On the occasion of the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) organized a House Democracy Partnership (HDP) exchange with the International Republican Institute (IRI) and in collaboration with ParlAmericas.
The exchange featured a parliamentary gathering for over 50 legislators from more than 20 countries across the Americas and the Caribbean with the goal of shedding light on the importance of legislatures in addressing solutions to shared regional challenges.
As the national institution most closely linked to constituent demands, legislatures play a vital role in democratic deliberation and oversight. Just as it did during the 2021 Summit for Democracy Legislative Track, HDP provided a platform for members of parliament to discuss topics featured in the Summit of the Americas, an event that has not historically engaged legislators. Dialogue centered on topics related to combating corruption, fostering inclusive democracies, strengthening gender-equitable approaches to policy-making and enhancing women’s political participation, countering disinformation, supporting the green energy transition, and advancing democratic resilience during health crises.
Committing to Inclusion
A central theme throughout the exchange was the importance of engaging women and other marginalized communities in all aspects of policy-making. Legislators discussed the need for policies and operations to reflect gender parity, regardless of the issue at hand. For example, one delegate from Jamaica asked fellow participants: Is your parliament legislating through a gender-sensitive lens? Are the standing orders reflective of the needs of women? Are you practicing gender-sensitive budgeting?
Other speakers also noted the progress being made within their own parliaments. In El Salvador, for example, a legislative triad was developed in the Assembly consisting of the Commission of Women and Gender Equality, the Parliamentary Group of Women, and the Gender Technical Unit to develop a collective agenda prioritizing issues that affect women. As a result, the reform of the Political Parties Act in 2013 introduced a quota of 30% of women candidates on electoral lists. In Peru, there have been concerted legal efforts to promote the placement of women at the top of party lists in Congress. This has resulted in the implementation of new laws, such as one that sanctions violence against women and another that protects the social security of pregnant women so that they can continue recieving benefits.
Participants also discussed the importance of ensuring historically marginalized groups, including youth, indigenous communities, and other underrepresented groups, have full access to participation in political processes. These conversations highlighted that legislators cannot work in silos; rather, they must collaborate with diverse sectors to achieve their nation’s political, economic, and social goals.
Collective Resolve to Combat Corruption
The exchange also explored the important role that democratic legislatures play in the fight against corruption and kleptocracy. Legislators from the United States House of Representatives, along with the Speaker of the Assembly of Dominica, reinforced the importance of increasing transparency and access to information, promoting a free and independent press, solidifying whistleblower protections, strengthening public participation, and implementing robust legal frameworks to both track and reduce corruption. One member from Honduras highlighted recent advances taken by the Congress, including making Congressional voting records publicly available, creating a multi-party Commission on anti-corruption, and publicly broadcasting Congressional sessions.
Noting the COVID-19 pandemic’s acceleration of reliance on digital platforms, participants discussed the potential of digital democracies to increase citizen engagement. Unfortunately, participants also highlighted the amplified risks of disinformation and misinformation that come from utilizing digital platforms, including online violence against women in politics. The legislators proposed a diverse set of strategies to counter these challenges, including renewed commitments to open government, education on media literacy, and increased international cooperation.
Despite challenges facing legislatures today, this exchange reinforced the key themes of both the Summit of the Americas and the Summit for Democracy, underscoring the importance of legislative involvement in crossborder conversations. The event also reinforced that sustainable solutions to shared challenges require international dialogue and cooperation.
A full list of countries and delegates present at the exchange can be viewed here.
NDI's engagement in this event is implemented with support from the United States Agency for International Development.
Authors: Hunter Sosby, Program Officer, and Caitlin Brune, Program Associate, NDI’s Democratic Governance team
NDI is a non-profit, non-partisan, non-governmental organization that works in partnership around the world to strengthen and safeguard democratic institutions, processes, norms and values to secure a better quality of life for all. NDI envisions a world where democracy and freedom prevail, with dignity for all.