Memorandum on Parliamentary Engagement
Approved by the OGP Steering Committee on 24 November 2021
Since OGP launched, parliamentary engagement has been an integral part of the open government philosophy and a key element to achieve ambitious open government reforms. Many of the key aspirations of the open government movement – pursuing rights-based approaches to open government, institutionalising reforms, promoting and protecting civic space, defending democratic processes, and ensuring an open response, recovery, and renewal from the Covid-19 pandemic – require the support of parliaments.
Different branches and levels of government are already becoming increasingly involved in OGP processes that are led by the executive. That involvement, e.g. by parliaments and more recently the judiciary, ranges from actively participating in national multistakeholder fora and leading commitments in the national action plan to convening their own co-creation processes.
In the open government context, parliaments specifically have a role to play in:
- Taking legislative action: Championing open government values by introducing, reviewing and ratifying legislation relevant to open government or approving budgets for open government reform.
- Ensuring parliamentary oversight: Holding governments accountable for open government reforms and opening up their own oversight processes to public scrutiny.
- Opening up parliamentary processes: Adopting open government principles – transparency, accountability, participation and inclusion – in the parliamentary institution and processes.
- Creating space for dialogue: Fostering cross-party dialogue and support needed to advance and institutionalize open government reforms.
Engagement of parliaments in OGP – whether through formal participation in co-creation or other means of coordination – stands to benefit all OGP stakeholders.
For the executive branch, parliamentary engagement opens up opportunities for securing legislation that enables executive branch commitments, resourcing for implementation, and institutionalizing reforms. When the executive branch engages citizens and civil society in their OGP national action plan co-creation processes, inputs from these groups often reflect aspirations or grievances that cannot be addressed by the executive action alone.
For parliaments themselves, engagement with the OGP platform domestically can provide an additional mechanism to hear from citizens and civil society between electoral cycles on how they can better serve the people they represent, and stay abreast of the commitments governments are taking on and need to be held accountable for. Internationally, OGP provides a global platform for peer learning, accessing expertise from OGP’s vast network of practitioners, and showcasing successes.
For civil society organizations, parliamentary engagement is a crucial aspect of securing the sustainability of reforms across administrations and political cycles, and for advocating for citizen interests and rights.
This memorandum for parliamentary engagement in OGP sets out the rationale and approach for parliamentary engagement in OGP. The space for, and specifics of, parliamentary engagement in each OGP process are primarily determined by domestic actors involved in the dialogue. Parliamentary engagement is strongly recommended, especially where it can advance critical open government reforms, but it is not an OGP requirement for participation.
This memorandum aims to provide a coherent framework for engagement where it is pursued. Recognizing that different political systems pursue open government via different governance mechanisms and are subject to diverse rules and protocols governing the interaction between branches of governments, all parliamentary participation is voluntary. This memorandum serves as guidance for parliamentary engagement in the OGP process in full recognition of the respective constitutional frameworks and local parameters.
OGP’s approach to parliamentary engagement
Parliaments that decide to engage with OGP have the following options:
- Participation in the national or local OGP process
- Participation via submission of a standalone Open Parliament Plan
- Promote openness beyond the OGP platform
This memorandum details what conditions apply under each option and, assuming those conditions are adhered to, what support and guidance will be provided to parliaments and other stakeholders by the OGP platform. OGP recognizes that these options are ideal types and that, as long as conditions are adhered to, actual practice may be an approximate or combination thereof.
1. Participation in the national or local OGP process
Participation by parliaments in the national or local process can take many forms and deliver any number of results. It has considerable advantages as it allows to explore synergies on the open government agenda across branches of government. Beyond this, a single national or local process also allows more efficient use of the time and resources allocated to co-creation and consultation, and reduces the transaction costs for civil society in engaging in OGP related activities. This is the model of engagement already pursued in the majority of countries with parliamentary involvement in OGP.
1.1 Approaches for participation in the national or local process
Based on the evidence collected, OGP experience, and collective learning, the following are a subset of approaches for parliaments to explore and adopt where possible, including (but not limited to):
- Parliamentary representatives (members, staff or both) can participate in the action plan consultations as well as other co-creation and implementation activities. Ideally, the scope of their participation includes consideration of commitments parliament can make, but also ways in which parliament can support the commitments made by the executive branch.
- Parliamentary representatives can participate in the national or local multistakeholder fora – or similar spaces – to ensure a consistent dialogue with civil society. Where formal MSF representation is not possible, other coordination mechanisms can be explored.
- Where broader collaboration is feasible, parliaments can consider engaging relevant parliamentary committees and staff members in thematic working groups and discussions; organizing briefings for relevant parliamentary groups during action plan development; and organizing implementation and IRM launches to enable parliamentary oversight, among others.
- Parliaments can support commitment design and implementation by providing a ‘legislative scan’. This scan would encourage dialogue and consensus-building amongst those proposing and adopting commitments by prompting them to consider the role the parliament might need to play, whether by advancing supporting legislation, codifying reforms, or allocating resources for implementation.
- Parliaments can appoint parliamentary liaisons for ease of communication and coordination with the executive branch, other OGP stakeholders, and the Support Unit. This allows for efficient information exchange on action plan development and implementation, events, and peer exchange opportunities.
- Parliaments can advance open government reforms by monitoring the implementation of OGP commitments, allocating budgets, or obtaining critical information via parliamentary questions and reports.
1.2 Conditions for engagement
Parliaments that choose this option commit to the following conditions:
- Where parliamentary representatives participate in the MSF, they will adhere to rules established by the forum.
- Where parliamentary representatives participate in the co-creation process, they will adhere to the relevant national or local standards and the rules established by the forum.
- Where participation by parliaments in the national or local process results in commitments made by the parliament, these must be integrated within the overall action plan and adhere to the overall start and end dates for the OGP action plan.
- Parliaments adhere to the regular reporting and monitoring mechanisms required from all commitment implementers.
- Parliamentary commitments included in national action plans are assessed in IRM products. In the case of local action plans, they are assessed by the selected review mechanism.
- The Co-Creation and Participation Standards govern the co-creation and implementation of national action plans, OGP local guidance governs the co-creation and implementation of local action plans.
1.3 Support provided by OGP
Parliaments that choose to participate in this option will receive all the support offered to participating countries or locals including but not limited to:
- Parliaments that participate in national OGP processes will receive the same support as other actors participating in these, including but not limited to support during co-creation and implementation, thematic guidance, peer exchange opportunities, and assessment of process and commitments by the IRM.
- Parliaments that participate in the local OGP process will receive the same support as other actors participating in these, including but not limited to support during co-creation and implementation, thematic guidance, peer exchange opportunities and guidance on monitoring and evaluation.
2. Participation via submission of a Stand-alone Open Parliament Plan
Parliaments may choose to co-create an independent parliamentary action plan through a stand-alone process. This may be the preferred option in countries or for local members where it proves difficult for parliaments to work within the confines of the OGP action plan, whether because of conflicting executive and legislative calendars, or due to formal and informal protocols governing engagement between the two branches.
Stand-alone Open Parliament Plans offer parliaments an opportunity to co-create with civil society, and deliver on commitments that further open up parliamentary processes and systems, and to do so in a way that is fully aligned with their own calendars and strategic objectives.
2.1 Approaches for Stand-alone Open Parliament Plans
The Open Parliament Plans delivered within the OGP framework to date suggest a range of possible approaches for consideration by parliament, including (but not limited to) the following:
- Parliaments can adapt existing mechanisms and spaces for dialogue for their OGP co-creation process, especially if they have established practices in place. However, parliaments should ensure that the minimum criteria for co-creation are met (see 2.2 conditions below).
- Parliaments can establish mechanisms for communication and coordination with their counterparts in the executive-led process. This will allow them to consider inputs emerging from public consultations relevant to parliament, to explore how the open parliament process and actors can support the executive-led plan, and to share information with civil society actors that are likely to have interest in both processes.
- Parliament can seek high-level political support for the agenda and explore cross-party collaboration through existing committees or special working groups.
2.2 Conditions for engagement that parliaments should consider
Parliaments that choose to convene an independent co-creation process bear full responsibility for the process and for the resulting plan. They commit to the following conditions:
- Parliaments considering this option will have to adhere to the rules and procedures established in the guidelines for National and Local Stand-alone Open Parliament Plan. Note: Stand-alone plans will only be accepted once OGP publishes the guidance.
- Parliaments considering this option will appoint a Parliament Liaison to coordinate the process. The Liaison will share a formal notification with the OGP Support Unit, notifying them of the intent to co-create their own plan, and with the local or national Point of Contact, to explore possible opportunities for collaboration.
- Parliaments considering this option will be responsible for the co-creation process, which includes civil society participation, to develop, implement and monitor their action plans. The duration of the action plan and timelines for submission may be decided by the parliaments, in consultation with civil society, to allow optimal alignment with the parliamentary calendar.
- Parliaments considering this option should shape their OGP processes following the Co-Creation and Participation Standards (especially 3, 4 and 5) at the national level, or OGP local guidance for local level process. Parliaments considering this option will have to develop a reporting mechanism to report on the inclusiveness and participation of their processes and on the results of the commitment implementation. While monitoring efforts, Parliaments must include parliamentary and non-parliamentary actors to ensure that views and contributions from stakeholders are considered. The burden of proof to provide evidence for these monitoring reports falls on the parliament. More guidance will be provided by OGP.
- Parliaments convening their own processes do not have any additional decision-making or voting rights in OGP, which continues to rely on a single country view, coordinated via the official OGP Point of Contact.
- Procedural review does not apply to independently co-created Open Parliament Plans under OGP: OGP members will continue to be assessed at the level of the national/local OGP action plan.
2.3 Support provided by OGP
Parliaments that choose this option will receive the following support from OGP:
- The Support Unit will provide information and guidance, including templates and formats adapted for parliamentary work. Guidance will be adapted to approaches taken for national and local actors.
- The Support Unit will upload these action plans onto the OGP member’s page.
- The OGP Support Unit and the IRM will provide detailed guidance and templates for parliaments to conduct their own monitoring in line with the IRM approach.
- OGP will conduct occasional deep dives on specific themes or overall co-creation.
3. Promote Openness beyond the OGP platform
OGP recognizes the value of all efforts to advance parliamentary openness, but recognizes that participating within the two other options outlined above may not be possible. Some parliaments may prefer to work outside of the OGP framework, and/or may not be able to work within an executive-led process. Similarly, a parliament in a country that is not participating in OGP may also wish to advance open parliament commitments or open government at large.
Plans that do not follow the OGP framework, or plans developed by parliaments from non-OGP countries, will not be directly supported by the OGP Support Unit or the IRM. They will not be considered formally part of OGP and should not use OGP branding. However, OGP will welcome opportunities to exchange content and best practices with parliaments that fall into this category.
3.1 Approaches for opening up parliaments beyond the OGP platform
Parliaments that choose to work on open parliament reforms beyond the OGP platform are invited to consult the guidance offered to parliaments working within OGP. Experience suggests that the following guidelines, among others, remain particularly valuable:
- Establish a multi-stakeholder forum, or similar body, to ensure (equal) representation of parliament and civil society partners throughout the co-creation process. Parliaments may also wish to consider national Participation and Co-Creation Standards compliance.
- Make full use of the resources and opportunities provided by the open parliament community, including knowledge products and research, global and regional events, and (thematic) peer exchanges.
- Tap into the global open government community where possible, to share experiences, showcase results, and invite further learning and support.
3.2 Conditions for engagement that parliaments should consider
- As this option falls outside of the scope of OGP, OGP does not set conditions for parliaments to adhere to. Parliaments can consider all guidance materials available.
3.3 Support provided by OGP
- The Support Unit will continue to develop parliamentary guidance materials which will be available for all actors.
- The Support Unit will periodically provide opportunities for peer exchange and experience sharing, open to non-OGP members.
- The Support Unit will be available to explore opportunities for more formal engagement with parliaments of OGP member countries and locals.