Today marks the 12th annual International Anti-Corruption Day, a global initiative to raise awareness around the pervasive effects corruption has on all levels of our societies. In honor of today’s global effort, Sunlight is excited to announce new tools to help increase the transparency of money in politics and the influence industry — on the international level. As part of our mission to enhance government accountability and thus contribute to the fight against corruption, we are launching two initiatives: a detailed guideline on how lobbying data could better be disclosed, and a call for the open government community to create global norms around the release of political finance information.
The impact of money in politics and influence advocacy have created new forms of policy capture that go beyond traditional bribery — but are just as damaging to our democracies, economies and the everyday lives of citizens. Special interest groups and large donors wield enormous influence and enjoy access to our leaders in a way that is distorting the state’s ability (and will) to govern in the public interest. In most countries, however, the influence of special interests are difficult, if not impossible to track, as few countries have effective laws in place to make lobbying and political finance information public.
The lack of buy-in from governments will always obstruct our ability to drive meaningful reform in political corruption, and these barriers play out differently from country to country. However, while acknowledging that different political, social and economic climates require different strategies, we believe that a clear and robust disclosure regime around the influence of money in politics is the base to understanding the dynamics of politics — everywhere around the world.
We are therefore thrilled to launch Sunlight’s international Lobbying Disclosure Guidelines (alongside its first translation into French), a document that is designed to help policymakers and advocates create better laws and policies around the influence industry. Our guides have evolved and grown over the last year, since we published the first draft last December and have been soliciting feedback from a larger network of transparency advocates.
Our guideline — focusing largely on the disclosure side — is meant to be a conversation starter and one of the first steps in a broader effort to create universal consensus around lobbying regulation. As we launch the document today, there now exists an informal working group of advocates — including groups like Access Info Europe, Transparency International, Corporate Europe Observatory, LobbyControl and Open Knowledge — all working towards providing a meaningful check and balance on the world of influence. Stay tuned for our work and how you can be involved!
Political finance transparency
Since Sunlight, Global Integrity and the Electoral Integrity Project launched the Money, Politics and Transparency project this spring, we have been busy researching, blogging and building a community of stakeholders dedicated to improving access to information about party and campaign finances globally. Now, we are ready for the next step and begin crafting global norms on the disclosure of political finance data. Ultimately, we hope to join with global partners to create draft political finance transparency norms that can be used as a starting point by stakeholders to improve political finance systems in their own countries — creating an informed electorate, fostering accountability and helping to curb corruption.
These norms will sit alongside other guidelines Sunlight (co)created in the past as resources for the international transparency community, such as the Open Data Policy Guidelines, the Declaration on Parliamentary Openness, our Procurement Open Data Guidelines and the recently launched document on lobbying disclosure. In the future, we’re also hoping to focus more on translating these global efforts into meaningful reform on the local level through increased advocacy efforts on the ground, and providing local civil society with tools and advice on how to drive change in a way that makes the most sense within their own political context.
As we observe International Anti-Corruption Day, we ask for your help in taking the next steps. If you’d like to be a part of the norms drafting process on political finance transparency, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch. If you’d like more information on the Money, Politics, Transparency platform, visit our website or subscribe to our listserv for updates. We also welcome local translations to our guidelines, so please let us know if you’re interested in adapting any of our existing advocacy documents into your language.