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Need for lobbying regulation reform was discussed at the World Forum on Governance in Prague

From 9 to 11 November 2011 in Prague the First Annual World Forum on Governance took place with over 90 delegates attended. The event, initiated by the famous American think tank, Brookings, became a controversial platform for exchanging views and making recommendations on various aspects of both public and corporate governance, given the current global challenges.

Special attention in the Forum was paid to the interaction between public authorities, commercial companies and interest groups through lobbying and advocacy mechanisms, the study of positive and negative experiences of individual countries with the institutionalization of lobbying, the possibility of using such tools as part of anti-corruption policy.

A special break-out session, Causes, Consequences, and Solutions to Scandals in the Lobbying Business, was devoted to lobbying experience in different parts of the globe and served as a discussion platform to produce workable recommendations. The session was moderated by Dr James Thurber from American University and Adriana Krnacova, and included reports and comments, in particular, from students who completed Public Affairs and Advocacy Institute at the American university – Nora Hajdu, Central European University Business School (Hungary), Natko Vlahovic, Head of the Croatian Lobbying Association and Dennis Bazilevych, Director of Professional Lobbying and Advocacy Institute (Ukraine).

There was a strong consensus that lobbying and advocacy play an essential role in democratic governmental decision-making.  The role of lobbyists and lobbying often gives rise to controversy and the activity should be regulated and more transparent. As result of the break-out session a set of recommendations was generated and submitted to the Forum’s organizers. They contained in particular the following:

1.      Define lobbying/advocacy in a clear and comprehensive way.

2.      Develop a professional association of lobbyists with a code of ethics, accreditation/certification, and voluntary registration.

3.      Change the understanding and mentality about legal and ethical lobbying/ethics.

4.      Draft a model lobbying/advocacy law.

5.      The law should be as simple as possible with clear definitions.

6.      Advocate passage of the model law using the media and taking advantage of scandal (if it occurs) to mobilize public support for the law.

7.      After voluntary registration and self-regulation, require lobbyists/advocates to register and put registration and information about lobbying (topic, target of lobbying, client paying for lobbying, expenses associated with all elements of lobbying, etc.) on website open to the public and the media.

8.      Develop a training and education program on ethical advocacy and lobbying for lobbyists and in universities and colleges.

9.      Develop an economic incentive for lobbyists to register and abide by the law.

10.   Bring more transparency about lobbying for the investor community and the media.

11.   Commission research and studies of lobbying problems and solutions in Central European Nations.

The Forum was concluded by approval of draft concept of the  Prague declaration which outlined major challenges that the level of corruption poses on governance. It was also important that among major recommendations a line on lobbying was included and stated that lobbying disclosure acts shall be developed and adopted by governments backed by tough penalties.   (The final text of the Prague declaration will be publicly presented in January 2012)

Also, driven by the Forum’s rhetoric and findings, and considering significant achievements in separate countries on institutialization of lobbying and raising public awareness of its nature and principles, a special network was decided to set up – International Lobbying Reform Network (ILRN).  

The idea of the project is to serve as an international umbrella and platform for local national institutions and organizations on lobbying which, in particular, produces analytical papers, recommendations, expertise and model lobbying regulation considering specifics of separate countries or groups of countries, develops standardized educational courses and trainings on lobbying and advocacy. 

A special web-site can serve as a mechanism to consolidate information and coordinate activities. It was set up a deadline to publicly launch the web-site – February 1, 2012. Participants of the project apart from stated above may come from the Central and Eastern parts of Europe, including countries from the Black Sea region such as Romania, Georgia, Poland, Turkey and Russia.