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IRI Board Member Underscores Importance of IRI for The Hill

December 7, 2020

A Celebration of Democracy Efforts

The Hill

James Kolbe and Tom Daschle 

Effective, independent legislatures are the hallmark of strong democracies, checking executive power and ensuring that the priorities of the people are reflected in government. As we see a rise in authoritarianism across the globe, safeguarding legislative institutions is more important now than ever.

Citizen-led movements across the globe are demanding more from their governments and their representatives. At the same time, governments are facing an interconnected web of threats that test their stability and resilience, including disinformation, populism, and polarization. The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated these challenges, creating opportunities for authoritarian regimes to consolidate power.

As board members of the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, strengthening legislative institutions against authoritarian influences around the world is critical to our Institutes’ work to advance democracy. Over nearly four decades, our organizations 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 create accountable and responsive legislatures.

This year marks the 15th anniversary of one of the most important ways we do that: The House Democracy Partnership. HDP is an investment in the promise of democracy – an opportunity for like-minded peers across the world to develop solutions to common challenges they face as legislators or as legislative staff. For the past 15 years, we’ve carried out this mission on behalf of HDP with the support of the United States Agency for International Development.

Established under the bipartisan vision of Congressman David Price and former Congressman David Dreier, HDP has engaged more than 4,400 members of parliament and staff across five continents working directly with partner legislatures to promote responsive, effective government and strengthen democratic institutions. HDP is a flagship program for congressional diplomacy and exchange as well as a bulwark against encroaching authoritarianism. The commission continues to flourish under the leadership and vision of Congressman David Price, along with co-chair Congressman Vern Buchanan.

As former members of Congress, we can attest to the impact that HDP has had over the last 15 years, and the unique platform it provides for democratic champions across the globe. HDP’s successes through these efforts are vast, from working with parliaments in Latin America to develop transparent information-sharing platforms and fight corruption, to organizing premier public hearings in Mongolia, and developing ethics frameworks and strengthening budget mechanics in Kenya. In 2019, HDP organized its first-ever parliamentary leadership forum to convene speakers from more than a dozen countries to develop solutions to shared global challenges facing legislatures.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, HDP has continued to adapt to the needs of our partners providing rapid response as one of the only congressional programs working with international peers on crisis management. The Institutes have collectively organized 16 virtual exchanges with more than 110 legislators and over 50 staff, resulting in strengthened emergency response assistance for legislators and staff working to support those hardest hit during the pandemic.

At its core, HDP is a bipartisan program that connects legislative peers across the political spectrum to share experiences in an open, constructive, objective forum. At a time when cross-party dialogue and cooperation is needed more than ever to address social and economic crises, HDP is a powerful example of the potential for collective political problem-solving to strengthen democracy and enhance legislative development.

Democracy is not static. Around the world, people are demanding the right to self-determination and for leaders that respect the rights of their people. HDP is a critical tool in the work to advance democracy. We congratulate HDP on its 15-year anniversary, and look forward to our Institutes’ continued efforts to support HDP’s work to foster democratic values and to strengthen legislatures against authoritarian regimes.