As the elected representatives of the people, parliamentarians need to be aware of the needs of their constituents, and will be expected to respond to those needs. Engaging the citizens in decisions that affect their lives is therefore essential to good governance, and a cornerstone of parliamentary procedure. Parliamentarians are also an important link between the electorate and the executive government, and play a key role in voicing the concerns of the people they represent and in advocating for changes that will improve their lives.
Legislative public outreach includes almost any systematic effort by parliament to communicate with the electorate. The Parliamentary Centre can support parliaments in developing procedures and guidelines for effective public consultation and citizen engagement. The Centre can also assist during the implementation of outreach activities where the active involvement of interest groups is sought to review and draft policies or regulatory texts, for example through focus groups, deliberative dialogues or public hearings.
Openness, accessibility and transparency are key for democratic parliaments. The Parliamentary Centre can support Parliaments to better communicate and spread awareness of the work, processes and relevance of parliament as an institution as well as to help make parliamentary constituency offices more accessible to citizens.
Parliaments and Civil Society
Civil society organizations, academic institutions and research centres can play an important role in helping parliamentarians fulfill their duties by providing them with technical expertise and the knowledge necessary to take action. They can also be excellent partners for organizing and holding public meetings, where parliamentarians have the opportunity to meet and discuss key issues with various groups and individuals. The relationship between parliament and civil society is in many countries strained and characterized of mistrust. However, by showing the many benefits of these relationships, in particular in parliaments with limited in-house research capacity, the Centre has helped cultivate positive relationships and build strong linkages between parliaments and civil society organizations.
Parliaments and the Media
The media can be an important player in increasing public involvement and understanding of parliamentary issues, and hence assist in reinforcing transparency. In addition, the media plays an important watchdog role in uncovering misuse of public funds. The Parliamentary Centre can assist parliaments in building strong relationships with the media. The Centre can also help develop procedures and guidelines for working with the media, as well as to provide capacity building to strengthen the communication skills of parliaments to deal with the media.
Role of Political Parties in Parliaments
Political parties play a critical role in democracy building and have a direct impact on parliamentary performance and organization. In multi-party systems, parliamentary groups or caucuses, consisting of the elected members a specific party, have a strong influence on how the party is represented in various committees, control access to policy-making positions and often decide on joint public policy positions. They can also play an intermediary role between parliament and various economic, ethnic, cultural, religious and other societal groups.
The Parliamentary Centre can provide support to political parties within the parliamentary framework. The Centre can support parliaments in clarifying the roles and responsibilities of party caucuses, while encouraging the increased participation and leadership of women. It can also help improve the dialogue and consensus building between different political parties within parliament.