This week, IRI as part of the U.S. House of Representative’s House Democracy Partnership (HDP) program, hits the road as we travel to Colombia and Peru with the goal of furthering HDP’s partnership with these important member countries. 

HDP is a unique program; offering peer-to-peer exchange programs and targeted support to 19 member countries in order to support the development of democratic legislative institutions. In Colombia and Peru, we’ll be working with members of each country’s Congress and their staff to strengthen their legislative budget processes and research services.  Experts from the U.S. Congressional Research Service and the U.S. Congressional Budget Office will join me to provide their insights into how each country can utilize their own services to create transparent, informed and involved legislative processes. 

Colombia and Peru are both experiencing historical change this year.  Colombia is nearing the completion of extensive peace talks with FARC and could sign a peace agreement by the end of the month, an agreement that will resolve over 50 years of violent conflict.  The country is ripe to continue progressing in a positive direction and I hope our programs will add to this by empowering members of Congress and staff to strengthen their legislative services and oversight.  Through an HDP Parliamentary Staff Institute held in April, Colombian staff indicted their desire to work with HDP in growing their research services and increasing their role in the budget process.  Services and processes like these, which the United States Congress relies on every day, are important in providing transparency and unbiased research to both citizens and members of Congress.

Peru welcomes a newly elected President and a Congress that is made up of nearly 75% newly elected members.  This is a unique opportunity for HDP to develop new partnerships as well as build off of pre-existing relationships.  Over the past few years, Peru has increased the legislative role in the budget process as well as provided transparency to citizens.  It is my hope that our experts can work with staff to help solidify these efforts and continue them. We will also discuss ways in which to streamline research services and make them more effective.

I am filled with excitement for both of these consultancies as this is the first HDP trip I am leading.  I had a taste of the incredible benefits HDP has on partner countries when I traveled with IRI to Liberia and Estonia earlier this month, but I feel that this trip will be different.  There is nothing like seeing your ideas and planning go into motion.  I am lucky to be a small part of the work that HDP and IRI do, and I know that next week will provide relationships and ideas that we can continue to develop over the next few years. 

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but both of these countries are ripe to implement the services that they are so interested in.  As a former U.S. Congressional staffer, I know how important it is to have an open and transparent budget process as well as a research service that can provide independent expertise on challenging subjects.  Although our own services and legislative process are far from perfect, I look forward to seeing the impact our experts have and the continuation of our work long after we head back to Washington.  But perhaps what I look forward to most, is learning from the Colombians and the Peruvians and using that knowledge to further my work with HDP and IRI.  

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