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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title I - Preamble

Sec. 0. Preamble

WHEREAS a strong, accessible and responsive parliament is the key to democratization because of its constitutional responsibilities of enacting legislation, overseeing executive policy implementation and representing citizen interests;

WHEREAS parliamentary openness enables parliamentarians to engage constituents in discussions of policy issues, informs and educates citizens about the work of parliament, provides citizens with access to the information necessary to provide input into the legislative process, permits citizens to hold parliamentarians to account and ensures that citizen interests and democratic aspirations are represented;

WHEREAS the rights of citizens to participate in governance and to access government information, including parliamentary information, are recognized as fundamental components of established international human rights frameworks ; the openness transparency of parliamentary information is recognized as an essential element of a democratic parliament as reflected in emerging international benchmarks and norms for democratic parliaments adopted by the international parliamentary community; and international institutions have laid a strong foundation for openness via parliamentary websites;

WHEREAS the onset of the digital era has altered fundamentally the context for public usage of parliamentary information and the expectations of citizens for good governance, necessitating that parliaments accept the opportunities provided by new technologies that facilitate information sharing and citizen engagement in parliamentary processes;

WHEREAS variations in parliamentary traditions, experience, resources and context may influence the approach to improving openness taken by parliament, these factors shall not reduce parliament’s commitment to becoming more open and transparent;

WHEREAS the need for open parliaments is complemented by the need for open governments and whereas 55 governments are currently working together as part of the Open Government Partnership to share concrete commitments in national action plans to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, repeal laws that hinder access to government information, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance;

WHEREAS a growing number of civil society parliamentary monitoring and support organizations seek to play a meaningful and collaborative role in strengthening the democratic accountability of parliaments and require access to parliamentary information to play this role effectively, and whereas there are numerous precedents for strong collaboration between parliaments and PMOs that can inform efforts for greater openness of parliamentary information in other countries;

THEREFORE, the undersigned parliamentary monitoring and support organizations call on parliaments to pledge to work toward full adherence to the following principles of parliamentary openness: