Parliaments' Representative Function
When a legislator represents constituents where extractive industries resources are located, there is a direct interest. In this manner, parliaments are uniquely positioned to understand and monitor the effects of extractive industries on the citizens and act as a bridge between the government, private sector and civil society. Through its representative function, parliament can ensure the voices, preferences and interests of the public are heard, articulated and represented.
The representative function informs the other roles of parliament. It is thus crucial to ensure that parliamentarians are capable of effectively representing constituent interests, and this is certainly true when it comes to extractive industries. To allow constituents the opportunity to convey views, interests and needs throughout the term of the legislature, there must exist a meaningful opportunity for citizens to interact with their representatives. Therefore, parliaments must allocate sufficient resources to allow parliamentarians engage with the constituency, and parliamentarians must be capable of responding to the interests and values of citizens. Additionally, it is important to reinforce the representative function by apprising themselves of public opinion and developments in extractive industries.
There are several methods of strengthening the representative function:
1. Expanding capacity through legislative and procedural measures
- Establishing a leadership group responsible for institutional strengthening
- Drafting a modernization plan
- Establishing a parliamentary service commission that is effective in building cross party consensus
2. Staying informed
- Use available oversight tools to gether information on extractive industries
- Look to CSOs, citizen reports, and the like, for expertise and opinions on extractive industries
- Request regular briefings of extractive industries
- Coordinating efforts with CSOs, experts and think tanks
A crucial aspect of the representative function is communication with the constituency. There are several ways of interacting with a constituency; some of these methods are listed below. It is crucial that this engagement has information flows in both directions: Parliamentarians must create a forum for interaction, so that constituents can participate by expressing their interests.
In extractive industries, it is particularly important to make use of all communication methods in order to foster an engaged and informed public. Through these methods of engagement, parliaments can potentially serve as a forum for multiparty consensus on extractive industries’ policies, and thus for countrywide support and ownership of these policies.