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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent

Sec. 14. Providing Information on Roles and Functions

Parliament shall make available information about its constitutional role, its structure, its functions, its rules and its workflow, as well as the same information for its committees.

Citizens must be able to understand the legislative process and functions of parliament, including parliament’s rules of procedure, rules, and workflow.  Providing access to the primary sources that govern legislative roles, processes and workflow is crucial. However, it  also important for parliaments to present this type of information in an easy-to-read, plain language format for citizens who lack the required technical expertise to understand the primary legal source material, or simply lack the time to work through it. Because parliaments must compete for citizens’ attention with a vast array of entertainment options, parliaments should also seek to present basic information in ways that capture popular attention.

The COPA benchmarks for democratic parliaments state that “Key decision-making processes must be presented in detail when they are officially recorded.”[1] This standard is followed by an overwhelming majority of national parliaments. The Global Centre for ICT in Parliament reports that more than 93% of parliamentary websites surveyed included information on their composition and function. Among its guidelines for parliamentary websites, the IPU specifically lists “History and role” and “Functions, composition and activities” as categories to be included. These categories include information about the history of parliament; its constitutional and foundational documents; a description of role and responsibilities of the parliament—as a whole and including its constituent bodies; its method of functioning; and its staff and budget.[2] 

The European Union adopted a new law in 2011 regarding the public’s access to parliamentary information, which provides that the parliament should also provide public access to information on workflow and internal procedures.[3] It also states that the offices of parliament should “inform citizens, in a fair and transparent way, about their organisational chart by indicating the remit of their internal units, the internal workflow and indicative deadlines of the procedures falling within their remit…”[4]

Most parliaments provide at least partial information relating to this standard. The Parliament of Uganda’s website has information on functions, composition, rules of procedure, administration, committee members and structure.[5] The Senate of Pakistan has a similar section on its website.[6] Brazil’s parliamentary website includes a general overview of Congress, its role, organizational charts, a legislative process “fluxogram,” and other information.[7] The National Assembly of the Republic of Korea’s website has a similar detailed organization chart among other information.[8] The UK Parliament has developed an array of resources for interested citizens, including school curriculum and video games that help users learn about the legislative process.[9] 


[1] COPA, The Contributions of Parliaments to Democracy: Benchmarks for the Parliaments of the Americas, §4.2.1.1.

[2] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §1.2 and §1.3.

[3] Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 30 May 2001 regarding public access to European Parliament, Council and Commission documents. Official Journal L 145 , 31/05/2001 P. 0043 – 0048, §12d

[4] Ibid., §1a.

[5] Website of the Parliament of Uganda, http://www.parliament.go.ug/. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[6] Website of the Senate of Pakistan, Senate History and Introduction. http://www.senate.gov.pk/ShowCategories.asp?GroupCode=7. Accessed 6/14/2012.

[7] Website of the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil, http://www2.camara.gov.br/english. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[8] Website of the National Assembly of the Republic of Korea, Organization Chart. http://korea.assembly.go.kr/int/org_01.jsp?leftid=AA. Accessed 6/14/2012.

[9] Website of the U.K. Parliament, http://www.parliament.uk/education/. Accessed 6/11/2012.