Parliamentary Strengthening - International Development Committee Contents

1  Introduction

Parliamentary Strengthening

1. It is now widely believed that good governance is essential to effective development. The Report of the UN High Level panel on the post 2015 development agenda sets out 12 goals to end poverty by 2030; one of these is 'good governance and effective institutions'. DFID itself has given increasing prominence to good governance. It spends £724 million on governance and security projects[1], one of its largest areas of spending. The Golden Thread of Development, "enabling states to function for their citizens", was one of DFID s six policy priorities in 2013-14.[2] An effective parliament is the key effective institution for good governance:

    From first principles, it is difficult to imagine what kind of effective democracy can be built without an effective Parliament. And Parliament, as with other central institutions of governance, is an area where an improvement at the centre can have a multiplier effect on the country as a whole.[3]

2. Many donors, including DFID, recognise that parliaments are important and fund parliamentary strengthening programmes. However, over recent years serious questions have been raised about such work, including its value, the priority given to it, the way projects are designed, how they are monitored and evaluated and how they are commissioned and who they are commissioned from, in particular whether adequate use is made of specialist expertise.

3. 2015 is an ideal time to undertake this inquiry. It is the 800th Anniversary of the document which symbolises the importance of the rule of law, Magna Carta, and the 750th anniversary of the Simon de Montfort Parliament.[4] We made a number of conclusions and recommendations about parliamentary strengthening in our report on Burma to which the Government responded in May 2014 to feed into the Triennial Review of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD). In this inquiry we examine the subject in detail.

4. We had an excellent response to our request for evidence with a wide range of responses from multilaterals, including the UNDP and the World Bank; European institutions, including the French Assemblée Nationale and the EU; Westminster-based organisations as well as other organisations which have undertaken work for DFID and a range of experts. We took oral evidence from the Minister of State and DFID officials, the Overseas office of the House of Commons and the international parliamentary networks based in the House, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, other specialist practitioners, multilaterals and academics.[5] We have also drawn on our meetings with developing country MPs at Westminster and on our overseas visits abroad, most recently in Burma, Sierra Leone and Tanzania. We held a videoconference with DFID governance advisers based in several countries in Africa and Asia. We would like to thank all those who have provided evidence and assisted us in other ways.

5. The report focuses on DFID, but also looks at other UK departments and other bodies which carry out parliamentary strengthening work. Chapter two looks at the value of parliaments and of working with them even in difficult circumstances, chapter three at spending on parliamentary strengthening and chapter four at parliamentary strengthening programmes and how far DFID's implementation of those programmes follows best practice. Chapter five examines commissioning, noting DFID's preference for large suppliers, including US suppliers, rather than smaller specialist organisations. Finally, chapter six, considers whether more use should be made of Westminster-based institutions, and what has to change at Westminster if this is to happen.

1   DFID Annual Report and Accounts 2013-14, page 56 Back

2   DFID Annual Report, p13 Back

3   House of Commons Overseas Office Submission, paragraph 9 Back

4   There are also other reasons: DFID is publishing a new "How to Note" on Strengthening Parliaments; the Triennial Review of the Westminster foundation for Democracy was undertaken in 2014; and its new Chief Executive has been appointed. Back

5   We also saw a copy of the draft report for WFD's Triennial Review and discussed it with witnesses. The report is not yet published, and so we do not quote from it here. Back

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Prepared 27 January 2015