Connecting parliaments: Harnessing digital dividends to increase transparency and citizen engagement

Connecting parliaments: Harnessing digital dividends to increase transparency and citizen engagement

Parliamentary digital transformation is a relatively underfunded area of work, but a vitally important one in achieving the very common overarching goals of open, accountable, inclusive and participative government. Improvements in how parliamentary digital capacity building can be done better are possible with better strategy, funding and cooperation, and when parliaments are enthusiastic and willing to take the opportunities offered to them to improve themselves.
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Authors
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Rebecca Rumbul (MySociety)

Contributors
Summary

The overarching argument of this paper is that parliamentary digital transformation is a relatively underfunded area of work, but a vitally important one in achieving the very common overarching goals of open, accountable, inclusive and participative government. Improvements in how parliamentary digital capacity building can be done better are possible with better strategy, funding and cooperation, and when parliaments are enthusiastic and willing to take the opportunities offered to them to improve themselves.

Now more than ever, digital transformation has become essential for parliaments. Such transformation can have a significant impact in making parliaments more transparent and accountable and can enable them to leverage greater public interest and engagement in the legislative and electoral processes.

Good external digital engagement requires parliaments to review their own internal digital structures, assess where development and investment are needed, and how digital improvement will assist in achieving their goals. Differential priorities in the needs of the parliament or societal actors can form a guide, according to which specific areas for digital development might be prioritised. These steps require long-term investment, which should go in parallel with the digital transformation of the Executive. However, because a country’s digital transformation is primarily the preserve of the Executive, it can bypass the legislature and may be almost disproportionately influenced by the ruling party. Uneven digital transformation between public bodies and the legislature may weaken the profile and legitimacy of the legislature itself. Furthermore, governments that effectively restrict digital development within the legislature are essentially restricting democratic integrity.

Besides the long-term process of building and developing infrastructure, short-term pilot projects can be useful to test approaches and begin building the digital infrastructure of the future. Properly targeted funding, to achieve specified digital transformation goals, agreed in collaboration with the development agencies operating in target areas, can yield significant dividends in improving the digital democracy ecosystem. This approach can neutralise harmful, short-termist and wasteful approaches to digital deficiency, and remove the ability of the more unscrupulous parliaments to play development agencies off against each other to leverage greater rewards or resources.

Digital transformation of parliaments requires better strategy, funding and cooperation on the part of donors and implementers as parliaments are enthusiastic and willing to take the opportunities offered by digitalisation.


Header photo: Jessica Taylor / UK Parliament

What's it all about?

Report authors Julia Keutgen and Rebecca Rumbol discuss their report and its key arguments

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Violence against women in Montenegrin politics

Violence against women in politics is a globally recognised phenomenon that deeply impacts different political landscapes and influences the participation of women in all levels of power. It is especially present within societies that experience an increase in the number of politically active women. Montenegro is no exception to this rule, as women in politics experience violence and hate speech in both the physical and online spheres solely because they choose to become public figures. 

Since this ongoing struggle needs to be tackled properly, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy office in Montenegro has established an initiative to develop a Comprehensive Study on Violence Against Women in Montenegrin Politics. The study aims to shed light on the prevailing situation and offer insights and a deeper understanding of violence in politics within Montenegrin society.

"Violence against women in politics is widespread. I would not be surprised if women who would like to engage in politics think like – why would I do this to myself, look what other women in politics go through.”  (an interviewee in a Study)

The study's key objectives include assessing the current landscape of violence against women in politics, amplifying the voices of female politicians, and formulating actionable recommendations. 

It adopts a multifaceted approach, encompassing various methodologies to gather comprehensive insights. It includes a nationwide public opinion survey that showcased that half of the respondents (62.4%) recognise that the problem of violence against women in politics exists in Montenegro.

"The most frequent attacks against male politicians are political attacks. The most frequent attacks against female politicians are hate speech attacks.“

  (an interviewee in a Study)

Additionally, a segment of the study features interviews with politicians from diverse backgrounds and focus groups involving political party youth wings. They give insights to the personal perspective of politicians who deal with the violence in their working environment. 

The study also presents results of media monitoring of select portals as well as the analysis of social media which shed a light on the violence that is expressed through these means. 

By delving into public sentiment, political perspectives, and media portrayals, the study also identified barriers and proposed effective solutions.

"Quotas, compliance with the law, stronger authorities for the gender equality committee, stopping the divisions to male and female committees in the Parliament… all of this should be done.“(an interviewee in a Study)

In this way, political actors are given set of recommendations grounded in a thorough analysis of Montenegro's political landscape, drawing from international best practices. They provide pragmatic strategies to address identified challenges, fostering a more conducive environment for women in politics.

Ultimately, the Comprehensive Study on Violence Against Women in Montenegrin Politics represents a significant step towards fostering gender equality and inclusivity in the political sphere. Through collaborative efforts and evidence-based interventions, we aspire to catalyse lasting societal transformation.

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Political parties' strategies for enhancing women's political participation in North Macedonia

This brief is a product of the conference on “Violence Against Women in Politics: Solutions for Enhancing Women’s Political Participation”, which was held on 9 February 2024, in Skopje. The event was organised by Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD), in partnership with the Institute for Communication Studies (ICS), and with the support of the British Embassy.

The event served as a platform for discussion on the role of political party funding for increasing gender equality, the impact of media narratives on violence against women in politics, identifying existing barriers in the country, as well as finding effective solutions for enhancing the representation of women in politics.

In addition to the guest of honour speaker, Mrs. Yasmin Qureshi, UK Member of the Parliament (MP), the conference was also attended by representatives of several political parties in North Macedonia, along with academics, researchers and experts from the civil society.

The purpose of this brief is to serve as a tool for monitoring and driving the future strategies of political parties in North Macedonia in the direction of greater participation of women in politics.

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BCSMF 2023 briefing papers

On 28–29 November 2023, WFD co-hosted the 6th Bali Civil Society and Media Forum (BCSMF) alongside the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other partners. On 29–30 November 2023, also in Bali, Indonesia, we organised the inaugural Democracy Action Partnership (DAP). Over 200 civil society and media reformers from across Southeast Asia and beyond attended the two forums.

WFD recognised BCSMF as a unique platform for discussing emerging problems and exchanging ideas among democratic actors in the region. Strong commitment from the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as host of the forum shows that governments can—and should—invest in creating spaces for multi-stakeholder dialogues and collaboration.

These briefing papers highlight and expand on the excellent contributions of BCSMF participants in identifying key actions for civil society and media stakeholders to strengthen women’s roles in democracy and defend the integrity of elections from disinformation. The focus on these thematic policy areas seeks to respond to the forum’s big question: “Can elections rejuvenate democracy?”

We thank our partners from Cakra Wikara Indonesia (CWI) and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) for their work in developing these briefing papers as well as the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) for their contribution in supporting WFD to co-organise BCSMF and launch the DAP platform last year.

We also invite you to find out more about the WFD’s policy works on elections, inclusion and equality of participation, and programme on advancing equal societies through women’s political leadership and participation in Southeast Asia

Read the briefing papers below.

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Gender responsive budgeting: Enabling the practical realisation of equality

Bank Negara Malaysia’s Economic and Monetary Review for 2022 projected that Malaysia’s economy is set to grow between 4% and 5% in 2023 with the support of domestic firms, despite the slowing global growth and thus external demand. Recovery across firms and sectors from the reopening of international borders was reported by the World Bank’s Business Pulse Survey (BPS) in August 2022. However, this recovery remains unequal as the poor and vulnerable are still affected by the lingering effects of the pandemic and are unable to recover adequate financial resources to meet their basic needs. The increase in the cost of food and transport exacerbates their situation.


Malaysia aspires to become a high-income nation and projections show that the transition is set to be sometime between 2024 and 2028. To ensure that we are on the right track to that goal, the short-term focus of the government in post-pandemic times should be to uplift the vulnerable and put in fiscal buffers to prepare for the future. This is presumed to have been set in motion with the Twelfth Malaysia Plan which aligns itself with the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda to show Malaysia’s commitments to the 17 SDGs. The end goal is for a peaceful, just, and inclusive society. In order for no one to be left behind, Malaysia has also been taking a serious look at how poverty is considered through a multidimensional lens while revising the national Poverty Line Income (PLI) in 2019 to better reflect local realities. The result of this recalibration revealed that even though the overall rate of poverty has declined, poverty is still relatively high for vulnerable groups.


The situation has now become so dynamic, that moving forward, our model has to be based on community resilience and a whole-of-society approach. The gender-responsive approach has been one effective method that helps unpack complex issues and formulate relevant mitigation strategies and interventions. It is promising that in 2022, there was the reinstatement of gender focal points in each ministry. Also rolled out is the capacity building programme, Gender Responsive Budgeting in Practice (GRBiP) led by ENGENDER, Women’s Aid Organisation and the Gender Budget Group in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) currently in its second year since its launch and pilot programme in 2022. Gender-responsive budgeting must be emphasised as an effective tool to advance Malaysia MADANI’s goal of good governance and shared prosperity through substantive reforms.