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The topic of the annual conference of parliamentary IFLA section – Information as the foundation for social solidarity: the role of parliamentary libraries and research services – offers an occasion to analyse the role of parliamentary information in building society founded on social solidarity. These two seemingly unrelated elements are brought together by a notion of democratic state ruled by law. Only a democratic state ruled by law may guarantee equal opportunities for all members of society, their cooperation, mutual support and aid. That is the nature of social solidarity, which implies citizens’ empowerment, activity and involvement.

Justice, a bas-relief by Zofia Trzcińska-Kamińska,
the main staircase in the old Deputies’ House

Right to civic engagement and active participation in public sphere is a basic civil right in a democratic state. Exercising this right requires citizens’ access to information. Above all, access is needed to objective and credible information on applicable law and legislative work, and on activities of public authorities. The parliament and its library and research services are of key role in this context.

Objectives of communication activities

Today, we are working in a dynamic reality where information technologies are being constantly developed and bring forth new tools (communication platforms, applications, social media). On the one hand, these new technologies help provide the society with access to information and knowledge and, on the other hand, ensure feedback, that is, communication understood as participation and interaction. Parliamentary libraries and research services are in charge of an important communicative function here, which may increase understanding of the parliaments’ role and work, enhance trust that citizens place in them, strengthen legitimacy of politics through enabling citizens to make informed choices and exercise democratic control, and, finally, involve citizens in public affairs.

Communication methods and tools

It is currently suggested that communication activities should be long-lasting and comprehensive, based on the principles of transparency, easy access to information and participation of citizens. The proposed methods include: intensified information exchange between citizens and parliament, constantly informing citizens on various methods of participation in public debate (petitions, legislative initiative, public hearing, discussion forums), supporting parliamentarians in communicating their work, cooperation with educational systems, media and non-governmental organisations. Nowadays, we are faced with the challenge to use these various tools and communication channels as effectively as possible and to develop them in a user-friendly manner.

It seems that assistance of parliamentary libraries and research services to civic engagement for democracy constitutes significant contribution to social solidarity foundation of each society. We would like to invite the conference participants to a joint debate on the methods to stand up to this task.

Last update: 14 February 2017