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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title III - Making Parliamentary Information Transparent

Sec. 21. Publishing a Hansard, Transcripts, or Records of Plenary Proceedings

Parliament shall create, maintain and publish readily accessible records of its plenary proceedings in the form of audio or video recordings, hosted online in a permanent location, and in the form of a written transcript.

The plenary serves as a forum for public discussion and final decision-making on all legislation. In many parliaments, the plenary provides an opportunity for questioning ministers or for voicing the concerns of constituents. There is broad international consensus on the importance of plenary for communicating parliamentary views and intentions to the public. COPA states that “debates on proposed legislation must be open to the public at some stage in the legislative process”[1] and that “plenary sessions of the parliament must be open to the public.”[2] Additionally, the Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites state that parliaments should make public “documentation produced from plenary sessions, such as schedules and agenda published in advance, records of actions taken, text of statements by members, and text of debates” in addition to audio, video, or web broadcasts of plenary meetings.[3] The IPU and the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament also recommend that parliaments make public documentation of previous plenary meetings, along with an audio or video archive of those meetings.[4] 

Most parliaments demonstrate a commitment to this standard by making plenary activities public. According to the World e-Parliament Report 2010, 81% of parliaments provide documentation of plenary activities.[5] In Bangladesh, the Secretary of the Jatiya Sangsad must ensure that a full report of plenary proceedings is published as soon as possible.[6] India requires the Secretaries General of both houses to publish a full report of the proceedings of open sittings. They must also maintain records of all reports and papers laid on the table by both Houses.[7] Unfortunately, as SAHR reports, this is not common practice in the region: “people other than MPs in most South Asian countries do not have easy access to the reports of proceedings and papers laid on the table…The only source of information for most people is media reportage.”[8] By allowing media to control the parliaments’ messages, parliaments are missing out on an opportunity to communicate their work to citizens directly. When parliaments are unable to publish their own transcripts, civil society organizations are often able to fill the gap. In 2012, an Open Parliament initiative in Serbia composed of a coalition of civil society organizations, launched a new website,, which will provide citizens with access to transcripts of all parliamentary sessions.[9]

In addition to written records, many parliaments are providing the public with audiovisual and multimedia recordings of the plenary. SADC PF, in fact, includes as a standard that “citizens shall have access to parliamentary business through broadcasts of plenary and committee meetings via multimedia such as the Internet, live television, and radio.”[10] From Morocco to Brazil to the United States, multimedia recordings of the plenary are becoming common practice; innovative use of hyperlinks can also associate relevant portions of the recorded session to particular points in the legislative history or legislative agenda.  

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

[2] Ibid., §

[3] IPU, Guidelines for Parliamentary Websites, §2.6.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 180.

[6] SAHR, Transparency in Parliament, Sri Lanka 2009, p. 24.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., p. 29.

[9] USAID Serbia press release, Transcripts of Parliamentary Sessions Now Available to All Citizens, 6 Jun 2012. Release Open Parliament.pdf. Accessed 6/16/2012.

[10] SADC PF, Benchmarks for Democratic Legislatures in Southern Afica, §6.4.4.