Hot off the presses!! Authored by Andy Williamson!

One lesson that parliaments have learned from their efforts to engage citizens is the following: you cannot wait for the people to come to parliament; you need to go where the people are. In 2013, the people are on social media.

More than one billion to date and the number continues to grow exponentially. Data from the World e-Parliament Report 2012 shows that one-third of parliaments are already present on social media and another third are planning to join them. These parliaments have recognized the need to keep pace with changes in society; they also see the potential for revitalizing public engagement in political discussion and decision-making. But we should not fool ourselves. Parliaments are still exploring how to use social media effectively. Finding an engaging, non-partisan manner to use interactive online tools is a major challenge for all institutions, but perhaps particularly for parliaments. These are the reasons why IPU has decided to prepare this firts-ever set of Social Media Guidelines for Parliaments.

The Guidelines draw on lessons learned by parliaments so far and on good practice in the social media sphere. The objective is to encourage more widespread, more efficient and more effective use of social media by parliaments. I believe that this can strengthen links between parliaments and citizens and thereby contribute to better parliaments and stronger democracies. The nature of social media means that these Guidelines will need updating before I have finished writing this sentence. New examples emerge every day, and today’s good practice may be out of date by next week. However, while the Guidelines will need to be revised regularly, I believe that the principles identified here are enduring and will be adaptable to future situations.

The Guidelines are a collaborative effort. They would not exist without the engagement of the members and leadership of the Association of Secretaries General of Parliament, the IFLA Section on Libraries and Research Services for Parliaments and the Global Centre for ICT in Parliament. I am also indebted to the many parliamentary staff who have willingly shared their experience and the lessons learned and to Dr. Andy Williamson who authored these Guidelines.

I encourage all parliaments to make use of the Guidelines and all social media users to hold parliaments to account for the way in which they use the Internet to include citizens in parliamentary work.

Anders B. Johnsson Secretary General Inter-Parliamentary Union