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A celebration of democracy efforts

A celebration of democracy efforts
© Stefani Reynolds

An effective and independent legislature remains the hallmark of a strong democracy. It serves as a check on executive power and ensures that the priorities of the people are reflected in government. As we see a rise in authoritarianism around the world, bolstering legislative institutions is now more important than ever to preserve democracy.

Citizens around the world demand more from their governments and representatives. At the same time, governments face a challenging interconnected web of threats that test their stability and resilience, including disinformation, polarization, and populism. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these challenges and created opportunities for authoritarian regimes to consolidate their power.

As current board members of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, strengthening legislative institutions against authoritarian influences around the world is critical to advance democracy. Over the last four decades, our groups have worked in more than 150 countries with thousands of parliamentary leaders and staff to enhance their ability to make policy, represent their constituents, and establish accountable and responsive legislatures.

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This year marks the 15th anniversary of one of the most important ways we do that with the House Democracy Partnership. It is an investment in the promise of democracy and an opportunity for people around the world to develop solutions to common challenges they face as legislators or staff. We carry out this mission on behalf of the House Democracy Partnership with support from the Agency for International Development.

Established under the bipartisan vision of Representative David Price and former Representative David Dreier, the House Democracy Partnership has engaged more than 4,400 parliamentary members and staff around five continents working with legislatures to promote effective government and strengthen institutions. The House Democracy Partnership is the flagship program for diplomacy for our members of Congress as well as a bulwark against encroaching authoritarianism. It continues to flourish today under the vision of Price and Representative Vern Buchanan.

As former members of Congress, we can attest to the significant impact that the House Democracy Partnership has had over the last 15 years and the platform it provides for champions of our values around the world. Its success with these efforts are vast, from working with parliaments to fight corruption in Latin America, to launching public hearings in Mongolia, and creating ethics frameworks and bolstering budget mechanisms in Kenya. The House Democracy Partnership has held its first ever parliamentary forum for leaders, which convened speakers from more than a dozen countries to develop solutions to shared global challenges.

Since the onset of the coronavirus, the House Democracy Partnership has continued to adapt to the needs of our partners providing rapid response as one of the only programs in Congress working with global leaders on crisis management. Our groups have held over a dozen virtual exchanges with more than 110 legislators and over 50 staff, resulting in emergency response assistance to support those hardest hit in the pandemic.

The House Democracy Partnership is a bipartisan program that connects legislative members across the political spectrum to share experiences in a constructive and objective forum. At a time when bipartisan dialogue is needed more than ever to address our social and economic crises, it is a powerful example of the potential for collective political problem solving to strengthen democracy and enhance legislative development.

Democracy is not static. Citizens demand the right to representative government and for leaders who respect the rights of their people. We congratulate the House Democracy Partnership on its 15th anniversary, and look forward to our continued efforts to support its work to foster democratic values and strengthen legislatures against authoritarian regimes around the world. It is now more important than ever.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is a board member of the National Democratic Institute. Former Representative James Kolbe of Arizona is a board member for the International Republican Institute.