On June 30, the Department of State joins the global community in recognizing the International Day of Parliamentarism by reinforcing our commitment to supporting resilient, inclusive democratic institutions around the world.
During this Year of Action, democracies are coming together to face emerging threats and address modern-day challenges. Parliamentarians are a cornerstone of democracy and play a key role in shaping responses to these issues. When representatives of the people they serve are committed to principles of accountability and transparency, political leaders can meaningfully deliver for their constituents by effectively responding to citizens’ needs and priorities.
A leader in democracy and human rights programming, the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor in the Department of State takes a comprehensive approach to engaging parliaments, working both with parliamentarians themselves as well as civil society as key partners critical to strengthening democratic institutions. As part of these efforts, programs support the political participation of women, LGBTQI+ persons, and members of marginalized and underserved communities; build trust between constituents and their elected representatives; combat corruption; and strengthen parliamentarians’ legislative drafting skills to enact meaningful change for their communities.
This work takes many forms. In Ecuador, DRL works with international and in-country partners to provide direct technical assistance to the National Assembly to equip elected representatives and their staff with the tools necessary to create inclusive and representative legislation on important issues. This includes efforts to connect elected officials and national and international subject matter experts to share lessons learned and broaden policymakers’ contextual understanding of key issues facing constituents to craft better laws.
Also in the Western Hemisphere, DRL efforts strengthen congressional organizing bodies in Colombia, Ecuador, and elsewhere in the region to help institutionalize the inclusive political participation of women legislators. By strengthening the technical skills of legislators, elected officials are empowered to advance gender-responsive policymaking and address the needs of women in these processes.
In The Gambia, DRL works to strengthen citizen engagement and participation in democratic processes to hold governments accountable to citizens’ needs and priorities. By facilitating citizen observations of legislative elections and spurring the creation of the Parliamentary Women’s Caucus as well as supporting the country’s Gender Platform, partnership between civil society and the legislature has been key in making the country’s democratic transition one that sticks.
In alignment with commitments made at the Summit for Democracy, DRL also supports parliamentarians and other political leaders working toward equitable, inclusive societies that demonstrate good governance. Under the highly successful Global Equality Fund, the Global LGBTQI+ Inclusive Democracy and Empowerment (GLIDE) Fund will facilitate the participation and leadership of LGBTQI+ community members in democratic institutions that directly impact the lived experiences of LGBTQI+ persons in their communities and around the globe. This also includes the Supporting Her Empowerment: Political Engagement, Rights, Safety, and Inclusion Strategies to Succeed (SHE PERSISTS) initiative, which will support women’s political participation and empowerment to build and sustain good governance and lasting democracy globally.
As President Biden highlighted during the first Summit for Democracy, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.” By investing in targeted initiatives to support parliamentarians and political leaders, we affirm our commitment to supporting democracies that deliver for everyone.
About the Author: Linsey Armstrong serves as a contractor Programs Communication and Outreach Coordinator in the Office of Global Programs in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) at the U.S. Department of State.