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Episode Summary

In a context where opinion studies continue to show decreasing trust in governments and news headlines suggest that democracy is under stress, this ParlAmericas podcast featuring Chilean Senator Hernán Larraín, President of the ParlAmericas Open Parliament Network presents some reflections on how parliamentarians can contribute concrete measures to build more transparent institutions, worthy of citizens’ trust.

Episode Notes

Why is the transparency agenda critical to rebuilding citizens’ trust in our governance institutions? How have international movements been working to promote a new form of relationship between citizens and their governments? And how do Parliaments fit into this agenda?

Citizen trust in democratic institutions, including parliaments, is critical to the functioning of democracy and effectiveness of governance. As the institution that represents citizens and translates their interests to legislation, parliaments are particularly affected by declining trust and blurred perceptions about their core functions. As the institution that is closest to citizens, it is therefore not surprising that parliaments are emerging at the center of international platforms and national efforts to retain and restore public confidence in democratic institutions by, for example, adopting measures to provide information on their day-to-day activities in more accessible and transparent ways.

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is an example of a multilateral initiative that aims to restore public confidence by securing concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, fight corruption, empower citizens, and harness new technologies to strengthen democratic governance. The OGP currently has 75 participating countries including Canada, which have collectively made over 2,500 related commitments.

The transparency agenda – and its pursuit through platforms like the OGP – are not exclusive to the executive branch of government. Parliaments in many countries – particularly those in the Americas – have been driving this agenda by working with citizens to develop their own internal action plans, and by functioning as models for transparency in their country. Increasing numbers of parliaments are also developing standalone chapters as part of their country’s OGP commitments.

Through leadership roles in the OGP Legislative Openness Working Group and the ParlAmericas Open Parliament Network (OPN) Senator Hernán Larraín has been instrumental in positioning parliaments at the centre of this transparency agenda. In his address, he will consider progress achieved and upcoming opportunities, like the next Summit of the Americas about Democratic Governance against Corruption in April 2018 in Peru, to incorporate a parliamentary perspective and a focus on citizen trust in the shaping of the transparency agenda.

This intervention was recorded during the ParlAmericas Canadian Section Annual Parliament Hill reception where Senator Larraín was invited to be the Guest Speaker to discuss how a number of parliaments in the Americas and the Caribbean are leading by example within the Open Government Partnership to be at the cutting edge of the transparency agenda.