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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent

Sec. 15. Providing Information on Members of Parliament

Parliaments shall provide sufficient and regularly updated information, on the Internet and through other means, for citizens to understand a member’s credentials, party affiliation, roles in parliament, policy positions, identities of personal staff, and any information members wish to divulge about themselves and their credentials. Working contact information for the offices of members of parliament shall also be available to the public.

The IPU’s Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites note the duty of parliaments to publish member information online, including: a list of all current members, biodata, photo, a member’s constituency, party affiliation, committee membership, contact information, parliamentary activities, and other similar data.[1] According to the UNDP and the General Secretariat of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia note, creating a personal website is something that an individual member of parliament “should do to establish transparency and accountability.”[2] 

Current practice regarding publication of member information varies. The Parliament of South Africa’s website contains an alphabetical list of members of parliament with, at minimum, phone numbers, email addresses, party affiliations, committee memberships, photographs, and areas represented.[3] The parliaments of Haiti and Peru have similar platforms, with some members maintaining their own websites as well.[4] Members of the Lok Sabha in India have individual pages on the parliament’s website, which includes similar information as other countries discussed, as well as information on current legislative action.[5] In Chile and Argentina, the vast majority of legislators use the webpages provided by parliament to provide biographical information about their careers.[6] In the United States, all members of Congress are provided with funds to manage their own websites, where they often offer constituent services, post press releases, link to information about legislation and other legislative activity they are engaged in, and list contact details, among other information. It should noted, however, that the more uniform information is, the easier it is for PMOs and citizens to use technology to analyze and repurpose information provided by members. As one example of good practice, the Swiss Parliament provides extensive member information using XML, an open data format, which allows for broad adaptability and re-use of information.[7]

[1] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §1.6.

[2] UNDP, Handbook on Transparency and Accountability of Parliament, 2009, p. 52. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[3] Website of the Parliament of South Africa, Accessed 2/14/2012.

[4] Website of the Parliament of Haiti.; Website of the Congress of Peru, Congresistas de la Republica. Both accessed 6/12/2012.

[5] Website of the Lok Sabha, Members’ Home Page, Accessed 4/15/2012.

[6] Participa Corporation, Poder Ciudadano, and Accion Cuidadana, Regional Index of Parliamentary Transparency, August 2008, p. 41. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[7] Andreas Sidler, XML @, Global Centre for ICT in Parliament Meeting, Washington, D.C., February 27-29, 2012. Accessed 6/12/2012.