The UK’s Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (AAPPG), has just released its report on Strengthening Parliaments in Africa: Improving Support.
The report explores the factors that hold African parliaments back and how international donors can better support them. The report will be on their website later this week. We list some of the findings below.
WHAT SHOULD DONORS DO?
- Until recently donors have focussed on working with the Executive and often ignored parliaments. Sometimes they even undermined them. There are signs, however, that this neglect of parliaments has been recognised and is changing. See, for example, the UNDP’s recent work in this regard: http://sdnhq.undp.org/governance/parls/
- Donors must approach parliaments in their political context and base work on a thorough understanding of the pressures, interests and actors that shape parliamentary power.
- Parliamentary strengthening will only succeed if it is pulled by a range of local actors, not just pushed by donors. Initiatives must build on local efforts to strengthen parliaments.
- Development partners must ensure that their work does not marginalise or undermine parliaments and that the parliaments of recipient countries are encouraged to play a full part in development relationships.
What has your experience been of donors’ work with legislares?
Other findings of the report are:
- African parliaments are exerting growing influence on how their countries are governed.
- Despite this growth, insufficient constitutional and other provisions continue to constrain the role of parliaments. Even if they enjoy robust powers on paper, the political realities inside and outside parliament mean that parliaments often fail to exercise effective scrutiny over executives. Problems of institutional capacity also continue to loom large.
- African citizens and their political leaders are the most important groups for strengthening their parliaments. Development partners can, however, also play a role.
forging stronger links with civil society is critical to the parliamentary strengthening process. The synergy between parliament and civil society be enhanced to ensure regular collaboration in exercising oversight over the executive
I couldn’t agree more. What are your ideas on how to forge links between parliament and civil society?
You are right. While parliaments and MPs begint o play their crucial role in upholding peoples rights, the role of cthe media and civil society should never be overlooked.
The report is very welcome and overall makes a range of very sensible recommendations. In particular, it is crucial that DFID institutionalises its work with legislatures, which currently lacks a coherent approach. Also, more analytic work on how we might assess the “strength” parliaments is crucial. Hopefully, DFID will take these and other recommendations seriously.
It is somewhat ironic that the report comes at a time when the limited capacity of the UK Parliament is in the spotlight. MPs are currently concerned about tax changes proposed by the Government: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7353945.stm. Yet, amendments to the Finance Bill are unlikely, given Members’ very limited budgetary powers. Maybe the UK Parliament needs some “strengthening”?