openness and reform, so that increased government and parliamentary openness results in greater citizen engagement, more responsive representative institutions and, ultimately, a more democratic society. The Declaration, which draws on a variety of background documents endorsed by the international parliamentary community, was reviewed and discussed at a conference of PMO leaders that was co-hosted by the National Democratic Institute, the Sunlight Foundation, and the Latin American Legislative Transparency Network in Washington, D.C. The conference took place from April 30 to May 2, 2012 with support from the Omidyar Network, the Open Society Institute, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the Embassy of Mexico in the United States. The World Bank Institute also partnered in the conference and co-hosted a roundtable at its conclusion. An updated version of the Declaration reflecting the prevailing consensus among conference participants is being made available for comment to the broader PMO community from June 11 – July 31, 2012. Feedback will then be incorporated into a final version that will be launched on the International Day of Democracy, September 15, 2012.

  1. TITLE I - Preamble
    1. Sec. 0. Preamble (3 comments)
  2. TITLE II - Promoting a Culture of Openness
    1. Sec. 1. Public Ownership of Parliamentary Information (1 comment)
    2. Sec. 2. Promoting a Culture of Openness through Legislation (2 comments)
    3. Sec. 3. Promoting a Culture of Openness through Oversight (1 comment)
    4. Sec. 4. Promoting Civic Education (3 comments)
    5. Sec. 5. Encouraging Citizen Participation (5 comments)
    6. Sec. 6. Encouraging a Vibrant Civil Society (4 comments)
    7. Sec. 7. Enabling Effective Parliamentary Monitoring
    8. Sec. 8. Sharing Good Practice
    9. Sec. 9. Ensuring Legal Recourse (1 comment)
    10. Sec. 10. Providing Complete Information (1 comment)
    11. Sec. 11. Providing Information in a Timely Manner
    12. Sec. 12. Ensuring the Accuracy of Information (1 comment)
  3. TITLE III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent
    1. Sec. 13. Adopting Policies on Parliamentary Transparency (1 comment)
    2. Sec. 14. Providing Information on Roles and Functions (2 comments)
    3. Sec. 15. Providing Information on Members of Parliament (3 comments)
    4. Sec. 16. Providing Information on Parliamentary Staff and Parliamentary Administration (1 comment)
    5. Sec. 17. Informing Citizens regarding the Parliamentary Agenda
    6. Sec. 18. Informing and Engaging Citizens on Draft Legislation and Preparatory Analysis (6 comments)
    7. Sec. 19. Publishing Records of Committee Proceedings
    8. Sec. 20. Recording Parliamentary Votes (3 comments)
    9. Sec. 21. Publishing a Hansard, Transcripts, or Records of Plenary Proceedings (1 comment)
    10. Sec. 22. Publishing Reports Created by or Provided to Parliament (2 comments)
    11. Sec. 23. Providing Budget Information
    12. Sec. 24. Disclosing Assets and Ensuring the Integrity of Members (5 comments)
    13. Sec. 25. Disclosing Information on Conflicts of Interest and Ethical Conduct (2 comments)
    14. Sec. 26. Providing Access to Historical Information (2 comments)
  4. TITLE IV - Making Parliamentary Information Easily Accessible
    1. Sec. 27. Ensuring Accessibility of Parliament through Multiple Channels (1 comment)
    2. Sec. 28. Ensuring Physical Access to Parliament
    3. Sec. 29. Guaranteeing Access by the Media
    4. Sec. 30. Providing Live and On-Demand Broadcasts and Streaming (2 comments)
    5. Sec. 31. Guaranteeing Accessibility throughout the Country (1 comment)
    6. Sec. 32. Using Plain Language (2 comments)
    7. Sec. 33. Using Multiple National or Working Languages
    8. Sec. 34. Ensuring Free Access (1 comment)
  5. TITLE V - Enabling Electronic Access and Analysis of Parliamentary Information
    1. Sec. 35. Maintaining Parliamentary Websites (1 comment)
    2. Sec. 36. Providing Information in Open and Structured Formats (1 comment)
    3. Sec. 37. Mitigating Technological Barriers (1 comment)
    4. Sec. 38. Guaranteeing Citizen Privacy
    5. Sec. 39. Releasing Information in Non-Proprietary Formats (2 comments)
    6. Sec. 40. Allowing Downloadability for Reuse (1 comment)
    7. Sec. 41. Facilitating Easy and Stable Mechanisms for Finding Information
    8. Sec. 42. Hyperlinking Related Information
    9. Sec. 43. Enabling Use of Alert Services
    10. Sec. 44. Facilitating Two-Way Communication (7 comments)

General Comments on Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

Ivan FONG on July 26, 2012

The notion of parliamentary openness applies not only to "national parliaments", but legislatures at sub-national (such as the legislature of Hong Kong) and transnational levels (such as the European Parliament). The first sentence could be rephrased to embrace a broader scope.

Fabian on July 30, 2012

I would like to see the following section added to title II. "A culture of openness is a process of steady improvements. Parliaments and Governments shall accompany this process by regular meetings with the civil society with the goal of exchanging about needs and problems. Parliaments and governments with its departments and agencies shall organise events where public representatives, state staff work together with programmers, designers and activists of the civil society for several days to improve existing and create new transparency instruments."

Jan Goossenaerts on July 31, 2012

At the preamble, I have given a comment on the use of the term principle. Further to that comment, suggesting that most sections of the declaration contain requirements and even solution options, here an overal observation and recommendation.

My observation: the 44 sections contain an initial statement of the requirements (for an open Parliament in a democratic society). Each individual statement can be easily defended and improved, yet when it comes to implementing the recommendations that would follow from a gap analysis (parliamentary AS-IS in a country, state or municipality vs. parliament compliant with the declaration), I expect that a lot of analysis on those requirements would be needed. If these analyses happen exclusively case-by-case, they will take much effort (cost) and outcomes will miss the intended qualities.

My recommendation: perform a thorough analysis on the requirements as implied by the principles (use a requirements engineering method), and then restructure the declaration in such a way that gap analyses can be performed in a more systematic way, and such that concrete, prioritized steps result for a parliamentary/societal AS-IS.

Dan Swislow on July 31, 2012

From Parliamentary Monitoring Group (South Africa):

"The Declaration is such a good idea and will certainly help us in our continued engagement with Parliament. It’s obvious that a lot of thought and effort was put into the drafting of this document and all the relevant issues have been captured quite nicely. Some of the provisions are ambitious and will take some persuading.

The issue of citizen participation and civic involvement is important and should be reflected as such in the document. I therefore propose that a new chapter VI be inserted to cover this. This would mean that points 5, 6, 7, 18 and 28 can be moved to this new section."

Michael Mulley on August 1, 2012

I think the Declaration should more clearly condemn restrictions on information reuse. This is gestured towards in several sections (#1, #34, #40), but -- unless I'm missing it elsewhere? -- I think it warrants a clear, standalone statement.

Citizens should be allowed to reuse and republish parliamentary information, in whole or in part, free of legal encumbrances.

This is an important issue which many PMOs have faced and continue to face.

Cristiano Ferri Faria on August 1, 2012

I believe that we need to build a collaborative relation between PMOs and parliaments, actually struggling against the other (more fighting!) perspective, very common in some countries, where there is a great tension between PMOs and parliaments. This second approach, I testify, delays the openness in parliaments once staff and legislators tend to be not willing to collaborate when they are only criticized, and not participating of declarations like that.

For this reason, it is essential to include an “inside machine” perspective in the Declaration as I believe there are a set of issues regarding the “how to open” that are crucial to the openning process and some PMOs in general have difficulties to understand. It would be great to stamp it in the Declaration.

Then, we should have a Title or something like this:

TITLE VI – Enabling Institutional conditions to fostering openness in parliaments

  1. Providing human resources to actions and projects regarding transparency, openness and participation
  2. Building specific capacity in the human resources
  3. Setting periodic strategic planning for projects regarding transparency, openness and participation
  4. Fostering a culture of innovation, collaboration and openness within the parliamentary organization
  5. Engaging parliamentarians in transparency, openness and participation
  6. Reforming procurement system to create innovative opportunities of collaboration between civil society, private sector and parliamentary organizations
  7. Preparing ICT parliamentary staff and infrastructure for a collaborative model of work

Cristiano Ferri Faria

e-Democracy Program, Brazilian House of Representatives