The House’s decade of democracy partnerships

Greg Nash

The United States was built on the idea of citizen-centered government, a concept enshrined by the founders in the Declaration of Independence. These visionary figures were resolute that for a citizen-centered democracy to flourish, it must have a strong, representative legislature. In fact, Article One of the Constitution, the very first issue addressed by the framers, did not focus on the presidency or the courts, but instead created the Congress.

{mosads}Nearly 228 years since the Constitution was adopted, representative and accountable legislatures remain as important as ever for new and emerging democracies alike. As presidents of the International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI), our organizations have worked for three decades to conduct programs around the world to strengthen parliaments, political parties, civil society and electoral processes.

This week, we commemorate the 10-year anniversary of a hallmark legislative strengthening program, the House Democracy Partnership (HDP). Since its inception in 2005 (under its original name, the House Democracy Assistance Commission), HDP has been an effective consortium led by the House of Representatives, funded through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented in partnership with our institutes. Understanding that democracy is a constant process in need of peer support, the House of Representatives created HDP with the mandate to build legislative capacity of select parliaments around the world to govern with more accountability and transparency, provide oversight, and be more responsive to citizen needs.

Under the leadership of HDP Co-Chairs Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) and David Price (D-N.C.), and former Co-Chair David Dreier (R-Calif.), HDP has directly trained 675 members of parliament and staff from 17 countries. These efforts consist of in-bound sessions in the United States where members of Congress; professional staff from congressional committees; the Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Office, and Government Accountability Office; and other experts share best practices with visiting parliamentary delegates on the nuts and bolts of legislating. HDP also sends congressional delegations to participating legislatures to provide on-site mentorship.

HDP’s results over the past decade have been measurable, but nowhere more prominent than in Mongolia, where HDP has been a key supporter to its parliament, the State Great Hural. Situated between China and Russia, Mongolia is a key ally to the United States. Its transition from a single-party communist state to a multiparty democracy serves as a powerful example to democratic actors in the region and around the world. HDP has worked closely with the State Great Hural on committee strengthening, developing and enforcing an ethics code, conducting legislative oversight, and engaging in constituent relations. Due in large part to HDP’s assistance, the State Great Hural recently passed legislation that directs government entities and officials to conduct public hearings and include citizen input in government management and policymaking.

Similar HDP success stories can be found across the globe. In Timor-Leste, a new country struggling with post-transition development challenges, HDP assisted with the creation of independent and sustaining legislative institutions. In Peru, HDP improved its legislature’s research and analysis services and increased the use of information technology to enhance inter-governmental and constituent communications. Under the constant threat of Russian expansion, Kyrgyzstan has partnered with HDP to improve its democratic governance by upgrading its legislative budget analysis. An HDP alumnus now chairs the Kyrgyz legislature’s Committee on Budget and Finance. HDP partners in the Georgian parliament have been recognized globally for their efforts to improve legislative transparency in cooperation with civil society.

In a period when the world is experiencing turbulent times, HDP’s activities contribute to a more democratic and safer world by empowering leaders with tools to promote democratic governance, the rule of law, and the important role of civil society. HDP develops tailored approaches — based on each country’s rich history, culture and customs — that are guided by the universal and indivisible core values of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We live in a time when partisanship has colored most aspects of political life in the United States. HDP demonstrates that our nation’s core belief in democracy, and our conviction that democracies support other countries with democratic aspirations, continues to unite both parties. HDP deserves our continued support for helping countries build a better democratic future for their citizens, and for exemplifying the values that unite us all — Republicans and Democrats — as Americans. We congratulate HDP on its 10-year anniversary, and are committed to working with Co-chairs Roskam and Price, the HDP members, and USAID to ensure that HDP’s next decade will continue to advance thriving, citizen-centered legislatures around the world.

Green is president of the International Republican Institute. Wollack is president of the National Democratic Institute.

Tags David Dreier David Price HDP House Democracy Partnership International Republican Institute IRI Kyrgyzstan Mongolia National Democratic Institute NDI Peter Roskam Timor-Leste

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