20/05/2021 - Governments need to revamp lobbying rules to make them fit for the 21st century, according to a new OECD report.
Lobbying rules need to reflect new realities, including rapid technological change, global competition for influence and calls for increased transparency, integrity, and access. Lobbying in the 21st Century: Transparency, Integrity and Access analyses trends and developments in OECD countries over the past decade to improve lobbying practices since the 2010 OECD Recommendation on Principles for Transparency and Integrity in Lobbying, the first international standard to address transparency and integrity risks related to lobbying practices.
The report shows that countries have made strides in providing transparency, integrity and access, but at different speeds and in a continuously evolving lobbying landscape with new challenges.
While lobbying is an important part of the policy-making process, it remains, in many cases, too open to abuse, with grey areas, loopholes, revolving doors, and incomplete information and scrutiny, says the report.
Rules also need to evolve to take into account the evolution of technology and digitalisation. More transparency is needed on the use of social media in lobbying. The Canadian Register of Lobbyists and the EU Transparency Register are the only frameworks requiring lobbyists to disclose information on the use of awareness-raising, grassroots, and social media campaigns as a lobbying tool.
Spending on lobbying is also highly concentrated among just a handful of industries. When vested interests dominate, lobbying can have a detrimental impact on competition, productivity, innovation and growth as well as fairness and trust in institutions.
The report finds that in most countries there is limited transparency on both the targets of lobbying activities across governments and who is conducting the lobbying. Less than half of OECD countries know who is lobbying their governments as the work is often done indirectly or by proxies.
Only three OECD countries (Australia, Canada and the US) have rules on lobbying and influence in domestic affairs by foreign governments.
More transparency is needed on who funds research, think tanks and grassroots organisations, as well as on the use of social media as a lobbying tool. While transparency of political finance is high, some grey areas remain, such as the funding of digital advertisements for political parties and candidates.
Improving integrity is essential, says the report. Public officials and private lobbies need more robust integrity rules. Governments must do more to ensure that public officials interact with lobbyists with impartiality and in the public interest. A more comprehensive and clearer set of rules is needed for lobbyists and companies to ensure integrity in influencing public decisions.
More also needs to be done to include citizens and businesses in decision making. Stakeholder participation in the policy-making process has increased overall over the past decade, but more meaningful engagement, greater transparency and better communication are needed.
The report Lobbying in the 21st Century: Transparency, Integrity and Access is available at https://www.oecd.org/governance/lobbying-in-the-21st-century-c6d8eff8-en.htm.
Register to watch the virtual conference on Lobbying in the 21st Century: Transparency, Integrity and Access taking place from 12.00 to 15.30 on Thursday 20 May 2021.
For more information, journalists should contact the OECD Media Office (tel. + 33 1 45 24 97 00).
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