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PARLIAMENTARY PERFORMANCE AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGY


media could be effective for providing information to the public, educating citizens about parliamentary work, outreach to new audiences and engagement with citizens. Cru- cially, social media had great value as a listening tool for learning about citizens’ views on a given subject. Social media presented opportunities and challenges to Parliaments, even though social media did not neces- sarily fit with traditional parliamentary rules and customs. The Study Group highlighted that many Parliaments were increasingly utilizing social media in their operations. • 3.2:


Guidelines for parliamen-


tary use of social media was another possible area for future refinement of the Benchmarks. The Study Group suggested the CPA Secre- tariat gather information on existing practices regarding the use of social media by its Members. Based on this information, the Study Group recom- mended that future refinements of the Benchmarks addressed the issue of use of social media by CPA Parlia- ments and MPs.


Benchmarks for democratic parliamentary behaviour


• 4.1: The Study Group recognized that Parliaments often faced chal- lenges in building and maintaining public trust. Reference was made to the 2012 Global Parliamentary Report by the IPU and the United Nations Development Programme, which noted as its “Key Message One” that “Public trust in Parliament is very low in many countries. Parlia- ments are obliged to account for their actions more regularly than ever before.” It was also noted that some of these challenges stemmed from issues related to the conduct of indi- vidual MPs, rather than behaviour of the institution as a whole. The Study Group illuminated that citizens often had their own set of benchmarks for MPs. CPA benchmarks on individual MP behaviour could be helpful in clarifying appropriate expectations of MPs – for example, noting that MPs were entitled to also have a private life.


• 4.2: The 2006 CPA Benchmarks included a short section on “Ethical Governance”, which included the following provisions on “Transparency and Integrity”:


• 10.1.1 Legislators should main- tain high standards of accountability, transparency and responsibility in the conduct of all public and parliamen- tary matters. • 10.1.2 The Legislature shall ap- prove and enforce a code of conduct, including rules on conflicts of interest and the acceptance of gifts. • 10.1.3 Legislatures shall require legislators to fully and publicly disclose their financial assets and business interests. • 10.1.4 There shall be mecha- nisms to prevent, detect and bring to justice legislators and staff engaged in corrupt practices.


• 4.3: While these provisions provided a basis for possible new Benchmarks for Democratic Par- liamentary Behaviour, they could be expanded in a number of ways. The Study Group recommended that the CPA Secretariat work with its Mem- bers and partners to develop a draft set of Benchmarks for Democratic Parliamentary Behaviour. In develop- ing such a draft, the CPA Secretariat could survey its Branches on existing practices and codes relating to ethics and individual parliamentary behaviour. • 4.4: The Study Group mentioned a number of other recent publica- tions that had contributed to the development of international norms regarding ethical behaviour, such as the Handbook on Parliamentary Ethics and Conduct: A Guide for Par- liamentarians, published by the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption and the Westmin- ster Foundation for Democracy, and the Background Study: Professional and Ethical Standards for Parliamen- tarians by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Categories included: codes of conduct, registry of interests, declaration of assets, regu- lation of expenses and allowances,


conduct in the Chamber and rules about relations with lobbyists. • 4.5: Nonetheless, for purposes of Benchmarks for Democratic Parliamentary Behaviour a broader, more general focus on professional and ethical behaviour appeared to be appropriate. Many of the challenges that Parliaments faced also dealt with issues other than corruption or conflicts of interest. The Study Group noted the need to help build a deeper culture of democratic behaviour and values within Parliament, including issues that had been embodied in the United Kingdom’s “Principles for Standards in Public Life”, including: selflessness, integrity, objectivity,


“Parliaments, Parliamentarians and PMOs are harnessing innovative ICTs to enhance the ability of citizens to provide input into parliamentary work.”


accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. This could perhaps be expanded to include such issues as: 1) tolerance and respect for differing views; 2) dedication to public service; 3) avoiding even the appearance of abuse of office or unethical conduct; 4) respecting the rules of decorum and the dignity of the institution of Parliament; and 5) conducting MPs’ personal lives in a way that doesn’t bring disrepute to the institution. Particular reference was made to the role that political parties played in enforcing rules of conduct. • 4.6: In preparing a discussion document on Benchmarks for Democratic Parliamentary Behaviour, it was also noted that there could be opportunities to draw on the resources of civil society and PMOs in reviewing a discussion draft and suggesting refinements based on


experiences around the world. In this regard, it was recognized that the PMOs used tech platforms to obtain input and comments on the draft Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, which resulted in a better document. It was recognized that the CPA is a membership institution and that its Branches ultimately needed to make decisions on what the CPA was able to support consistently with its values and the diversity of Branch- es within the organization. However, the Study Group also welcomed inputs by the PMO community into any such discussion document, and recommended that the CPA Secre- tariat worked with partners to explore mechanisms for providing input on a draft discussion document from the broader membership and from the PMO community.


Collaboration between Parliaments, CPA and PMOs


• 5.1: The Study Group acknowl- edged the value of communication between parliamentary leadership, senior staff and PMOs, recognizing that Parliaments and PMOs had a shared goal of supporting effective Parliaments. • 5.2: The Study Group noted a number of ways to strengthen co- operation between Commonwealth Parliaments and PMOs, including inviting Commonwealth PMOs to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, where appropriate. It was felt that this might help to provide additional information to PMOs on the challenges faced by Parliamen- tarians and CPA Parliaments in meet- ing citizen expectations. • 5.3:The Study Group recom- mended that the CPA Secretariat worked with its branches to identify independent and non-partisan PMOs within the Commonwealth that might be able to provide support, expertise and commentary on future CPA recommendations or study groups. This could include the development of an informal consultative group of Commonwealth PMOs to work with the CPA and its Branches to address issues of mutual concern.


The Parliamentarian | 2013: Issue Three | 211


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