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Resolution adopted by consensus* by the 124th IPU Assembly
(Panama, 20 April 2011)

The 124th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Considering that representative and participatory democracies function largely within the political party system as essential expressions of the political will of the people,

Recognizing that political parties require appropriate funding to fulfil their core functions, both during and between elections,

Mindful that it is to the benefit of the public, and to democracy as a whole, that political parties are adequately funded within an agreed framework of accountability and mechanisms for transparency,

Acknowledging that, in modern democracies, significant resources are required to conduct competitive election campaigns enabling political parties to communicate their policy proposals as broadly as possible,

Also recognizing that political party funding may be both public and private, direct and indirect (free broadcasting time on television and radio, tax remissions, use of public buildings and public election billboards, etc.), and that, in order to mitigate the risks associated with political party funding, measures have been put in place in many countries to regulate spending on elections and ensure transparency and accountability in the funding of political parties generally,

Noting that in systems where there is limited public funding of political parties, the importance of private funding increases, and vice versa,

Also noting that the concerns surrounding the private funding of political parties, which are often viewed as a question of political equality, relate to three main points: inadequate resources that result in political parties and candidates pursuing relationships with donors who expect certain gains should those parties come into power; some political parties being better resourced than others; and cases where campaign finances come from compromised sources that expect a legislative or other benefit,

Recognizing that the aspects of private funding that need to be addressed concern the admissibility of anonymous donations, cash donations, donations by foreign natural and legal entities, foreign international organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), State-owned enterprises and enterprises responding to calls to tender,

Noting that while codes of conduct for members of parliament and the executive have addressed accountability issues as they apply to elected representatives individually, there has been growing concern over the funding of political parties and the associated accountability of political parties, as a whole, to the people,

Further noting that consideration should be given to clear guidelines to regulate party and campaign finance (reasonable limitations on campaign finance, campaign finance reporting requirements, political finance reporting requirements, measures to prevent the misuse of State resources, the establishment of an independent regulatory body to monitor the funding of political parties and electoral campaigns, and appropriate sanctions for violations), in order to ensure that political parties remain accountable to citizens,

Recalling that Article 7.3 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which entered into force on 14 December 2005, provides that "Each State Party shall also consider taking appropriate legislative and administrative measures, consistent with the objectives of the Convention and in accordance with the fundamental principles of its domestic law, to enhance transparency in the funding of candidatures for elected public office and, where applicable, the funding of political parties",

Convinced that corruption represents a serious threat to the rule of law, democracy, human rights, equity and social justice,

Considering that political parties and election campaigns in all countries should aim to prevent and fight corruption,

Recognizing that the State should provide reasonable and impartial support to political parties, in accordance with a set of agreed criteria promoting equal access to resources under the principle of political pluralism and acting as a counterweight to corruption by eliminating the need for undue reliance on private donors,

Noting that public funding does not necessarily reduce the need for private funding, but should be used to mitigate the negative effects of excessive reliance on the latter and to support smaller political parties that may not have access to private sources of financing for their political campaigns, but whose contributions to political debate are essential to a healthy democracy,

Also noting that, even though women’s presence in national parliaments has increased, lack of economic resources in the electoral process is a bigger challenge for women than for men,

Underscoring that temporary special measures, as outlined in Article 4 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, aimed at promoting gender equality should not be considered discriminatory and that the allocation of funds based on party support for women candidates could be seen as an incentive for achieving gender equity in parliaments and for increasing women’s political participation,

Reiterating that gender equality and the empowerment of women are crucialcomponents of any democratic system and that access to public and private funding can help promote gender equality in politics,

Noting that political parties are key for the achievement of balanced participation by women and men in political life,

Recognizing that many countries have adopted measures such as bans or limits on private political contributions, spending limits for election campaigns, increased public funding of political parties and controls over political expenditure,

Noting that some States have enacted legislation ranging from requiring political parties to put in place financial controls, public disclosure of funding sources and an array of criminal, administrative and financial sanctions to ensure compliance with the law,

Recognizing that public confidence in the democratic process could be undermined by political funding mechanisms that are not accountable and transparent, and that this should not only be a cause for concern for governments and parliaments, but also for international organizations working to enhance world democracy, and for political parties,

Noting that the reasons for regulating political party funding include the need to promote the democratic principles of transparency and accountability, prevent corruption, enhance competition among a broad range of political parties, accommodate a wide spectrum of political viewpoints, platforms and policies, and strengthen political parties and empower citizens to make informed decisions,

Recognizing that while mandatory disclosure of political party funding contributes to greater transparency and gives the public an opportunity to understand what factors might inform the actions of a political party, it might also discourage donors from funding political parties,

Mindful that disclosure laws, regulations and guidelines on campaign and political party funding seek to limit the negative impact of anonymous, foreign or corporate sources of funds to political parties and to ensure that all parties have an equal opportunity to compete, and that, although these measures may prove difficult to enforce in some countries, they are nevertheless important for ensuring that citizens are able to hold their political parties and elected representatives to account,

  1. Invites States to consider putting in place measures aimed at ensuring the independence of political parties so as to shield them from undue influence, and at avoiding corruption and excessive spending on election campaigns, including by capping spending during election campaigns;
  2. Recommends that the call to reduce election spending must take into account gender equality, low levels of income, literacy, access to information and technology, and the vast distances between urban and rural areas in some countries;
  3. Considers that political party funding should aim to give people a voice in the political and democratic process by encouraging a diversity of opinions and political perspectives, promoting a level playing field between large, well-funded political parties and those less endowed with financial means and generally encouraging meaningful participation in the political process by all actors - men and women - irrespective of their financial means and access to resources;
  4. Is convinced that raising public awareness of political party funding enhances the functioning of democratic institutions and limits corruption;
  5. Recognizes that the existence of different democratic and constitutional systems and political parties makes it difficult to set up universal accountability mechanisms for political party funding; encourages parliaments, through the IPU, nevertheless to continue to ensure accountability and transparency in keeping with the realities prevailing in different countries while drawing upon the basic principles enshrined in international instruments such as the United Nations Convention against Corruption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;
  6. Recommends that parliaments, as institutions tasked with overseeing government action, civil society organizations and the media serve as watchdogs, educate citizens about the funding of political parties and continuously monitor the exercise of power in order to build a culture of transparency and responsibility in political life;
  7. Encourages political parties to be part of the solution and become agents of change in a transparent and accountable manner;
  8. Recommends the use of self-regulatory mechanisms, including internal codes of conduct and integrity for political parties;
  9. Invites parliaments to consider putting in place measures to limit, prohibit or regulate funding inter alia by NGOs, corporate bodies and foreign sources, so as to ensure that they do not exert an undue influence on political outcomes;
  10. Recommends that parliaments, governments and political parties ensure that legislation and mechanisms are put in place that require political parties and candidates to establish internal and financial controls with a view to greater financial accountability;
  11. Encourages parliaments to adopt, in their legislative frameworks, anti-corruption regulations regarding the funding of political parties and election campaigns, in cases where specific laws, procedures or systems that provide for the regulation of such funding do not already exist;
  12. Calls upon the IPU to develop a technical assistance and training programme on financial accounting systems and codes of conduct for political parties.

* The delegation of Sudan expressed a reservation on preambular paragraph 17.
The delegation of Algeria expressed a reservation on operative paragraph 9.

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