|Written by Tamara Symonds|
SHATIL: Influencing the Knesset for Social Change
In a breakthrough for government transparency and accountability, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni mandated that the Ministers' Legislative Committee, the most significant legislative committee in the government, open its protocols to the public. Livni's decision came in response to a campaign coordinated by SHATIL and its partners -- the Social Guard, Open Knesset, the Movement for Freedom of Information, and Sh'vil -- which mobilized public pressure, conducted media outreach, and published position papers on the issue.
Each week, The Ministers' Legislative Committee decides which proposed bills it will support and Coalition members must vote in accordance with the Committee's decision. Since the Committee publishes only its final decisions, the public has no way of knowing which ministers supported which bills or what arguments were offered over the course of the meetings.
Unfortunately, following Livni's decision, Cabinet Secretary Amichai Mandelblit decreed that Livni did not have the authority to implement the requirement, so the Forum has turned its attention to persuading Mandelblit to change his mind. The Forum will also file a Freedom of Information request with Israel's Supreme Court.
In order to further shed light on the Committee, SHATIL sends a weekly email to over 2,000 civil society representatives, journalists, and members of Knesset explaining the key provisions of each proposed bill.
"These initiatives do not advance transparency solely for the sake of transparency, but aim to increase public awareness of, and enable greater public participation in, the lawmaking process," said SHATIL advocacy expert Idit Menashe.
In addition, the SHATIL-led Social Budget initiative is facilitating direct communication between citizens and members of Knesset through its Hallway Advocacy project. Starting last week and continuing until the final vote on the budget at the end of July, the project is bringing groups of students, activists, and ordinary citizens to the Knesset for two days each week to talk to Knesset members about the importance of promoting social justice through the budget.
On a more formal level, last Tuesday SHATIL partnered with Yedid: the Association for Community Empowerment to host a conference connecting Knesset members with grassroots and civil society organizations. Fifty representatives of NGOs focused on a wide variety of issues – combating racism, promoting housing rights, and conserving the environment, to name a few – presented their organizations' work. For some of the smaller and lesser-known NGOs, this conference provided the first opportunity to talk directly with members of Knesset. Moreover, the conference introduced several new Knesset members to key civil society issues.
Through these and other projects, SHATIL empowers grassroots organizations and citizens to play an active role in influencing policy and ensures that the government is accountable to the public.