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Modernization in the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina: the road towards an open, innovative and plural Congress

Innovation tracker | Issue 8 | 29 Mar 2021
Meeting of the Special Committee on Parliamentary Modernization

Meeting of the Special Committee on Parliamentary Modernization when approving the Protocol for Remote Working. Credit: Directorate for Modernization

The Directorate for Modernization, Innovation and Institutional Strengthening was initially conceived as a consultative space; but it gained ground over the years to become the nerve centre of the Chamber of Deputies of Argentina in the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Directorate’s first steps were outlined in the Modernization Plan 2013­–2015, which contained proposals to professionalize legislative work. In 2016, the Plan became the Presidency’s consultative programme on proposals designed to give administrative documents and parliamentary processes more transparency. The objective was to promote citizen participation in debates on laws, and to devise innovative strategies to position the Chamber of Deputies among the world's top parliaments in terms of technological advances and alternative ways to connect with citizens.

During that period, an open law portal was created where deputies of all political parties can upload their draft initiatives, and receive input and feedback from the public. A section on management transparency was also set up, including the open data portal, which offers information in reusable formats on various topics of interest. And finally, the Open Parliament Network was created as a space for dialogue and collaboration with civil society organizations focused on parliamentary monitoring.

In December 2019, the new leadership decided to continue their existing work, but also to take matters further. They prioritized this work, employed more staff, and became directly involved with the committee managing the Chamber's response to the COVID‑19 health crisis. (In Argentina, activities were stopped and lockdown began in March 2020.) This demonstrates the new authorities’ political commitment to continue working towards a more modern, open and innovative Chamber.

Furthermore, the open data portal continued to be maintained – databases were updated and new ones were added. The open law portal was redesigned and will be relaunched in the coming months. In 2020, joint parliamentary work with the IT and systems teams enabled the legislature to function remotely.

To achieve this, a web app was developed for committee meetings and parliamentary sessions; legislators and their advisers were trained to use the tools; manuals, instructions and explanatory videos were designed; digital signatures were established so that members of parliament could submit their draft initiatives and sign opinions electronically while not being physically present; and, in close collaboration with legislators, a Remote Work Protocol was drafted to enable parliamentarians to work remotely while respecting the Regulations of the Chamber of Deputies.

The detailed insight gained in the various areas of the Chamber’s work highlighted the potential for growth, and the main challenges that lay ahead for parliamentary innovation.

Argentina’s First Open Congress Action Plan is scheduled to launch in March 2021. It was co‑created with organizations and individuals interested in parliamentary monitoring. Its five commitments clearly lay out the path to overcoming challenges, and moving towards a more open, modern and federal Chamber.

The commitments address the following specific issues: (i) digitization and publication of administrative and legislative documents; (ii) enhancing the quantity and quality of information on committees; (iii) promoting greater citizen participation and incorporating innovative mechanisms in parliamentary debates; (iv) creating an Open Agenda platform to give transparency to meetings of legislators and authorities; and (v) creating a multi-stakeholder space with different genders and the LGBTIQ+ community to promote a gender perspective in parliamentary debates and draft texts.

This is only the beginning of a long road towards strengthening the legislature. Providing it with greater resources and modern mechanisms will enable it to operate in a more agile, efficient and transparent manner, and help achieve higher‑quality laws for the well-being of the Argentine people.

Contact person: Manuel Cotado, Head, Directorate for Modernization, Innovation and Institutional Strengthening of the Chamber of Deputies of the National Congress of Argentina – [email protected].